14th to 18th December

Saturday 14 December

The alarm rings at 7. Wow it is still raining outside. And it has been raining all the night. Maybe better we wait till 8, to see how it’s going. At 8, it’s still raining the same. Finally, we get up at 9, with little motivation. We have a breakfast in the room, and then we leave, to look for the bus station. It is not where indicated by the GPS, and the rain is not as strong as we thought. So we decide to go by bike today. We have 160km to ride to arrive tomorrow in YuanYang. We’ll stop in a small city in the middle tonight.

The road we take today is quite old, with a lot of potholes. And there is a highway just next to it. The big advantage is that there is little traffic here. And the landscapes are different from what we saw till now. We are going up the big Hong river (the same that is going through Hanoi later). On each side (Vietnamese on the West, Chinese on the East), there are a lot of plantations of bananas. And also some rubber trees, or other tropical plants. Along the road, the vegetation is quite dense, running on the electric cables, or hanging above the road. (Sorry, weonly took one picture, because of the rain… just try to imagine)

It is really a pity it’s raining, because it destroys all the pleasure. We are inside our waterproof clothes, with no skin apparent, except our hand and eyes. For protecting the shoes, we put some plastic bags! it works, at least for a few kilometres.

low-1070532

But with this rain, the day is becoming very long. And the villages we cross on the way are all very small with nothing that looks like a hotel. It seems it’s going to be complicated to find one tonight. But at 17h, we arrive in the town of XinJie, that has exactly what we need. It’s a quite old hotel, with many rooms, but as comfortable as yesterday, and not too expensive. We’re safe for the night! we’ll not sleep in the rain. And hopefully tomorrow, we’ll ride with a better weather!

After the shower, we walk in the town in research for the internet café. It’s lost in a small street, and of course, tonight it does not have internet. So we go to eat dinner, and come back home. We can sleep early.

Sunday 15 December

We get up at 7, before the Sun. It is still raining outside. At the reception of the hotel, they tell us there is no bus here to go to YuanYang, we would have to go to the highway to ask. So we decide to continue by bike, despite the rain. We have a quick breakfast, made of rice and some prepared dishes. And we leave for YuanYang. We still have some 90km to cover today.

After some 10km, we feel already totally wet, despite wearing the waterproof clothes. The day is going to be long. The road is quite nice at the beginning. It’s like yesterday, a small winding road following the highway. But quite soon, the highway turns right, and we are on a bigger boring road, with more traffic. We keep following up the Hong river, and we see the hills on each side of the river becoming higher. Most of the hills have been deforested and planted with banana trees or other “useful” plantations. With all this rain, we see many stones that have fallen on the road.

At the middle of today’s stage, there is suddenly a big traffic jam on the road. Why? Half a kilometre ahead, the road has been recovered by a landslide. There is already a truck cleaning the area, but it can be long still. The mud covers 30 meters of the road, on a height of 10-20cm at its minimum. And there is still some earth falling from the hillside onto the road. We cross it quite quick, and get our bikes and shoes covered with mud. On the other side, the same traffic jam, of cars and trucks. It feels good suddenly to be by bike. After 20 minutes of biking again, we see an abandoned hose, with the water running out. That’s perfect to clean our bikes and shoes. Finally, a bunch of cars and trucks pass us, one hour after the landslide. They must have reopened the road.

As we get closer to YuanYang, we also get colder (or maybe it’s due to the fatigue). Our hands are starting to get asleep. The last ten kilometres are very painful. But finally, we arrive in the city of NanSha, where we had planned to spend the night. The famous rice fields are on the mountains above Nansha. We’ll go there tomorrow. We find a cheap hotel for the night (where there is hot water only after 19h!). I think it’s too much to ask if they have the wifi in the hotel. After rest and shower, we go out and successfully find an internet café. In fact, it’s a big room, full of smoke and computers, with most of them occupied by Chinese boys playing online games. We have dinner nearby.

Monday 16 December

Today, we decided to have a rest in YuanYang. We get up late. In the morning, we go around in the city to get some information about the buses. We can put the bikes in the bus to JianShui, but for KunMing, they don’t know in the counter, we have to come back tonight to ask the driver directly. For brunch, we go to have a typical noodle soup. The noodle is made from rice.

In the afternoon, we rest, work on the computer, and go around in the city. This time we find a simcard for the cellphone. We go for dinner in a restaurant nearby, but they nearly don’t have any meat. In the end, the bus driver told us that he does not accept non-foldable bicycles. But we’ll try again with tomorrow morning bus to KunMing.

low-1070571
low-1070537

Tuesday 17 December

We go to the bus station for 9h30, to see if we can take the bus to KunMing with our bicycles. After removing all the paniers, dismounting the front wheel and the saddle, the bikes are still too big to fit in the trunk. So we cannot go directly to KunMing. On the contrary, there is no problem to go to JianShui. We will sleep there tonight, and then continue by bike to KunMing.

low-1070535
low-1070539

The bus driver puts our bikes on the roof of the bus, and we are ready to go. The road to JianShui goes through a pass at 2000m high. The landscapes are really nice, especially when we climb. It would have been a good day to bike, but the temperatures are really cold now, probably under zero on top. The way down to JianShui is quite short: we are now in a kind of plateau, at 1800m high.

low-1070544

In JianShui, we manage to get another bus to go to Kunming. So we change our plan once more. We finally arrive in KunMing at 17h30. In fact we are at the bus station some 15km South of He Jian’s house in KunMing. He Jian is a friend of a friend, and he will host us in KunMing, and help us to arrange the packing and transport of our bikes to the airport later. We reach his house, it’s already night. We leave our stuff here, and go to eat in a restaurant nearby, with him and his workmate Wan Tao.

Wednesday 18 December

KunMing, despite being called the city of the eternal spring, is quite cold these days, with the temperature close to 0ºC. And there is no heater in the houses, so we spend the whole day with our winter clothes and jacket, even inside the house. Even at night, we keep our big clothes.

low-1070564

Today, we take care of the bikes. In the morning, we clean our bikes: we remove the dust, add oil so that it does not rust, adjust the chain and other parts.

Then we go to a bicycle shop we had contacted: he has boxes for our bikes, and will be able to store our bikes until we come back, on 6th of January. Then, he’ll arrange our transport to the airport, where we’ll take the plane to Kathmandu. So we go to this shop. The boxes we find are smaller than expected. But it’s all we have: in the other bicycle shops, they don’t have bigger. So we dismount everything we can on our bikes: the two wheels, but also the luggage carrier, and the mudguards.

low-1070558

For sure it’ll be very fun in Kathmandu to build again the bikes. But finally, after a whole afternoon of work, our bikes are in the boxes, ready to be sent to the planes!

And here ends this first part of the bicycle journey! now we will go to MianYang, in Sichuan, to rest at Xin’s parents’ house.

low-1070590

We will be back on 6th of January, and will continue the travel to Nepal. Don’t eat too much chocolate, and come back in good health to follow us, we’ll need it!

And for the video, here you are, finally: