Returning to the Road – Yunnan Province

Day 125: Kunming to Wild Camp near Kuangyuan

Day one back on the bikes after our almost three weeks rest and recovery in Kunming was a success! I handwrote this journal entry from the comfort of our tent, on a slightly less than flat wild camp spot on a small patch of shrubby land away from the road. After three weeks off the bikes, we were both full of enthusiasm on our first day back on the road, and thankfully our fitness had remained pretty much the same.

Waking up that morning, we immediately regretted the three beers we had enjoyed the previous evening during a meal with our new friends, Vera and her flatmate Robert, who had made us feel so welcome during our first week in Kunming. It was a great evening though, and we are sure we will see them somewhere again in the future – Robert most likely next year as he would like to join us on the road in the US (where he is from) which would be awesome!

Hopefully, we will see Robert again later on this year when we cycle through America.

Sunset over Kunming and Green Lake Park.

Our final delicious meal in Kunming.

Two excited bicycle tourists ready to get back on the bikes tomorrow!

Rising at 0700 was tricky, but our bikes and the open road were calling and that provided plenty of reason to get ourselves out of bed! Up, packed and ready to leave our apartment by 0830, it felt great to clip the panniers back onto our bikes. Our landlord arrived on time to check over the apartment and hand back our deposit. With a final ‘farewell’ to the cold, drab place we had called ‘home’ for the past almost three weeks, we pedalled off into the crazy Kunming city traffic.

Let the riding commence! (Sandles and white socks turned out to be a bad choice!)

Immediately, we both agreed that the bikes felt peculiar. We had cycled a few times without panniers whilst I was recovering and had got used to how light and effortless the bikes felt. So now, as the bikes were fully loaded, it took all day to get used to cycling with all that weight again!

Only a few minutes into our ride we stopped for breakfast: dumplings. Buying eight each, we enjoyed them a few kilometres later next to the river, alongside this delicious egg and chive deep fried bread cake thing. Slightly stodgy but just what we needed before our first day back on the road (especially with our slight Beer Lao hangover!).

Wǒmen xǐhuān jiǎozi (We love dumplings!)

An empty pavement spot for breakfast consumption!

It took 20km to get out of the city: it seemed to go on forever! Even though the traffic was heavy and honestly pretty manic, luckily Kunming – similar to many towns and cities in China – has designated bike lanes. Unfortunately, they are most often overflowing with electric scooters. Although these are probably much better for the environment, the fact that they’re electric means they’re pretty silent, so they usually sneak up behind you from both sides or straight across in front of you, so you have to have your wits about you all the time.

It’s fair to say that Chinese drivers are notoriously bad! Cars, buses, lorries, in fact any vehicle will not think twice about just pulling out in front of you cutting across your path. When I learnt to drive I was told that as a driver, your actions should never make another driver have to change direction or speed… not in China! Buses are often the worse, a small bicycle tourist cycling in the designated bike lane will not stop them from driving into their bus stop, even if it means squishing said bicycle tourist! Luckily, not today.

What did make the cycle through Kunming quite comical was a huge tanker watering the flowers and plants alongside the road. We passed it, narrowly avoiding its wide-reaching spray. However, once we stopped at the next set of lights we could hear it approaching: it seemed to chase us down the road, threatening to drench us with its powerful blast of water. A haunting children’s song was playing from it, presumably in an effort to placate angry bicyclists or scooterists (if that is even a word?!). Its sinister tune signalled it was getting closer and closer. Laughing, we pedalled harder as the lights turned green. Again, luckily we weren’t drenched today.

The city of Kunming sprawled on and on, seemingly new blocks of flats rising out of the ground. Eventually, the city morphed into a smaller town, and we cycled past an immense covered market selling a wide variety of presumably locally grown produce. Continuing on, the town transformed into an expansive building site. Wet mud clogged our tires as huge lorries chugged past us, filling our lungs with thick fumes and dust. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long, only a few kilometres and we began ascending out of the mud on smooth tarmac and got our first glimpse of green hills!

At about 11am we had cycled 30km, so we stopped for a short break and a snack. As we were on a fairly busy road, we scrambled up a steep bank to sit on some flat ground above the road, looking back at the city of Kunming from whence we came. On the upwards scramble, an annoying plant exploded hundreds of tiny needles all over my leggings. (Little did I know, we had more of this to come in our camp site that evening!)

Back on the road, we left towns and roadworks behind and it finally became a bit more rural – but not quite as rural as previous day’s cycling through Yunnan province from Laos. At about 1300, we arrived at a huge lake we had originally planned to stop and camp at when we had done our rough planning at home. With it being far too early to call it a day and still with plenty of energy left, we continued pedalling. The lake shimmered beautifully next to us for a while which provided a pleasant view.

Some type of large power plant next to the lake chugged out white smoke into the blue sky.

An hour later we cycled into a small town and decided to stop for a late lunch. We found a small shop and managed to order, in very broken Chinese, two bowls of noodles. The two owners of the noodle stall were incredibly friendly and replied to our Chinese language efforts with huge smiles. It is certainly true for us that food tastes so much better when we’ve earned it! Our enthusiasm had driven us to cycle hard this morning, so my legs were already beginning to ache slightly, even though we were only at 55km.

We didn’t stop for too long, just long enough to enjoy our noodles and top up our water supply from the shop across the road (we haven’t been able to get any free water in China – there doesn’t seem to be any water fountains like in Malaysia or free water in restaurants like in Thailand – everyone here buys bottled water).

The afternoon provided us with a fair amount of downhill, which is great for distance, but not great for my nerves. After my accident, I feel quite nervous about cycling downhill, especially when the ground is gravelly or wet, and especially in the hard shoulder. I found myself cycling out of the hard shoulder (where I came off last time) and into the road where there’s usually fewer bumps and obstacles, but I was always careful to check behind me.

As to be expected, we then had a good amount of uphill (it’s only fair I guess!). As it’s China, the hills weren’t too steep. Arriving into the town of Yiliang, we had cycled 70km. It was only 1545, but we thought we would stop and find a cheap hotel, seen as we were in a town with plenty and we wanted to take it easy on our first day back in the saddle after my accident. The hotel we found couldn’t take foreigners, although they did offer for us to stay in their own home for 80 yuan! At this point, we changed our mind and decided to continue cycling out of the town and find somewhere to camp, especially as we had so much daylight left.

So we continued on for another 11km, all of which was a steady uphill (I always find uphills at the end of the day particularly tough as I’m tired from the long day!). For the whole 11km, we were searching, beady-eyed, for somewhere to camp. Eventually, Adam spotted a patch of trees next to the road and within them a little patch of rough ground that looked flat…ish. It wasn’t the most perfect spot, but it would do at this time in the day. We had about 90 minutes of daylight left, so were able to take our time endeavouring to flatten out the patch where we would pitch the tent, cooking noodles and getting ourselves sorted.

Time to get cooking!

Adam pretty happy with the camp spot.

So all in all – a successful day! We are very happy to be back in our tent and are glad we made the decision to push out a little further to have our own patch of peace and quiet. As there’s no houses or other buildings near us, we’re pretty sure we won’t be disturbed. It’s 8pm so time to get my 10 hours sleep (another thing I love about cycle touring!).

Day 126 – Wild Camp near Kuangyuan to Wild Camp at ‘Little Dragon Water’ Reservoir

We didn’t set an alarm last night but decided to just let our body clocks wake us. (And plus, Adam hates setting an alarm!) Admittedly, I had a poor nights sleep as the tent was on much more of a slope than we realised. Adam had let me choose which side of the tent I wanted to sleep on, and I had chosen unwisely! Striving to just lay on my roll mat was unachievable, as I kept slipping and sliding down to the opposite corner of the tent. Typing this makes me laugh now, but at the time it was quite frustrating! But when I did manage to sleep, I slept hard!

Eventually, we began packing away and cooking porridge for breakfast at 0800. It wasn’t until 1000 when we eventually left our little uneven camp spot, but we were happy not to rush. As the camp spot was in quite a dense area of woodland, we had to trudge through and over thick vegetation to escape. Luckily it had already been flattened by something or someone. Again, I was attacked by more of those intensely annoying spikey needle things as we left.

Back on the road, we continued up the long uphill we had left the previous day. Lorries passed us slowly as they struggled up the incline. We were glad that our bodies felt energised and not achey after yesterday. Although the uphill was steady it lasted most of the morning. The views made up for it though. After the uphill came the inevitable downhill: not as gravelly as yesterday but I’m still feeling nervous going downhill – I just don’t like going too fast. I know it will take me some time to build my confidence again and in the meantime, there’s no harm in being careful and taking it steady.

The sun shone brightly, illuminating the tarmacked road ahead.

After only 90 minutes of cycling, we decided to stop for an early lunch in a small town as Adam thought it might be a while before we go through another town (according to our maps) and besides – I was already hungry (my overcooked porridge didn’t touch the sides this morning!). We stopped at a regular Chinese restaurant where you choose what you would like to eat from the fridge. I was proud of myself for being able to order food in my broken Chinese – even Adam was impressed. (Whilst he spent hours dedicated to video editing for our youtube channel, I was practising my Chinese.) I ordered pork (‘zhurou’) with vegetables (‘shucai’) and rice (‘mifan’). As always, it was a delicious meal with a whole bucket of rice: just what we needed. Rather than rushing our lunch like we did yesterday, we decided to take our time and spent an hour enjoying our food and tea, and having a good old chat.

Setting back off and before not too long we arrived at Shilin Stone Forest which is where we had originally planned to camp on the second night. Even just cycling past, the Stone Forest was impressive, a maze of grey jagged edges jutting out of the ground – 270 million years old. It could have been a great place to camp, with a huge area of flat immaculate grass. However, in hindsight, as it’s quite touristy (well, actually one of the most popular things to do in Kunming, even though it isn’t even in Kunming…) there was a lot of police around so possibly not the best place to camp. We didn’t go into the park as we didn’t want to pay but we still saw some pretty cool rock formations just from the side of the road.

Just a small ‘peak’ at the rocks… (get it?!)

We had our own bike lane for a while, but it didn’t last long. Eventually, we took a left turn off the busier G324 onto a minor road, the XA40. Initially unsure of the quality of this road, it actually turned out to be an awesome, quiet country road which we loved cycling along. This being China, however, although it was quieter, we still had the odd truck, lorry or car passing us. We cycled through small pine forests, their needles casting shade across our path, providing a welcome respite from the sun. It wasn’t boiling hot today, but a bright blue sky stretched above us without a cloud in sight. On the uphills, we certainly did build up a sweat in the warm day, but the downhills and shady areas were a tad on the chilly side.

Rural China – Yunnan Province

The landscape around us drastically changed today. No longer were we surrounded by rolling green hills, but expansive flat lands with infrequent small hills protruding up from the tapestry of orange clay, green pine trees and acres of crops. Mainly corn was growing but also some exotic Chinese fruit we don’t know the name of. About the size of a lemon, but very pale yellow with purple stripes! It’s the first time we have been somewhere verging on barren; it reminded us of Cyprus (where we lived for a total of three years).

We cycled through small settlements that weren’t even on the map, stopping several times to buy water, eggs or top up our cooking supplies, including a visit to a Chinese ‘Tesco’, of all places, in a grubby town we were happy to cycle away from. Adam ventured into the foreign Tesco whilst I watched the bikes, and I had the pleasure of witnessing the delightfully polite Chinese locals: hocking, spitting and having a good ol’ nose pick right in front of me. “That’s China!”

Continuing on the pleasant road through the picturesque landscape, Adam had spotted a small lake on the map and starred it as a possible camping spot. It may be an understatement – but he came up trumps! We took a dirt track off the tarmacked road and had to cycle down rocky dirt tracks and, guiltily, push our bikes through a few farmer’s fields, before we came to a large reservoir. So quiet. No houses. No buildings. Beautifully flat grass right next to the water. PERFECT. We were over the moon!

A bit tricky to get to… but it was totally worth it!

Blue Surlys looking mighty fine next to the blue lake.

Arriving there at about 1800, we only had an hour to set up the tent and cook our dinner of noodles, but it felt so amazing to not have to wade through thick, muddy vegetation and the prospect of a good night’s sleep on the flat ground was very exciting! Not to mention the beautiful reservoir stretching out in front of us, which was fairly clear – definitely clear enough for a good wash. Adam, naturally, dived in stark naked, having not tested the temperature of the water beforehand. I had and knowing how freezing it was, didn’t have the guts! I did manage to have a refreshing wash on the side of the lake though. We both felt amazingly fresh and enjoyed the beautiful sunset over the water as we ate our dinner. It was egg fried noodles as unfortunately four of the six eggs I had bought that day had smashed!

Cooking with a view.

It began to get seriously cold, however, so we quickly dived into the tent and into the comfort of our thick sleeping bags. The moon and stars are bright tonight. I can’t wait to see the sun rise over the lake in the morning. Happy camper. Happy cycle tourer.

Beautiful sunset views from our camping spot of dreams.

Day 127: Wild Camp at ‘Little Dragon Water’ Reservoir to Dragon Temple

Well, this morning’s sunrise certainly didn’t disappoint! We woke naturally at 0730, and I peeked my head out of the tent (my side was facing east). I was treated to the beautiful view of the sun rising behind the dark hills. Most of the sky was still a midnight blue, melting into the yellow/orange haze above the hills where the light was beginning to reach. Leaving my tent door unzipped (it was thankfully too cold for mozzies) I watched the sunrise from the comfort of my warm sleeping bag. I watched as a farmer collected water from the reservoir, balancing two buckets either side of a wooden stick which was perched across his shoulders. I don’t think he saw us, or if he did, he didn’t come over to investigate.

Sunrise views from the tent.

Adam snug as a bug.

We slowly packed up, washed some clothes using water from the reservoir and made our usual porridge breakfast, all whilst enjoying the stunning crystal clear views around us. As our surroundings were just so pleasant, we were in no rush. We were pushing the bikes away from our perfect camp spot at 0930, which isn’t bad going.

Along the bumpy track besides the stunning rapeseed flowers, away from our camp spot.

It was a bit of an effort to get out (the best camp spots are always the hardest to find – so they say!), we had to struggle up a steep field and push our heavy bikes up an abrupt mound. Luckily, we found a track that led us back out onto the main road so we didn’t have to go back through the farmer’s fields! The track was very rocky and turbulent, and precariously precipitous in places, but it didn’t last long. I held my breath as we cycled past a farm in case any dogs raced out, but nobody seemed to be home.

Back on the main road, we had a nice downhill to start the day, of course, followed by an uphill (isn’t that always the case?!). In this instance, the uphill led us through a wet, muddy, glum village. Not one person we cycled past returned our smiles. The children in China could not be more different from the children we encountered in Laos. No smiles, no waves and certainly no ‘hello’s in their own language or ours. They just stare at us in complete and utter disbelief. The village was a horrible uphill slog as we cycled behind huge trucks that weaved around parked vehicles and slow-moving buffalo. The stunning animals heaving wooden trailers with the farmer’s wife and child clinging on the back. We were glad to get through and past that place.

Yet again, we were amazed at how the landscape changed once more. Gone were the vast, almost barren flatlands, growing crops like yesterday, back were the rolling green hills and mountains, with forests growing thickly on all sides. Our coats were on and off, on and off as we were too hot on the steep climbs, but freezing without coats on the long downhills. After one particularly steep, long upwards climb we stopped at the summit and shared a snickers, before donning our coats for the 8km downhill.

This was a common sight in this area of Yunnan province.

Arriving into a town, we stopped for lunch: another bowl of noodles with a spoonful of minced meat, but this portion was huge. It was a heartwarming, tasty dish which only cost 14 yuan – that’s about £1.50 for both! As we left the small cafe and continued through the town, we realised it was much bigger than we originally thought. The road became thick with traffic which we had to carefully weave through. As we were doing so, I noticed a crowd of people surrounding severals cages hosting dogs of all colours and sizes. One man lifted a dog out by the scruff of its neck, presumably selling the animal for dog meat. I felt sick. What was nice, however, was stumbling across a bustling market where we stopped to pick up some fruit and vegetables. The kind man at the fruit stall held my handlebars whilst I crammed the apples, bananas and passionfruit we had bought into my pannier.

Stocking up on fruit for the road ahead.

As with most towns and cities, we had a pleasant bicycle lane to cycle within as we left the busy town. We were alone in the lane so it was nice and spacious. As we were going along, I heard a noise coming from one of our bikes. We listened carefully and discerned it was coming from Adam’s bike. He stopped to take a look but couldn’t see anything obvious, so we continued cycling. A few seconds into pedalling again, Adam asked for us to stop as he had a feeling it was a bigger problem. He removed all of his panniers and turned his bike upside down to take a closer look…

On closer inspection, he discovered that there were several cracks in his rear wheel rim, beneath the spokes. Six small cracks in total – some were bigger than others. This was serious damage. For whatever reason, perhaps just normal wear and tear or perhaps after the thousands of weighted kilometres Adam has cycled on that wheel, the rim was weakened and cracked. He could still cycle on it, but this is the sort of problem that needs fixing A.S.A.P because if those cracks get bigger, the spoke may very well rip through and pierce the inner tube, possibly the tire, potentially causing a nasty crash. The town we had just left didn’t have a bike shop, and the next one Adam found on his phone was 40km away (he translated ‘bicycle shop’ into Chinese and searched for it on Baidu Maps). We decided that our best option was to gently cycle the 40km to that bicycle shop, and pray they could replace the cracked rim.

Not good…

I took a little of Adam’s weight to relieve the pressure just slightly on his back wheel. It was only his tripod and a 1.5l of water, but that was a good few kilograms to lessen the strain. So, on we continued, determined now to cycle that 40km before it got too late. The road conveniently turned into a right mess,  just when we had hoped for nice smooth tarmac to minimise the bumps. Instead, we received huge rocks and relentless gravel, potholes galore and massive divets. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long.

We got back on to the G324 and back to the lovely smooth tarmac. We were rewarded with lots of long downhill which was superb, but Adam had to take it steady. The views surrounding us were absolutely stunning and took my mind away a little from worrying about Adam’s bike. Huge mountains, beautiful green fields and then miles and miles of breathtaking yellow fields of rapeseed. These were some of the most magnificent views we’ve had on the trip so far, for sure. Stopping now and then to take photos and soak up the views, we didn’t mind being on a busier road if we were rewarded with this. As always, we had the odd cheeky long uphill amidst the downhills.

A water buffalo looking down on us and the road.

Luoping

Finally and thankfully we reached the town of Luoping, where we knew there to be a bike shop. It was a standard busy Chinese town: manically busy with people, cars, scooters, bikes and all sorts of other weird and wonderful vehicles. Finding the bike shop, Adam tried to explain he needed his rear wheel rim replacing (easier said than done in China). The woman working in the shop went to fetch an inner tube, obviously misunderstanding. When we re-explained – mainly through pointing – she just shook her hands, signalling she couldn’t help us, before abruptly going back to a game of cards with three men on a low table on the floor in front of the shop. Adam was furious. This was our only hope and she was being incredibly unhelpful. We could see abandoned but seemingly fine wheels discarded in one side of the shop that perhaps we could have reused… but she clearly had no interest in helping us.

There were two other bike shops a few doors down, but they were both the same. The final shop keeper signalled that there was another bike shop down the road and that they should be able to help – so that was kind of him. Adam found the location on the map on his phone and it only took us a few minutes to cycle there. It was a ‘Giant’ bike shop – great! But it was closed – not great. It was 1730 on a Sunday, so we hoped it was only closed because of the time and day. We decided we would come back in the morning and pray it would be open, and pray they could help more than the other bike shops could.

Instead of paying to stay in a hotel for the evening in the noisy, hectic town, we decided to cycle 2.6km to a reservoir just outside of the town, hoping we would be able to find another great camp spot. We would then cycle back to the shop in the morning.

It didn’t take long to reach the reservoir, but due to its close proximity to the town, it was fairly busy. As it was a rather huge mass of water, we took the road that ran around the perimeter, hoping that we would find a quiet, hidden, preferably flat spot. We cycled and searched, and searched some more but couldn’t find anywhere better than a boggy 3/10 suitability spot. Each possibility was either too boggy, not flat, too exposed, a farmer’s field, too close to a house etc. It was now 1815 and we only had about 45 minutes of sunlight left. We continued on, Adam ever hopeful that we would find somewhere as I grew slightly anxious and a little annoyed, wondering whether we should have just paid for a hotel in the town after all…

Daylight was fading fast as we searched for a camp spot.

Eventually, we came to a temple, and we decided to ask politely if we could camp inside. Success! The man (he was wearing orange but I’m not 100% sure whether he was a monk or not as he wasn’t wearing the usual robes) took photos of our passports but was happy to let us camp. There was a large courtyard area in which we set our tent up in the corner on the concrete. (Moments like this we are very happy we made the decision to upgrade our tent to a ‘freestanding’ one that doesn’t need to be pegged down). Another man came over and offered us the use of hot water, as well as bringing us a tray laden with fruit and other snacks which was very generous.

Getting ready to sleep in our tent within the temple grounds.

We had more noodles for tea (the easiest thing to cook quickly on our stove) before snuggling back down into our home – our tent. It had been a long day and we knew we needed to be up early to leave the temple and get to the bike shop. As we drifted off to sleep, we had everything crossed that we could get Adam’s bike sorted tomorrow.

Day 128: Dragon Temple to Wild Camp near Wusha

Our body clocks woke us at 0730 just as the sun was rising; we seem to have gotten into the habit of waking at that time. Although the temple was gloriously quiet, we could hear one person moving around, so we didn’t waste any time and got straight up and packed away. As always, we enjoyed a bowl of hot porridge with banana and honey for breakfast. Whilst I was cooking, a Chinese man visiting the temple took great interest in us and asked to take a photo. We didn’t mind, and he left us alone when we started to eat. I also cooked us a fried egg each, the two lonely eggs that managed to not crack the previous two days of me carrying them. (The responsibility of carrying them and not breaking them was getting too much!)

Fingers crossed we can get Adam’s bike fixed.

It was a little chilly and quite foggy this morning, so as we left the temple at 0930, the views across the reservoir were mysterious and grey. Now the pressure of finding somewhere to sleep had been alleviated, I could really enjoy the views across the vast reservoir.

As we were leaving the reservoir we noticed one building was decorated as though it was about to host a wedding. Two cars passed us a few minutes later, brightly dressed up with bows and other decorations – including lollipops! Conveniently for us, two lollipops fell off just as the car passed us. Adam wasted no time picking them up, stuffing one into his mouth before passing the other to me. A positive start to the morning!

In only a matter of minutes, we were back in the busy town of Luoping. Heading towards the bike shop we both felt very nervous. What if the shop was closed? What if it was open but they couldn’t fix Adam’s bike? Each pedal stroke and street closer, I grew more nervous, just hoping that they could sort the rear wheel rim so we could be on our merry way. We had loved every minute of our new start to our Chinese cycle tour adventure and didn’t want it to end now…

Thankfully our prayers were answered and the ‘Giant’ bike shop was open. Hurrah!

Will you be our saviour, Giant shop!?

Armed with his translator app, feeling a little like a wounded soul limping in for help, Adam went in and asked the woman behind the counter if she should replace his rear wheel rim. Initially, it looked hopeful and relief flooded us. But when she counted how many spoke Adam’s wheel has (36), she said she didn’t have a rim that could take that many. Ideally, we just wanted to replace the rim, and keep everything else: the spokes, hub, gears and disc brake. However, Adam replied that he was prepared to buy a whole new wheel if needed, as he just couldn’t risk cycling on those huge cracks. She said OK, but we would have to wait until her boss arrived (although on the translator app, ‘boss’ came through as ‘master’ which I found quite funny!).

Only a few minutes later, the ‘master’ arrived and took his own look at Adam’s bike. Amazingly, he confirmed that he actually did have a rear rim that would fit all 36 spokes, and he could replace just that. Fanbloodytastic! This was just what we wanted to hear. Happy happy happy.

The ‘master’, hard at work on Adam’s rear wheel rim.

The woman offered for us to sit upstairs in the warmth as the morning was growing colder. She turned on a little heater, made us tea and provided us with free oranges. Another amazing gesture of kindness. Even better, I was able to log onto the wifi and catch up with family and friends as I hadn’t had internet access since leaving Kunming. I really enjoyed switching off and being away from social media, but it was nice to just touch base with home.

Only an hour later, Adam’s bike was good to go. The bike mechanic even oiled our chains for us. The morning got even better, as when we asked “duo shao qian?” (“How much is it?”) the mechanic replied, “wu shi quai”… 50 quai/yuan, which is only £5! Thanking them profusely, we were on the road with a fixed bike and happy hearts by 1130.

Leaving Luoping, we took the minor road towards the Jiulong Waterfall Scenic Area. This was another beautiful road; today we experienced the best views we have had on our tour so far (I think I said that yesterday as well… this area of China is just stunning!). We didn’t pay to go and see the waterfalls, but we caught a glimpse of them from the road. The side of the road that would enable views of the waterfalls were blocked off with boards so you couldn’t see the views and are therefore forced to go and pay to see them – if you’re so inclined. But luckily for us, we have a drone! Adam was able to get some stunning photos and videos of the waterfalls.

Two happy cycle tourists in China.

Whilst we stopped, we ate some of the many snacks we have accumulated, which served as our lunch. Onwards, the minor road continued for a while longer, and we were gifted with more stunning vistas of the lush, green blanket of forests covering the hills, farmer’s fields abundant with immaculately grown crops and more acres of bright yellow rapeseed. The latter smelt absolutely amazing. There was quite a chill in the air still – I forget that we are at quite a high elevation: between 1,200m and 1,500m on this particular day. For a while, the road was kind to us and was (mostly) flat.

Despite the wintry temperature, the views were awesome.

I always seem to be eating!

At about 34km, we reached a decision point. We could either take the G324 which we thought could possibly be busier with traffic but a more direct route in the direction we’re heading; or continue along the minor road which would most likely be a quieter road, probably more beautiful as it went through numerous scenic areas but it would add an additional 30km to our overall route. Initially, we decided to take the quieter rural road. It would also be much more hilly, but often that’s worth it for the views the hills provide.

We began heading along the rural road, stopping only to stock up our noodle supplies, but very quickly Adam decided against it and led us onto the more direct route; and by Jove – I’m so glad he did!

The road was beautifully tarmacked almost the whole way, apart from through one town where the road had been reduced to wet, muddy, slippery rubble. But once we were passed that, the road conditions were superb. Apart from on some sections of uphill, we had a generous hard shoulder to cycle in. The road wasn’t very busy at all as the G324 runs alongside the main highway in places, which is much quicker for most vehicles. It was only bicycles, buffaloes and three-wheeled vans taking our road. But the absolute best thing? The. views. They were absolutely the best we have experienced so far. (I keep saying that!) Sorry but move over Thailand and Laos – this is magnificent on another level. Towering, sand-coloured mountains reigned magnificently to our left, and towering mightly over the valley below was a sparkling, greeny-blue, wide river flowing gently beside the highway. We were on the other side of the valley looking across at the mountains and down at the river. To our right-hand side, fields and small settlements resided, looking across at those breathtaking views.

As our road contoured to the valley, we did experience some long, rolling hills. But as I’ve said before, as it’s China, the hills are never too steep, not so steep that it’s necessary to zigzag (like in Thailand and Laos). I think it helps that my fitness is increasing as well.

We eventually crossed a bridge and found ourselves cycling up and up those mountains we had just been gazing so adoringly at (they didn’t seem quite so adoring now!). Just before we began that ascent, Adam realised that we were just about to cross over into a brand new province. So long Yunnan! We have loved you for your spectacular scenery, delicious food and mostly friendly people (definitely those friends we made in Kunming). But it’s time for a new adventure in Guizhou. (And I really need to learn how to pronounce that!)

An epic downhill followed the gruelling ‘hello’ ascent from Guizhou province, but the welcome wasn’t quite over yet. The cruel uphill continued. On and on it went, and by now it was 1630 and we were starting to look for somewhere to camp. (Remember how I don’t like steep uphills at the end of a long day!) But I just kept pedalling, proud that I can keep up with Adam on these ascents now. We searched left and right for a camp spot but it didn’t look promising. So many farmer’s fields and sporadic farms and houses dotted everywhere. To add to this, a deep valley stretched down on our right-hand side. We continued on, up and up this seemingly never-ending hill.

Finally, at about 1715, we spotted a patch of flat ground slightly above the road with a small stream to the side of it – bloody perfect! It looked like it had been cleared in preparation for planting crops, but as there were no crops on it just yet, it was the perfect little spot for two weary cycle tourists to pitch their tent. We had to ‘de-pannier’ our bikes on the road as the short slope up to the flat ground was too steep to wheel the heavy bikes up.

The views across the valley of the rolling hills were pretty spectacular too!

The stream running next to the area was perfect to wash the day’s sweat, grime and muck off, and we enjoyed cooking the most delicious meal we’ve cooked on the tour to date.

Step 1: Boil noodles in saucepan with all accoutrements that come in the pack.

Step 2: When cooked, take pan off heat and leave lid on to keep warm.

Step 3: In frying pan, heat oil and add chopped vegetable of choice and canned luncheon meat (sounds disgusting but was surprisingly tasty… don’t think about what’s in it…) If add too many vegetables to fit in pan, throw some over your shoulder into the bushes behind you. Add some spices of choice if you desire – we recommend garlic powder, black pepper and ‘Spanish mix’ spice.

Step 4: Divide noodles between two bowls (or the pan and it’s lid if you don’t have two bowls) and divide veg+suspicious meat between two portions on top.

Voila! A delicious, warm, hearty dinner after a long day on the bikes. Best enjoyed in front of a nice view of some misty mountains beyond a quiet road.

So tasty after a long day on the bikes.

Such a successful day has been had today. Bike fixed ✔ Cycled 70km through beautiful views ✔ Only spent 55 yuan (about £6!) ✔ Found a very good camp spot ✔ Cooked a tasty dinner ✔ Lots to be thankful for tonight! Thank you, China! Now for my usual 10 hours sleep… zzzzz

Day 129: Wild Camp near Wusha to Xingyi

As per usual, we awoke at around 0730, packed up, ate porridge and assembled our bikes ready to get back on the road by 0930ish. It was considerably colder today, with a thick misty fog covering the mountain tops opposite our camp spot and a miserable drizzle seemed to drench everything, although it didn’t quite feel like it was raining. Despite the dampness and cold, we were in high spirits, as last night we decided to have a ‘half rest day’ as we like to call it. We would cycle about 26km to the next big town of Xingyi, getting there for around midday, before finding a hotel and spending the day catching up with admin, charging all of our electronics, washing some clothes and ourselves for that matter, in an actual shower.

A rare picture of us together, ready to set off into the drizzle but with a smile on our faces (at the prospect of a warm hotel room!)

We set off and began climbing up the long uphill we had experienced at the end of the previous day. It went on for many kilometres, through small, grubby settlements which seemed grey and destitute with the gloomy weather. To be honest, the rest of today’s short ride doesn’t merit much mention: as the wet weather dampened our spirits, we just put our heads down and pedalled, pretty much non-stop, until we reached Xingyi, the thought of a warm hotel room spurring us on.

10km of downhill brought us into the city, and it’s the first time I have been freezing on this tour so far. Long gone are the glorious sunny days and soaring temperatures we experienced in South East Asia; combine 1,500m elevation, in China, in January, and downhill… it’s safe to say we were a tad chilly! Naively, I wasn’t wearing my winter gloves, just my usual fingerless cycling gloves, which resulted in seriously numb fingers. So when we spotted our first hotel, we went straight for it.

So, so cold!

Arriving at around midday, we had the whole afternoon stretching ahead of us in a comfortable, warm hotel room to do some much needed cycle touring admin: out came the tent, rigged up from the ceiling to dry it out after last night’s rain; I washed a lot of our clothes and got them hanging across the room to hopefully dry before setting off tomorrow; every single electronic item was charged within an inch of its life; and we both set to making some headway with our respective video editing (Adam) and journaling (me). The only time we left our room was to venture out into the city and bring back sustenance for each other. Unfortunately, the shower was absolutely pants, so I didn’t enjoy a beautifully hot shower as I had hoped. You win some, you lose some I guess!

Priority number one: Washing our clothes and drying our tent.

So tomorrow we continue on the now chilly road through China, towards Hong Kong. To be continued…!

Rest and Recovery in Kunming
Cycling through China - Guizhou Province

3 comments

Hey there you two sweety pies,Just read this with so much gusto,feeling all that you have said with wonderful words making me feel like I was with you both.You are having the time of your lives and nothing is stopping you,whatever comes your way,you cope with so much energy.But being two young ‘uns 🤪😜🤗 tha’ll do o’reight.!!!! Love you and very proud of all we read and watch.Keep it up xxxxxxxxxxx Granny Grunt and the lovely Paul xxxxxxx🤩💥👋🌟😄

Hi. I have been following your journey quite some time. But i wandering how to wildcamp without fear of snake s? Did you have some tips? Or perhaps did you used some sulphur?

Hi Soffie, in my mind, I think the noise of us approaching a camping spot will scare off any snakes. But we try not to camp in ‘jungle’ areas where snakes are more likely to be, especially in warmer climates. We just assess each camping spot as we go. Hope that helps!

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