I did it hehe! My bike trip from Changsha to Fenghuang, 600km through the Hunan province in 9 days! :-)
It was so an amazing experience, riding from village to village, through the mountainous chinese countryside. No a single foreigner on the way, mostly no english spoken at all, only fields, ponds, rivers, rice fields, farmers on the side of the road, rain, and locals watching with big eyes this strange thing (me) just passing in front of them... just the real China. Total change of scene. :-)
Very soon I'll post a small diary of this adventure, with some pics.
I arrived in Fenghuang about 2 weeks ago, in the night and in the pain after a loooooooooooooooooong last 110km-day. I just rode once in my life a longer distance by bike, it was when I rode from Brussels to the belgian coast, a 120km-trip... but of course this was without carrying with me 20kg luggage, and on a more or less flat road! 8-)
Fenghuang is a beautiful riverside old town, quite famous in China and thus touristic... I mean, VERY touristic! I knew this, but I didn't expect so much. And surprisingly no foreigners, only the chinese mass tourism hehe. I had hoped to meet a few ones there as the last time I saw one was 10 days before. Well it was missed haha. I can't really say I arrived there at the best time of the year... From 1st to 7th of October is the national holiday. This means 70% of chinese people are in vacation whole week, most of them taking advantage of the longest holiday of the year to travel. So as I'm sure you can imagine this corresponds to A LOT OF PEOPLE hehe! Consequence of this, I could't book more than 2 nights as all the town was fully booked for the whole week (with tripled priced rooms for the occasion)! So I just slept 3 other nights in one a couch of my hostel's lounge haha... and I had to pay for it!! :-D I could't move earlier to my next place, Guilin (which is also a top destination in chinese tourism), as it was also the same problem there... But Fenghuang was a nice town, very touristic as I said, amazingly crowdy. And so much food everywhere, it was crazy, I just always wanted to try everything new I saw hehe! On the second day I already sold my bike, after a big cleaning. But for a very cheap price... the third of what I paid for it 10 days before! I just thought I wouldn't have an other chance maybe.
Later I finally met an irish couple, and it was good to feel again the western culture. We had dinner together and some beer. :-) After a few days, I took the bus to Tongren, the next biggest town, as there isn't any train station in Fenghuang. I had bought my train ticket to Guilin, but no more seats were available (holiday holiday...), so I just got a standing place... for a 13h-journey haha! I went there with a friendly chinese guy I met in my hostel, he had also to take the train. We arrived at Tongren around 18.00, and we had a few hours to kill over there, as my train was at 4.47am hum hum... so we just stayed all evening in a chinese fast-food, before moving to the station (when the restaurant was closing), where I experienced a new sleeping-space. :-D
I arrived in Guilin on the next day around 18.00. Surprisingly the train was full of available seats, so my journey was much better than I had feared. And for the first time for 4 nights I could sleep in a bed! No need to say that I slept like a baby hehe. :-) Guilin is surrounded by limestone peaks and is well-known for this amazing landscape. This quiet small city is also a gateway to the beautiful town of Yangshuo (which would be my next stop), located 65km south, and famous in all China. The chinese 20-yuan banknote even countains the picture of one of its scenery.
I stayed 2 days in Guilin, then I started my trip to Yangshuo. Many tours offered trips from Guilin to Yangshuo by boat, as the 2 towns are linked by the Li river, but organized tours are not part of my travel philosophy, so I decided to get there on my own. But I didn't want just taking the 1h-bus (the cheapest way though), as it would be a shame to miss the crazy scenery along the river, so I did it in my way. :-) I took a minibus in the morning to a small fishing village located more or less on half-way of Yangshuo. This took 1h30 as the road was quite bad. From there I was hoping to join a group to share a bamboo-boat to the next fishing village, as taking it lonely would be too expensive. When I arrived on the river I just saw a group of foreigners boarding on a boat, it was perfect. I run and signed to them (not so easy with my big backpack hehe) and asked if I could join them, but the driver didn't want as they were already 4 on the boat. Finally I got the 1h-ride with 3 chinese men, and thinking that this small trip on the bamboo-boat was part of my way to Australia made me smile. :-)
The scenery was amazing, although we weren't lucky with the overcast sky. From the next village I was planned to do the 5h-hike along the river, linking another village, from where I could take a public bus to Yangshuo. But I arrived there later than expected, and I wouldn't be able to get the last bus. And it's in this kind of situations you're happy to carry a tent with you. No signs of rain, so I really could make it (my 20-euros-tent is getting the water hehe, I could experience this in Mongolia... :-) So I had my lunch, bought some supplies, and started the hike at 14.00 in a beautiful surrounding. Sometimes I needed to cross the river on a bamboo-boat, always for a small fee.
On halfway I just found the perfect place to plant my tent. Down on the river, the landscape was crazy. There was even a photographer-spot where 2 chinese guys were staying permanently.
I borrowed them a lighter at nightfall to start a small campfire with some wood I collected around, but quickly preferred to turn it off and get into my tent when I started to hear strange animals in the forest around me hehe. I got up very early the next day (5.45am) as I was hoping to attent a crazy sunrise, but none of it... So I left and continued my hike. I arrived to my destination-village later in the morning, where I've been offered from some chinese tourists to come with them to Yangshuo in their private touring coach. It was very funny. They left me a seat in the front of the bus, next to the guide. He was speaking in the microphone (with a very nice reverb haha), and then was watching me and seemed to say something about me. And unexpectedly the whole bus started to applaud while the guide gave me the mike haha! So I briefly introduced myself and talked about belgian chocolate and beer. :-D Then they wanted me to sing a song (someone shouted "Lady Gaga! Lady Gaga!" hum hum...), but I preferred to let express the guide's talents for this. :-) I got out in Yangshuo about 30min later, finishing my interresting trip from Guilin.
Yangshuo is just an amazing place, by far the most beautiful I've seen in China! The town is completely surrounded by limestone peaks, making the scenery around incredible. I've been here now for 4 days, and could easily stay another few days. My guesthouse is very nice, and have the highest rooftop bar of the town, making it the perfect place to drink beers on every night. :-) Loads of foreigners in the town (I've met here so many people I had already met before in China, it's crazy!), the main pedestrian street, called "West Street", is full of tourist shops, bars and western-food restaurants, where surprisingly almost everyone speaks english. The central is also loads of touring agencies, and you can find hotels and guesthouses just everywhere. So Yangshuo is quite touristic, but by far less crowdy than Fenghuang... Also I've met here again my belgo-french friends couple for the 3rd time, after meeting them in Beijing and Shanghai.
So we spent some time together, and this should be the last time we meet in China, as our roads split up from here. They left yesterday, and we had some dog-meat for the last dinner hehe (very good). Maybe we will catch again in Thailand for new year's eve! :-)
So everything is going well for me. My next place was suppose to be Hong Kong, but decided to skip it of my plans, as I haven't so much time left to get Tibet. Some people told me it's already quite cold over there, and I would like to be there before winter, which starts late-October/early November. So it's really a shame for Hong Kong, I really wanted to go there, but all my thoughts are for Tibet now. Hopefully I'll have another chance in my life to go there...