Broken Birthday Bridges
Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
360Trip End Aug 21, 2011
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We stopped at what appeared to be a check point, but turned out to be a group of laughing local men closing off the road. They were letting some cars through, so we argued with them and they seemed to say the cars were only going a short way. The blog I had read was from 2010, and we didn't see how the road could possibly have disappeared in a few months
Neither of us felt good as we cycled through the barrier with the men laughing after us. We knew we were in for a tough day, but the worst feeling in this situation is the worry. Turning each corner we didn’t know what we would find, and the further we came, the more committed to this path we were and the more stuck if we had to turn back. The first 7 miles were fine, we could see a new road in construction above us and although our little river road was a bit bumpy it was fine for us. We started to hope that they had closed the road because the work above made it dangerous because of rock falls.
Round the next bend however, we saw the problem. Our road disappeared under water! What? Why? We could hear a van on the new road overhead though so we decided to head up. Getting the bikes 200m up a rutted path was exhausting, but doable
We kept an eye on the road below, which dipped in and out of the water for a while before disappearing completely. I remembered reading on a blog somewhere about lots of people being displaced from their homes when the government built a dam and made a reservoir – was that what had happened? Anyway, we had turned onto the road at 12pm. Three hours later and we were exhausted and had only made 10 miles, lots pushing the bikes. Several times Mikey took his bike to the top and came back for mine – my spirits were low and I wasn’t really 'Manning up’ today. (In fact I cried my eyes out!) Ironman saved the day however and kept soldiering on and telling me it was going to be ok.
After several ridiculous climbs, and many points at which we felt we might have to turn back, we eventually came to the end of the line
We tried getting the bike onto the path loaded up, but after mine nearly tumbled down into the river, we realised we were going to have to unload completely and make loads of journeys. I unloaded while Mikey somehow carried my bike to the bottom. I was falling around all over the place without any luggage and terrified that he was going to slip and tumble down the 100 metre near vertical slope. At the bottom, I decided the only way to be helpful was to get to the top the other side and see if we could actually get the bikes back onto the road and, if there was indeed a road. The climb up was horrible and needed hands and feet at the steepest parts. At the top however, I could see a car and workers, suggesting that the road must be passable. I shouted across the good news and Ironman steamed up the side of the valley 5 times with bikes and gear. He had chest pains by the end, but I used my medical knowledge to diagnose muscular strain rather that a heart attack.
On the finished side of the bridge, workmen looked at us as if we were aliens, having no idea where we had come from
Arriving in a tiny village, we just felt relief that there were cars, and therefore some way out of there. We found a group at a shop and using the phrasebook established there was no road to Manhao, and no buses elsewhere, but there was a boat which we couldn’t get now. In desperation Mikey walked into an internet café shouting ‘Does anyone speak English?’ Amazingly, a young man stood up and he did! He absolutely saved us, explaining that there was a boat at 8am the next morning, which would take us 1km further up the flooded road from where we could cycle to Manhao. He then stored our bikes in his families’ shop, showed us to a room in their guesthouse where we dumped our stuff, then invited us to share their New Year’s feast.
When we came downstairs, about 25 of his family, of all ages were enjoying an enormous feast together and cheered when we came in
It felt completely surreal to have been in such a bad situation, starving hungry, no idea what we were doing and then to be the centre of attention in a party. Our friend explained that the reason we’ve not been able to eat for days is because the Chinese all spend the New Year eating with their families and restaurants close. We had a great time with his uncle who I have renamed Chinese Joe (Kirtikar). He was also very smoothly dressed in a pimping suit, and was absolutely on one, putting cigarettes in our hands, food on our plates and more tequila stuff in our glasses at every opportunity. He also went a got a massive pipe for Mikey to have a go on. Exactly what he didn’t need!
After the meal, our saviour also made sure we could get online and check our route for tomorrow and let our parents know we were ok. The internet café attached to the house was completely full of young boys playing games so he set us up with our computer by a fire, and his aunt brought us fruit and tea
By 9 we were asleep on our feet, and left the family playing some kind of poker game (lots of bank notes on the table). The lovely women escorted us to our room with flasks of water for tea and showed us to the bathroom and hot water. One of the tiny grandchildren strapped to the aunt’s back was completely fascinated by us and kept saying ‘oohhh’ and smiling. There were huge explosions going on outside in the street, but none of the children seemed bothered, although a lot of dogs were barking their heads off.
Snuggled up in bed, watching a film to send us to sleep we couldn’t believe where we had ended up. So surreal, but another example of how catastrophic errors in judgement sometimes work for the best. We would never have had the opportunity to spend New Year with a family otherwise, and to have a translator so we actually knew what was going on was incredible. However, we still had a lot of hurdles to bridge before we could cross the border and it was difficult to relax despite our extreme exhaustion. I’ll definitely never have a birthday like that again! My husband is the best looking after me.
Miles cycled – 27 miles (1 of them took over an hour)