Bike Ride - Day 3. Baoshan to Xiaojin
Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
74Trip End Jun 27, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
It was still pretty overcast and was perfect cycling weather. It was during this time I really realised how beautiful Western Sichuan actually is. Plus we were heading towards the Tibetan border and we began to see a change in the people we met. There were less Chinese majority (Han) and more Tibetan minorities - very different in appearance and in dress.
After what seemed like an eternity of cycling uphill we reached Yaoji Dam. This was the place we were supposed to be at lunch on day 2. We all got together, loaded the bikes into the van, and set off for lunch in a Tibetan village. Here we got our first sight of Yaoji Dam. The van climbed and climbed and climbed. Up up and up. We were in this little van with pram size wheels, climbing up dirt tracks with huge, scary, deathly drops just inches away from the edge of the wheels!! Being Chinese, the driver did not approach this terrain with the caution you would expect; instead he was driving as though on a normal road. I did NOT enjoy this one little bit. However, the scenery was breathtaking - the photos we took would never do this scenery justice. The scale of the dam and the mountains was difficult to absorb. We climbed and climbed and thankfully eventually turned off the the scary deathly roads and approached a Tibetan village for lunch. Due to the construction of the dam, several villages would soon be submerged in water; therefore several people had to be rehoused. The new villages are clearly purpose built and are very very new. We approached our lunch stop and it has to go down as one of the most beautiful places I have had lunch and the highest at 3600m!! As were sat waiting for lunch, an elder villager approached us and began to apologise (in Chinese) for the humble surroundings, and the meagre offerings. He was doing this whilst we were surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery and just before we were about to enjoy one of the best meals I have ever had.
We moved upstairs to the restaurant and was brought a selection of food that was delicious. The owner was wonderful and he brought us all a shot of local honey liquor and we all toasted with the host.
Amongst the many delights served to us was Yak meat. Another first for me and it was delicious. Honestly, this has to be number one on my list of best ever meals so far Coupled with the location it was perfect.
After lunch it was back in the van and the climb to the peak at 4220m (over 14 thousand feet!!). It was at this point that I decided to lay low in the van with my headphones so I couldn't see the bloody scary and bloody frightening drops at the side of the van. It also prevented me from hearing lots of 'Oh my God's and 'Oh No!!' every two minutes. After what seemed like an eternity we reached the peak and saw the Yaks. A little further on, in the clouds, we came across the farmers. It was such a strange sight to see this community up in the clouds. They were all rosy cheeked and had the healthiest glow to them. They were running around bringing things, inquiring at these strange people. It was only when I tried to move ten feet that I realised the effect of altitude sickness. I thought Emei Shan was bad but here, an extra 1,200 metres higher than Emei, did I get the full effects. I made an attempt to climb up a very small hill and my heart was pounding, I had no breath and my head was thumping. The farmers, obviously acclimatised to the altitude, were all running around. To think that on the original itinerary we were supposed to cycle at this height!! NO CHANCE!!
We stopped for photos then got back in the van and started the climb down. A few hundred metres away we came across another camp where the construction workers lived and worked. We were on a single track road and coming up the hill was another van. A decision had to be made as to who would move - and we lost. So we all got out of the van and watched as our little van was forced to move off the road onto the dirt path at the side. Unfortunately the drop down was a little too much and there was a nice 'clunk' as the bottom of the van scraped on the edge of the path. Surprisingly, it was great to be in this situation, enjoying laughs and smiles with the locals. No common language but all laughing and smiling.
We got past our obstacle and resumed the climb down the mountain, headed towards Xiaojin. This was a lot of driving but it got us back on schedule and we arrived in Xiaojin around 9pm. On first sight, Xiaojin was a very nice town and we headed straight for dinner at a restaurant before checking into the hotel. Dinner was great and we enjoyed a few too many beers. One of the interesting things about Chinese meals is that no one is ever faced with one meal on one plate. You get a small bowl with rice and everyone shares the communal dishes in the middle of the table As a result you never feel overwhelmed by a huge plate of food.
Unfortunately the same practice applies to beer. You get a 'shot' glass and pour yourself a small amount. Not good when you have had a long day biking and you just want a long cold glass of beer. So today, I did away with Chinese etiquette and enjoyed a full bottle all to myself, and another and another and another. Four beers in and I was feeling ready for a night out. The others also enjoyed one or two beers too many and a couple of glasses of wine and after a quick check in at the hotel and shower, Chandler, Scott and I headed out for a night on the town. Something we would come to regret.
It was Saturday night and we expected Xiaojin to be buzzing - unfortunately not. Every bar we went into was empty. We eventually found a place with more than two people in and settled down for the night. We sat with the locals, enjoying toasts, swapping pleasantries. Scott and Chandler were able to converse with them and I just sat grinning and saying 'Cheers' to everyone.
We probably should have started to get suspicious when one guy (in an England shirt) offered to show us his stab wound. But we carried on drinking. Another guy in the bar said he was into hip-hop and did we want to see his routine. Next thing we know, the band 'Blue' are playing and this guy was singing and dancing along. Not my idea of hip-hop but he was pretty good anyway.
It was only when we came to leave that things started to get a bit difficult. The locals wanted money, not sure what for, and we weren't willing to give it. Thankfully Scott and Chandler were able to negotiate with the local 'gangsters'. Initially they wanted around 600 Yuan for a few beers and eventually we settled for 100 Yuan. The worst bit for me was the lack of language and I had to totally rely on the body language of Chandler and Scott to guage what was happening. They remained calm all the way through it and the situation was soon resolved.
Xiaojin is a real 'truckers' town and quite rough. We did well (when I say 'we', I mean Scott and Chandler) to get out of that situation without too much trouble.
Cycling stats for the day - we cycled Baoshan to Xiaojin which was a total of 50km (approx 32 miles). But the fact that we climbed from 1800m to 3400m shows how difficult this 50km was.