Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Sunday, January 23, 2011

Waking up that high on a mountain is a truly memorable experience. The silence was perfect.  The reflection of the morning light against the snow woke us at 8, we had made it through the night beating the cold. We hadn't had much sleep, but adrenalin soon kicked in.  Up quickly, I collected some more snow to boil up and make coffee.  We were super-efficient in packing up, the freezing conditions meaning that we had to be quick and get moving.  With tent packed up and bikes loaded we set off continuing up the mountain track we had been following as darkness fell last night.  We were still none the wiser as to where we were and where we were heading.  We knew we just had to keep moving and hope to find some kind of clue.  Overnight snow meant that the track had packed up with snow and frozen over. It was impossible to cycle so we found ourselves pushing the bikes up the slope.  They are heavy enough at the best of times but with ice rink conditions under foot it was proving to be a near impossible task.  An hour and a half of walking and pushing we appeared to reach the summit.  The track had weaved itself around the mountain face and we had only covered about a mile.  This speed would certainly not get us off the mountain today.  We had not met anyone in that first couple of hours.  Nothing.  Just pure silence and stillness. 

At the top the snow came in. we could not see anything ahead and it was getting colder all the time. Normally at the top you can sit back and enjoy the roll down the hill.  Not today, it was still impossible to cycle, poor Polly sliding off several times when we decided to give it a go on the less steep parts.  Even picking the fallen bike up after each fall was zapping the low energy levels.  We had not had breakfast, only a few chocolate sticks, and now walking for about 4 hours was taking its toll.  We then saw some buildings and the hope started to return.  We met a jeep, the men inside were shocked to find us.  We asked how far to Daguan, the town we thought was next up.  They said 100km.  Bad news to say the least.  They did however add that there was something either 15 or 50 km away which kept us going.  We passed a farmer with a couple of cows and then a few locals appeared, staring at us as if we had just landed in a space ship.  Bemusement was matched by roaring laughter as we struggled down the ice run.

Eventually the track started looking better, the snow was less and mud appeared underfoot.  We got on the bikes and started to roll. We moved very tentatively but at least we were making some ground.  The free-wheel down the hill was still hard work, concentrating hard to avoid the rocks which could so easily buckle a wheel.  The cold was penetrating deep into the fingers and soon our hands reached that painful cold state.  4 hours of walking and about 2 hours of tense freewheeling, we needed something. 

There had been some kind of kilometre countdown along the track on small rocks, which we had been pinning our hopes on.  We were anticipating finding a mad mountain village and being able to eat and get some kind of directions. The last 4 km, along the bumpy track were an agonising wait to see what would appear round the bend.

When we hit 2km to go it happened, a sight which exceeded all expectations awaited.  It was a major road, two lanes either side.  It was not only a road but a service station with a restaurant attached. We didn’t care where it was going, as Bear Grylls would say  "IT WAS OUR WAY OUT OF THERE!"

 As we stopped and were staring in amazement at the road. a van with a couple of kids turned up and stopped. They seemed to understand what we had been through and offered us cigarettes  - the Chinese answer to everything. We negotiated the last couple of kilometres with immense difficulty, as the track became a muddy rock covered stream. Even when on the road, getting to the service station proved to be a challenge with me having to lift the bikes over the central reservation to get to the right side. 

Entering the restaurant we tried to take our shoes off, they were caked in mud and we didn’t want to destroy the clean floor.  The staff said it was not a problem and sat us down, quickly producing a steaming hot bowl of noodles and stir fried rice.  It was such a relief and we relished every mouthful.

Now back on a highway we got back on the bikes and happily pedalled off, reflecting on the adventure of the last 24 hours. 15 miles later we found a roadside town and left the highway to check it out.  It was a miserable place as the photos show but there was a hostel.  The young guy was so welcoming and although the surroundings were cold, damp and grimy, his hospitality made us feel very pleased to be there.  After a much needed shower and change of clothes we went and found our friend and asked him where the local internet café was. He showed us to his bedroom and we set about trying to work out where we had been – not possible, but we did plan a route for the days ahead. He gave us a funny look when we said we were going out to explore the town – turns out there was absolutely nothing there! We just stocked up on snacks and got into bed to catch up on much needed sleep.  The stench of the polluted river running along outside wafted in through the window but at least we were off that mountain and back on some kind of reasonable route south.  Phew!

A snow walking 31 miles
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Callum Cells and family on

Well done guys - what an inspiration. Callum is following you avidly and we are very proud of what you are achieving. What lovely experiences and memories you are both building up - can't think of a better start to a marriage. Keep it up!

Lots of love,
(Rob), Callum, Hannah, Allie and Katie.

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