Monday, 29 April 2013

from Chengdu to Kunming

In Kashgar, which is quite close to the Kyrgyz border, we started our second time China as common backpackers. Now it was time to sit on the bicycle again. In Leishan we had the first visa extension and now cycling again. What big pleasure ! We took the shortest route to Kunming, which lead us along the edge of the Tibetan Highlands.

We have not been sitting on the bikes for quite five months (for Astrid „only“ four months, I had the food poisoning in November, so one month longer for me) and therefore we planned the stages cautiously.

Due to the monitoring and censorship of the internet in China we were dependend on our paper maps, which was unexact and had many mistakes regarding the elevation. Since the third day from Chengdu, it was permanently going uphill. From 433m altitude up to over 3.000 altitude. Every day it was raining for several hours or even the whole day. At 2400m it began to snow very strong. After the winter in Bishkek without any sports this climate and the tough tracks exhausted me extremely.

Back on the road again, we had the impression that whole China is a big construction area. New streets, villages tunnels, powerstations, all over trucks transporting sand, stones, gravel, machines, cranes.... absolutely insane. So much noise, dust, exhaust gases. Streets and tracks with big potholes. Especially the horns of the trucks were a desaster. They are so loud, sometimes we used ear plugs.

Well, from a Chinese girl we know the reason for the big constructions. China has 8-years-plans. Due to the Olympic games in 2008 all constructions had to stop for Beijing. Now they have to hurry to fulfil the plan.

All this was a big torture for us. When we changed the big road to a smaller one, we were very glad. It was still raining and always uphill, but the landscape was gorgeous. And the people there were very interesting.

We are convinced that at some places there have never been Europeans before. People were highly astonished about us, the children feared us first.
The people were very small. Even the men were smaller than Astrid. Many of them wore traditional clothes with amazing headdress. Men wore a kind of a turban , women a long plait fixing a pillow on their head. Both groups wore most of the time capes. We have not taken many photos because they were quite shy.

After some days of permanent rain a group of women, sitting in front of a small shop, invites to join them at their campfire. We were chilled to the bones and we highly appreciated this offer.
They offered us a bed in the small shop and we got delicious food at the house of our host. Her name was Tschinjomatsi. After dinner she gave us some hot water to wash our faces. What a luxury in this wet and cold region !

The next day we cycled up to the snowline. First it was still asphalt, than it changed to gravelled road with many potholes and it became more and more impossible to cycle or even to push the bike. Fog, torrents of water and damp snow gave us the rest. It was 4 pm and it was important to reach the summit and the next village. There was no possibility to rest or camp. On 2800m a pickup stopped and Jacko asked us, if we would like to load our bikes and luggage . Fortunetly on this day we arrived in Meigu and Jacko took us to a hotel. Many hotels in China are not allowed to host foreigners so he booked the room on his name.

We stayed there for four days, I was really groggy and had to relax myself. Well, honestly, I am 45 years old and I have a very good endurance and power, but I need more time to relax than younger people. That´s life :-)

We took the chance to change our plans to cycle to Kunming. No more higher mountains.
We cycled along a river, which lead to the river Yangtze. Most of the time we had very bad tracks with ankle deep mud, but a very beautiful canyon with dripstones. Coming closer to the Yangtze, we noticed more and more construction sites: barracks, trucks, cable cars, walls, bridges, dust, dirt, blasting operations, hours-long closed roads.
By accident we cycled directly into the 3-Gorges-Project ! Well there were soldiers who did not allowed us to cycle through the project. They were very friendly but we had to take a small truck to take us through the coming reservoir.
Then we had a marvellous landscape, 35 degrees, banana plants.... within a few days from snow to heat. :-)

It started again going uphill. 20 kilometers. I became more and more exhausted. A tribute to the last two weeks. No more power in my legs. On April 20th we arrived in a small village. We had some rice in a restaurant and we watched the news on TV. An earthquake, 6.9 on the Richter-scale, happened only 200km far away. We got some SMS from our friends and relatives, but we were absolutely O.K.
We booked a room, and the next day, I was still without any power, including diarrhea. The deadline for visa extension came closer and closer, so we took the chance to take the bus to Kunming. 8,5 hours of a horror-trip. The seats to small for me and even for Astrid, a passenger in front of us permanently vomiting. The journey was a real torture. When we arrived in Kunming, we had to cycle 16 km to the hostel, then we had to take our luggage on the 3rd floor and this with only one Coke and some cookies during the whole day. Nothing for sissies :-)

Now we can relax in the hostel and due to public holidays we have to wait for our visa until May 6th.

By the way: in the unknown village we got an invitation from the hotel owners for dinner. The nightmare for a vegetarian as Astrid came true. Chicken feet in a soup..... Chinese like to eat chicken feet in all variety. Fried, cooked, with chili..... it is not my gusto, too :-)

Astrid writing her diary

Slime, looks bad but supports us with energy

in the canyon

mud trip starts

mud, mud and mud

main road. mud, what else ;-)

what a landscape !

taking the chance to clean myself

a gorgeous sunrise

well, the potholes really sucked

the German "TUEV" was not here ;-)

road construction, not the only one

heavy trucks all over the road

cleaning bikes after crossing ankle deep mud

taking a "taxi" through the track. nothing for cyclists.

main road .....  forget it to try cycling there.

again wating due to road construction

tunnel No. X....., over 4 km long, but no traffic :-)

part of the 3-Gorges-Project