Cycling through China – Guangxi Autonomous Region

Day 135: Hongshuihe to Tian’e 

We were unharmed whilst we camped outside the creepy, abandoned building. Thankfully, no zombies came to eat us whilst we slept. Earlier than normal, we began packing away and getting ready for the day at 0630. With the very last drops of petrol in our stove, I managed to make some porridge for breakfast; we made a mental note that we must get some more petrol today.

We were on the road for 0830, after spending some time fashioning Adam’s unruly hair into a ponytail! Sneaking out of the overgrown, forgotten car park and back onto the road, we cycled past the police hut but they didn’t even look up.

Happy with that!

Immediately, we cycled over a huge bridge that crossed the river. In doing so, we left Guizhou province and entered Guangxi Province, which is actually an autonomous region in southern China. Misty morning fog hung over the surrounding hillsides, creating a mysterious atmosphere across the azure water dotted with fish farms and floating houses.

Goodbye Guizhou Province! Hello Guangxi Autonomous Region!

Soon into our morning cycle, we pedalled into a standard village. We spotted a large, pink pig trotting happily down the road, surrounded by five or six men. The men suddenly grabbed hold of the now bewildered and frightened pig, who started screaming almost human-like screams. It was obvious they were about to slaughter the pig, right on the street. They held the animal down on its side, kneeling on the poor thing as it tried desperately to wiggle free. I felt quite distressed watching this unfold about 50m in front of me. I needed to cycle past the commotion but couldn’t bring myself to move as the animal’s screams were deafening and upsetting. However, with no alternative option, I continued cycling, keeping my eyes forward, my legs pedalling furiously as I prayed they wouldn’t deliver the fatal blow whilst I was cycling past. I joined Adam who had already cycled past and as we continued on our way, we discussed the morality of what we had just witnessed. Seeing a dead pig or cow has now become completely ‘normal’ on these rural streets here in Southern China, as we see it every single day, usually more than once. I actually find it quite fascinating watching the skill involved in butchering animals I have eaten all my life. But seeing the animal alive, about to be killed is on another level and not something I can stomach. (Speaking to my Mum about this on the phone a few days later, she put it really well: how when the animal is dead it is seen as a ‘product’ – and we are used to seeing cuts of pork and beef being sold in supermarkets and butchers in the UK. But a live animal evokes emotions in some people, myself for sure, as I heard the animals’ distress and upset.)

ANYWAY! I digress… We pretty much started climbing straight away (this is China after all!). The mountains we cycled around weren’t as magnificently tall as yesterday, but the views were still lovely. We were treated to the same autumnal colours, thick pine trees and steep rocky cliffs, with the odd area where banana trees grew. It was a long hard climb which we nailed. I can feel myself getting fitter with each week. Ascending over 1,000m in 3 hours it was tough going; the final hour we didn’t allow ourselves to stop, we just continued going until the hour was done: climbing up and up. We imagined ourselves in an hour-long gym session. Finally, Adam called to me that the hour was up, so we stopped for a well-deserved break. Sitting on a wall, we ‘people watched’ a local family on the road below us where we had just climbed from, as we sat munching on the array of snacks we have stashed in our panniers: mini oranges, bananas, banana chips, mini snickers and mini dove (Galaxy) bars and mini Swiss roles. Such a healthy diet!

The climb wasn’t quite done with us yet, so on we continued until we reached the top. We looked behind us and saw a downhill sign in the opposite direction, so we knew we had a downhill coming. And what a downhill! About 11km of glorious descent, not too steep and with fairly smooth tarmac. We absolutely loved it and felt we had earned these ‘free’ miles, as I like to call them.

Before the next ascent, we stopped again for a rest. As the sun was shining down on us brightly, we got the tent out to dry after last night’s rain. We rested under the bright blue sky, the sun warming us up after the chilly downhill. With a lull in traffic, we enjoyed our green and quiet surroundings. It was quite beautiful. A small brook bubbled away peacefully out of sight in the bottom of the valley.

Adam enjoying a rest before the afternoon uphill cycling commences…

By this point, we had done 53km, and felt like we had worked really hard. Discussing our options, we thought we could either try to cycle another 50 odd km to a town where we knew there would be a warm, comfortable hotel. That would definitely mean a rest day tomorrow! Or if we didn’t make it, we would cycle however far we got to, and have a short days cycle tomorrow and still stay in the hotel, enjoying a ‘half rest day’. We definitely needed to stay in a hotel for at least one night, as we really needed to charge our electronics after four nights camping.

Deciding we would see how it goes, we continued on and the road provided us with undulating hills. This province is considerably mountainous, so all the roads snake around the hillsides, either upwards or downwards. There’s no other way around the huge hills, except the odd tunnel. We had both up and downhills in the afternoon; nothing as steep or as long as this morning’s ride but still – our legs were burning and our bums considerably sore after 11 days cycling on the trot. Combine this with just under 10,000m elevation climbed in this mountainous region since we left Kunming… it’s safe to say we were in much need of a rest! That being said, we are very glad we chose this route as it has provided us with a (mostly) gloriously quiet and picturesque road, but it has definitely been tough.

The road wound its way around the huge river to our right. The kilometres cycled ticked up and up. Once we reached the 70km mark, we decided to commit to cycling 100km+ today and make it to the town where we knew there would be a hotel. I put my ‘cycling motivation’ playlist on and just got my head down. I flipped a mental switch in my brain and sort of ‘reset’ my mind, dedicated to reaching this town. The lure of a hotel this evening, but most importantly, a rest day tomorrow definitely motivated me and enabled me to keep up with Adam on the uphills – which I usually struggle with towards the end of the day. Looking behind him, he was surprised and impressed that I was right behind him.

Stunning views of the river and surrounding hills.

We made it within 15km of the town and thankfully the road was mostly downhill, a real blessing as the hills and many kilometres cycled started to take their toll. We crossed a bridge with stunning views of the water below which led us to the road leading into the town. Gratefully, this road ran parallel to the river which narrowed considerably between two huge cliff faces. It was like something out of an avatar movie it was so beautiful: a steep green and rocky cliff towering upwards on our left, a steep drop leading down to the river on our right. Across the valley, another green and rocky cliff soared upwards on the other side. Although there wasn’t a hard shoulder, the cars were mostly good at keeping their distance and most gave us a friendly toot to let us know they were coming past.

Our bicycle lights came on as the sun was starting to set.

Just as we neared the town there were a few speed bumps. I tried to be clever and cycle around the side of a speed bump rather than going over it, but as I tried to manoeuvre back onto the road there was a slight curb and I cycled up it at a bad angle. Low and behold, the bike slid away from underneath me and I fell smack bang to the ground, yet again, exactly the same as last time! Thank goodness I was going much slower so I was able to get to my feet immediately, reassuring myself and Adam that I was absolutely fine. My wrist was a little sore and I had the tiniest graze on my knee, but other than that I was OK. My left handlebar grip was bent a little, but I was able to just bend it back into place. We took a minute to evaluate how and why I came off: Adam explained how to cycle up small curbs like that more efficiently (aka without crashing to the ground!). But within minutes, we were back on the road unscathed.

The town of Tian’e is nestled within the magnificent, regal limestone karst hills. Adam had some hotels marked on his phone map and navigated us to one. Satisfied with the price and the fact that they accepted foreigners, it didn’t take too long to book one room for one night, and thankfully we were able to take the bikes up to the room. They very clearly don’t get many foreigners, as we received many stares and kind-hearted laughter.

Once inside our comfortable room, we felt a wave of gratefulness and tiredness descend on us, after 11 days on the bounce cycling, 740km cycled and about 12,000m in elevation climbed. Not to mention the fact that we had just cycled a mammoth 108km day with over 2,000m elevation (we spent 8 hours cycling!): we were absolutely spent. Our legs and bums the sorest they’ve ever been on the cycle tour. That first hot hotel shower after 4 nights camping was the best.

Adam suddenly felt very ill once in the room – the physical expense of the hard day’s cycle I think had taken its toll, so I went down to the hotel restaurant alone. I was the centre of attention; several drunk men and women tried to help me order food. I am pretty confident that I can ask ‘I would like to eat a plate of pork and a bowl of rice’ in Mandarin, as each time I’ve asked that in a restaurant it’s worked fine. They seemed to make the whole process more difficult and confusing, but we got there in the end. One girl unnecessarily video called a friend or family member who spoke English to try and help… I received my food in the end and it was very tasty, ignoring the photos and videos that were being taken slyly as I ate. As I was finishing the meal, one of the restaurant staff came with a big silver container of cold leftover food and signalled if I would like some. Without really waiting for an answer, she spooned a great portion of the slimy leftovers onto my plate. It did not taste great but I appreciated the kind thought. I managed to move the food around the plate so it looked like I had eaten some so as not to appear rude.

Back in the safety of our room, we were both fast asleep, exhausted by 2100. Tomorrow’s rest day is well deserved and much needed.

Day 136: Rest day in Tian’e

A thoroughly enjoyable rest day was had in our hotel room. With pure exhaustion still coursing through our bodies, we didn’t do a great deal: we mainly sat in bed all day, snoozing and getting up to date with the blog and video editing. I washed lots of very dirty clothes and strung them across the room, hoping they’d dry before we left tomorrow. We stayed in the confines of our room all day apart from going out for dinner together. I also ventured out to bring back dumplings for lunch. The best thing I enjoy when we stay in a hotel is a (hopefully) amazing hot shower, which I was not disappointed with. They always feel so good after camping for many nights in a row. These rest days are so important for us to reset, especially after the hill climbs. It was much needed and much appreciated.

Day 137: Tian’e to Wild Camp near Yongli

As is to expected, we struggled to get up this morning. We were in no rush to get up and get moving. With no job to go to, we have no set time to get out of bed and we like it that way! Luckily, our bicycles will wait patiently for us! We decided to bypass the hotel breakfast as we were disappointed with the cold, oily food we were served yesterday morning, and we thought an extra hour in bed was more beneficial! (Yesterday I had also been subjected to selfies with the hotel staff whilst I tried to eat my breakfast. I wonder if this is how it feels to be a minor celebrity… if so – I’m not keen!)

We were finally up and ready, leaving the hotel by around 10.15. It was absolutely crazy busy downstairs for some reason, with many people milling around. We wondered if it was perhaps something to do with the lottery, as there was a huge crowd around a table doing something or other. Sunflower seed shells were scattered all over the floor. Bizarre! Our chains were in need of a good clean and oil, but we didn’t want to do it in the hotel room (or we were too lazy to!) or outside the hotel as it was so busy (and we’d no doubt be bombarded). Deciding to instead find a quiet spot up the road somewhere, we cycled away from the hotel. It felt surprisingly good to be back on the bike: we got so many stares yesterday walking down the street, which makes me feel uneasy, but I don’t mind being stared at on the bike!

Luckily, we found a concreted sort of park area which had the perfect space to sort our bikes out only a few 100m down the road. Unsurprisngly, we gathered a small crowd. Firstly, three little girls who came over and jumped in a nearby bush to watch us. They made a big drama and always screamed and ran away laughing when Adam tried to video them. Within minutes, a few more children, teenagers and adults crowded around. We smiled at them and just got on with cleaning and oiling our chains.

Once we were sorted, we cycled out of the city. We were treated to a nice flat route for the first 2 hours or so, which was really pleasant and eased us (and our bodies, particularly my bottom!) back into cycling after our mammoth cycle the day before last. We followed the river which weaved through the valley on our right, shimmering a majestic green beside the river bank slopes, abundant with banana trees and other verdant green vegetation.

Without the hard shoulder and with busy traffic in China, I feel more seen in my bright vest.

Our route followed that same road all day; the limestone karst hills a constant presence, providing a stunning backdrop to our cycle. Sky blue and warm sun on our necks, it was an enjoyable day of cycling.
Being China, we did have the odd building works blocking our picturesque views, but luckily we didn’t have to cycle through any. The road was a nice smooth tarmac all day. The GPS tells us we cycled 1,000m elevation, but it didn’t feel like it. Either that’s an error or we are getting used to these Chinese hills!

I did feel uneasy with the traffic today; the road wasn’t that wide and there was no hard shoulder. As we made progress, it turned out to be a busy route with cars, lorries and trucks. A few times I gripped my handlebars tightly, knuckles turning white as I just focused on keeping straight.

We stopped for a break after a few hours of cycling. As we were about to set off again, I went to have a wild wee behind some bushes. As I went to step over a log, I almost stepped on a coiled, brown and black snake which was basking on some white styrofoam in the sunlight. Retracting my leg quickly, I shouted Adam to come to take a look. It slithered off before he had a chance to take a picture or video. That was close! The last thing I want is to add a snake bite to my list of bicycling dramas…

Towards the end of the day, we had to cycle through a long, dark, narrow tunnel that cut through the mountain. The road continued to have no hard shoulder, and I felt very uneasy about cycling through the narrow dark tunnel with so much traffic. Despite the no overtaking sign, cars and lorries were overtaking within the tunnel, which made it fairly dangerous for two vulnerable bicyclists. There was a narrow pavement, however, which Adam cycled along. My bike manoeuvring skills were not quite good enough to keep on the narrow ledge, and I was worried about falling off the pavement into the road, so decided to walk the length of the tunnel on the pavement. Luckily it wasn’t too long, but in this instance, the end was not in sight upon entering the tunnel. 

I’m not loving this at all… ☹

About 3/4 through, the tunnel became very quiet and no traffic was coming along. I could see daylight at the end of the tunnel, so I decided to come off the pavement and cycle the final stretch. There were no lights in the tunnel, but our front bike lights are very bright. It was all fine until about 100m from the end, I heard a lorry entering and heading toward me from behind. For some reason, fear gripped me and I pedalled for what felt like my life to get out of the tunnel before the lorry got to me. I had my backlight on but it’s not very strong, unlike my front light which did brilliantly at lighting up my way. I made it out of the tunnel just before the vehicle passed me; it turned out to be a smallish truck but it sounded a lot bigger when I was in the tunnel!

Once out, it was 1630 and we’d done nearly 50km (which isn’t bad going considering we set off almost towards midday!) so we decided to find a camp spot. We saw an abandoned/half built, small, brick building but it was right next to the road. Instead, Adam found a small tarmacked road leading off the main road further up so we decided to head up there and find somewhere quieter. There were lots of thick grassy shrubland areas and after some toing and froing we found a flat patch with the least amount of piles of animal poo, and away from plain sight of the road.

Definitely a very ‘wild’ camping spot!

Eyeing the suspicious canned fish… suspiciously.

We cleared an area with our boots, trying not to get animal faeces on our tent! I made some noodles for dinner and added some strange canned fish which didn’t taste too bad after I tried to get rid of most of the bones. In our tent nice and early, we were ready for another good nights sleep. Our usual 10 hours is much needed, as our legs are still feeling sore and achey from all these Chinese hills.

Day 138: Yongli to Wild Camp near Hechi

As the weak morning rays began filtering through the canvas of our tent, we sighed and said, “Best get up…” Luckily, we were not rising out of the comfort of our travelling beds to traverse the thick, morning commute, but rising out of bed to go on a bike ride. Just like we had done for the 137 days previously. Our chosen wild camp spot had proven good, and we had not been disturbed by anyone during the night. We thought we may have heard some scurrying animals, but felt safe that they would not be able to get through to us in the safety of our tent.

Avoiding the many piles of animal dung that were dotted here and there around our tent, I began making our breakfast whilst Adam dismantled and put away the tent. Scrambled eggs with tomatoes always goes down a treat, especially when the morning was thick with mist, drizzle and white fog. It wasn’t so wet that I couldn’t cook outside, but it did seem to be that type of ‘fine rain that soaks you right through’ (in the words of Peter Kay).

Leaving our camp spot was rather tricky, as we had to tackle around some long grass and the ground was wet, muddy and very uneven. I can’t even remember how it started, over something insanely trivial I have no doubt, but we began to argue. This wasn’t the way either of us wanted to start our days cycling. We don’t argue often, but I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this, that when you are with someone 24/7 for now 20 weeks solid, it is completely natural to have disagreements and arguments. I think it would be slightly inhuman not to. I don’t write about each of them as it would most likely be incredibly boring and not entirely relevant to our adventure as the vast majority are incredibly insignificant. However, today’s arguement led onto bigger discussions, as arguements often do, about whether or not I am really happy doing this, whether I should go home for a while etc. I always think difficult discussions are best had whilst walking somewhere, but cycling is also a good thing to do whilst discussing tough topics. Although as we were cycling uphill during our serious chat, I found it difficult to breathe as I was becoming emotional with what we were talking about.

I am homesick. I do miss my family immensely and I miss ‘normal’ life. If I was to just throw in the towel and fly home from say Hong Kong, I would no longer be homesick or miss my family or ‘normal’ life, but I would be leaving Adam to continue alone. The thought of that breaks my heart. I do not want to add this cycle tour to the list of things I quit. I need to keep reminding myself why I am here (very briefly: to push myself out of my comfort zone, to gain confidence in myself, to get fit and advance myself physically, to travel and see areas of the world I would never normally see, to spend unbroken quality time with the love of my life, to inspire other women to do something similar to push themselves). I also should be more mindful of the positives in each day and what I am grateful for. This cycle tour won’t last forever, so when I am snuggled down with a new crochet project and a steaming cup of hot tea as the typical Yorkshire weather is cold and wet, I can think back with fondness to being sat in a growingly dirty tent beside a thick forest in the middle of rural China.

It’s not always glamorous on a bicycle tour…

So! Back to how our day went. We made friends and decided I was in this cycle trip for the long run and the uphill climb ended. Hurrah on all three accounts! The weather continued to be dismal all day; we could barely see more than 30 metres ahead of us for most of the day as the atmosphere was thick with white fog. The road remained fairly busy with traffic and none of the roads we cycled along provided us with the comfort and safety of a hard shoulder.

After the uphill which slowed us right down, came a steep downhill. We decided to take the quieter, more rural road to get away from the traffic, but inevitably, the road conditions were pretty terrible. I found it immensely difficult to pull my breaks on the steep hill and became seriously panicked as I endeavoured to swerve around potholes and gravel at such a steep decline. Extreme pain coursed through my hands as I pulled on my breaks which didn’t seem to be doing much at all. I had to stop as the pain was too much and I felt I was in a dangerous position. I managed to stop safely and called Adam and complained about the situation. He came over to me, propped his bike against the low wall next to us, took my bike and tested my breaks. “Lucia… your breaks are not working!”

I had been freewheeling down one of the steepest hills we had cycled down in China so far… without working breaks. My front brake was working ever so slightly, but my back brake was doing absolutely nothing. Adam de-panniered my bike and adjusted the brakes. It took less than 5 minutes and they felt so much better! I felt naive and foolish for not even considering that my brakes needed tightening, which is probably why my hands had been hurting so much on downhills on previous days. Lesson well and truly learnt: check your breaks!

Breaks back to full function, the rest of the downhill was so much more comfortable. We came into a town and as we were cycling through, stopped for some huge, breaded dumplings. We managed to order ten and the stall owner gave us a mixture of different fillings. Five each for lunch filled our bellies and warmed us up. As we set off again, I was feeling very cold indeed. On my top half, I was only wearing a thin long sleeved top and a thin ‘pack-a-mac’: not enough insulation for a wintry January day in China. Adam ordered me to put on my warm fleece and ski-jacket. I did as I was told and felt immediately better: he does look after me.

The rest of the afternoon’s cycling was ‘OK’: not amazing but not dreadful. We had two options of road and chose the minor road, which we were glad of. Although it was in poor quality in places, it was very quiet and not many vehicles passed us which made a very nice change. At times we could see the alternative road which was busy with trucks, lorries and cars, so we were pleased with our choice, despite the bumpy ride in places.

Rolling hills were the theme of the afternoon, nothing too steep or long but it seems to be never just flat in this region in China. The fog remained ever present but we could see slightly further. A friendly, drunken local tried his best efforts to invite us for food and drink at his house. We had no idea what he was saying but he made eating motions and I heard the word, ‘jiu’ which I know means alcohol. Despite his best efforts and almost dragging Adam off his bike, we managed to get away.

Our nice, peaceful road ended unfortunately and we had to join the busy road, which was no fun at all. We were close to Hechi airport, which may have been a reason for how busy it was.

Through the business, we managed to cycle on the pavement/bicycle lane for a small section.

We were beginning to get tired of today and decided to find somewhere to camp early for a change. At about 1615 Adam spotted a dirt track off the main road. We followed it up and found a patch of flat land off the track with a tranquil stream running next to it. Perfect. Although it is in view of the track and anyone walking up or down it, the spot is away from the road, flat and besides a thick forest/jungle so it’s a really nice find actually. We can’t see any vehicle tracks in the dirt path, so think it’s unlikely anyone will come past. Two locals walked past us as we were pushing the bikes up the steep path to the flat area. They said something and looked inquisitively at us, but didn’t seem to mind us being there. They haven’t been back.

We enjoyed this campsite; some of the leaves protruding from the jungle were huge!

Noodles were cooked; the tent was erected and we were in our sleeping bags before the sun had even set. We’ve cycled 55km today and climbed 1,056m, so it hasn’t been the most physically draining day but it certainly hasn’t been the easiest either. It has been emotionally draining though, but these conversations need to be had sometimes. It’s not even 1900 yet and now the sun has gone down I am so ready for sleep; ready to wake up tomorrow and enjoy another day in the saddle in this crazy country that is China, alongside my best friend.

Day 139: A short ride into Hechi

We woke up gently to the sound of the laughing stream next to our camp spot. Recently, we seem to wake at around 0615/0630 – after a solid 10 hours sleep! Adam usually spends some time catching up with the world as he has internet on his phone, whilst I spend around 45 minutes dozing in and out of slumber. As the sun rises at about 0715/0730, we start to sort ourselves out.

Misty morning views from our camp spot next to the China jungle…

Firstly, I brush my hair with the comb from my handlebar bag which is at my feet and put my hair into easily manageable plaits. Then I have a quick baby wipe wash and put some sun cream on my face as a moisturiser. I then get dressed into the same clothes I wore yesterday which are in a neat pile at the end of the tent or find some fresh clothes from a pannier which are stored in the awning just outside. Following that, I fold and stash my silk liner into its sack, deflate my pillow and store it into its sack (usually with difficulty!), store my pillowcase inside the silk liner case, deflate my inflatable roll mat, stuff my sleeping bag into its sack,  and lastly store away the roll mat into its sack. I then open the tent door and put all of my sleeping kit into my duffel bag and pop away anything else I have inside the tent into the pannier it lives in (e.g. my kindle, notebook, power bank and cables etc.) Exiting the tent, my next job is to get cooking breakfast.

On this particular morning, we knew there were not enough porridge oats left for two cycle tourist’s breakfast portions. Instead, it was noodles for breakfast – which went down a treat actually. No eggs or other ingredients were available on this occasion. Whilst I cook, Adam puts away the tent. Once we’ve eaten, I put away the cooking equipment whilst Adam washes up. We have our routine and it works well for us. 

A slippery cautious walk down the dirt track we had come up yesterday led us quickly back onto the main road. We decided to have a short ride today into the next big town, Hechi. Deciding to take the opportunity to stay in a hotel as we often don’t have the option when cycling through more rural areas. Since entering China, we have camped a lot more often, and have therefore realised the benefits of getting to a hotel earlier to enjoy the room and make the most of the facilities – so that’s just what we did today. It was a straight forward cycle; similarly to yesterday, it was ‘OK’. Not amazing but not dreadful. The weather continues to be slightly damp and considerably grey and foggy. I think we would have been treated to some quite pleasant views today; we could just make out the significant and prominent limestone karst rocks jutting regally out of the earth which are significant to this area of South China as we cycled along.

A Temple nestled on the face of this steep karst hillside.

For the first time in what feels like months, we have had very little elevation today. In just over 2 hours of cycling, we only climbed 360m. It felt so good to cycle along some flat ground for a change! We could actually pedal impeded and felt like we were making some distance and going faster than normal.

We reached the outskirts of Hechi and stopped to buy some fruit and vegetables. Adam saw an unfortunate sight of a dog being disembowelled on the side of the road. Luckily, I didn’t spot it, but Adam went to take a closer look. He is inquisitive and finds it interesting to see countries for what they really are. Dog is eaten across China, but is more popular in Southern China, especially in this province in close proximity to Vietnam where they also eat dog meat.

Continuing on, it didn’t take long until we were in the main town and found a reasonably priced and comfortable hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. We have done some much-needed charging, washing, blogging, video editing and route planning. My bike also got a wash down as I’m fed up of it being absolutely caked in mud. We’ve decided to head South East tomorrow, towards Macau, where we will get the ferry to Hong Kong.

Day 140: Hechi to Yizhou

Blackout curtains are a blessing and a curse. I woke naturally at 0730, although it still felt like the middle of the night. I knew I should get up but just couldn’t bring myself to. One of the downsides to staying in a hotel is not wanting to leave that comfortable bed! Eventually, we forced ourselves up. It made a nice change packing our panniers in our room, and reminded us of the many hotel stays in Malaysia.

Leaving at a respectable 10.00, we were on the hunt for breakfast as we pedalled out of the town. Dumplings are fast becoming a favourite cycle touring fuel for us in China. We spotted a roadside stall and in front of a group of inquisitive local men, bought a basket of the delightful parcels each (about 8 dumplings) alongside two boiled eggs and a long breaded item which almost looked like a giant, savoury yum yum.

I stashed the breakfast goods into my handlebar bag, and we cycled off, looking for somewhere a little quieter where we could enjoy our breakfast. We found a spot several minutes later: just sitting on the curb to a closed shop, ignoring more curious glances from passers-by.

Finally on the road properly now, it didn’t take too long to cycle out of the city. Luckily the fog had lifted somewhat compared to yesterday, and we could admire the significant limestone karst rocks that the town was nestled inside. In areas, the buildings were a hair’s breadth away from a rocky outcrop. We both find this geological scenery stunning.

Once out of the town, we stayed on the same road all day long. It provided us with smooth tarmac and potholed, gravelly, uneven terrain in equal measure. The first hour or so of cycling wasn’t so pleasant: the road was heaving with fuel-hungry, mammoth lorries and muddy, rickety trucks that swooshed past us vigorously. Conveniently, the hard shoulder was mostly unrideable – churned up mud or littered with objects forced us to share the road with the dominating vehicles.

These lorries carrying sugar cane are a nightmare! Oftentimes, the sugarcane falls out of the back of the truck, littering the road creating obstacles for vehicles and bicycles in their wake.

Eventually, we passed a crossroads and the majority of the traffic took a turning, so the road was pretty much left just to us. For the first time in what feels like months, we had another pretty much flat day of cycling. In total, we only climbed just over 450m, which is basically a flat day for us now after the gigantic hills endured in the last few weeks. As I mentioned about yesterday’s ride, it just felt so great to be able to cycle on a flat road: making some distance and being able to cruise along without a strenuous, leg burning uphill was a pleasant and welcome change. Flashbacks to Thailand cycling were strong, as we cycled past rice fields and other crops. At times close by and at others more in the distance, those prominent limestone karst rocks and hills were a constant and welcomed presence.

For the majority of the day, we cycled one behind the other in peaceful silence. Each engrossed in a podcast or audiobook whilst enjoying an easy pedal amongst the average to good scenery. The road condition continued to be fairly unpleasant all day, but it wasn’t so bad.

A statue we cycled past entering the small town where we ate lunch. Adam translated the sign below the statue, which definitely had a communist party propaganda message!

We stopped three times today: once in the morning for a short break just by the side of the road, once at lunchtime in a small town where we enjoyed lunch in a buffet style Chinese cafe, and a final stop at around 1500 for a quick nap. Sometimes – you just need a nap! Adam took out the tent’s groundsheet and laid it on a grassy track in front of a rice field next to the road. As we lay down and closed our eyes, we could feel the warm sun trying to filter through the white clouds as a family of ducks splashed in the shallow water on the field nearby.

Another quick nap, taking advantage of the warmer weather.

Arriving into the town of Yizhou as the sun was setting was another of today’s nice changes. Usually, we find a camp spot between 1630 and 1700 but as the sun descended behind the pointy hills a pink and pale orange hue stretched across the horizon; it felt good to be cycling still. Knowing we need to reach Macau to get the ferry to Hong Kong before our visa expires still hangs over us each day, and means that we have to strike a careful balance between not rushing and enjoying ourselves, but also making the miles up so we’re not in a pickle. A respectable 76km was cycled today which we’re both happy with.

The sun setting over Yizhou

We’re also conscious of our budget, and as this was our second hotel stay in as many days, we wanted to find a cheap but comfortable hotel, rather than just jumping into the first ‘nice-looking’ hotel we find which usually is slightly over budget. Adam did some research on the side of the road on an app called, ‘Trip’ and found a hotel for a respectable 98 yuan (about £10). We found it in the end, booked the room for that price (although they tried to charge Adam more but relented in the end to charge us the online price) and were able to take the bikes up to the room (which involved some careful management in the lift one at a time).

Venturing out for food after a nice hot shower, I mentioned to Adam that I felt surprisingly tired after a relatively ‘easy’ flat day of cycling. He kindly reminded me that I have still cycled for over 5 hours, which is likely why I feel tired! We found a nice, cheap but tasty restaurant where we enjoyed a good meal, before a cheeky trip to the bakery on the way back to the hotel.

The plan for the next two days is to cycle to the nearest city of Liuzhou, which is just over 100km from here. We’ve decided that we’ll plan to cycle a similar distance as today’s tomorrow and find somewhere to camp, then cycle a shorter distance the day after and find a hotel at around midday. These ‘half rest days’ are proving a clever way to still make some distance but also have a good rest.

 

 

Cycling through China - Guizhou Province
Cycling through the most beautiful karst landscapes in China

7 comments

Loving the updates. Keep it up

Julian

Thanks Julian!

I got a mention! ☺️
Inspite of that it’s an absolutely brilliant read, really informative and your attention to detail makes it so engaging. Thank you!
I was just thinking that it might be an idea to record the date, as well as your ‘day no….’ occasionally? As we’re somewhat on catch up it’s good to be able to put it all into a timely context 😘 xxx

I will consider your request 😉 Hehe – no I think that’s a good idea! Might help put things into context. Glad you’re enjoying the blogs though! 😘 xxx

I have cycled many years for pleasure and necessity. Lu, your a strong girl . Go for it . Hills can be walked when tired . I found sometimes long straight roads were more boring than the climb and decent, also harder on the bum ! Just relax don’t worry , no need to beeee homesick , its pretty shit here anyway. Ride safe please always . love . pa xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thanks Dad! It’s strange how I’ve come round to actually enjoying hill climbs (for the most part anyway!). You’re right – there’s no shame in walking up the hills when tired or they’re too steep! Miss you – hope you get back out on your bike once the weather improves! Riding safe – thanks to your gloves! Love you xxxxx

Keep cycling Adam and Lucia🚵‍♂️🚵‍♀️

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