From Chain Breaking to Heading Off Solo

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So from Chengdu we only cycled around 50 km, when Jane said she wasn’t feeling well again, so we holed up in a hotel for the rest of the day.  While she slept, I went out and around town trying out my new cycle shoes and clips but it will take me ages to get used to them without continually falling off the bike because you’re feet at clipped in!  I found the next day really trying, the panniers were popping off the rack at every bump and it’s not a good road, I feel I’ve just added a problem to the bike instead of making it better, I need to stop several times to fix the rack back into place.  I know that front racks are difficult to fit with a suspension set up, but I’ll work something out.  We camp up in among huge bamboo, there is a house nearby and the dog is barking continually, he must know we’re here but no-one comes around for a look.  

Another uphill climb the following day saw up just camping at the roadside behind a wall, the journey was through a lovely crop filled valley’s but the road was pretty much none existent in most parts so much so that I had to push the bike over much of it, everything on the road today is struggling with the surface.  Our camp spot is fairly harsh, not exactly nice and flat and we were soon to discover is obviously used as a toilet stop for drivers and there’s a fair amount of crap around (literally), but the tents are up and we cook dinner looking at the switchbacks ahead of us in the morning.  Two young girls are hovering around and one practices her English on Jane and brings her handpicked flowers, our next visitor is an older man who is fascinated by our set up and offers us ‘marrows’ that are growing nearby.

Normal camping breakfast for me is porridge, and this morning I’m going to need it looking ahead.  The whole day is spent just climbing and climbing, I don’t think it’s ever going to end.  I enjoy every stop we make for tea or lunch, the people in the mountains are lovely and friendly and intrigued by us, and I’m not surprised, if I lived on this mountain I would wonder why anyone would even think of cycling out here (must be mad), it's nice when you meet other cyclist which I've done a few times now.

There are no camp spots to be had and we’re getting pretty tired, it turns out there’s an electricity station ahead and I ask if we can throw the tents up in the car park basically which they agree and we’re shown where to pitch up.  It has water and a toilet, although it also has around 30 men who come back from work about an hour after we’ve camped up.  They all come for a look round the tents, cookers, bike’s, and stand around looking for what seems like ages.  Thankfully when they leave I manage to sleep but it’s a wet miserable next morning with more climbs ahead.

Climbing higher and higher just zaps all my energy and I’m having to stop for more breaks the steeper it gets, I’ve only cycled 10 km this morning when my chain broke, thankfully a pick up stopped and offered me a lift to the next village to get it fixed and I jumped at the chance.  I do have a couple of emergency links but we’ve a long, long way to go.  The guys offered Jane a lift too but she refused, the weather has really turned and was bitterly cold but I suppose we are now at altitude to the extent that it’s sleet that’s coming down.  I’m driven a number of kilometers to the next village and I’m delighted that it’s over the top of the mountain but up here the roads are like rivers, its just madness cycling up them.

Unfortunately the first village I get to no-can help so I’m directed to the next village around 15 kms away but thankfully it’s all downhill so I don’t even need to pedal.  I manage to book into cheap hotel and get a bike shop that fit a new chain for me, and I buy some spare parts from him.  When Jane arrives she is extremely tired and decides the next day is for rest, it seems an ok place and the following day we wander but end up down an ancient street where lots of locals are gambling, and down towards an impressive gateway which was part of the ‘Silk Road’.  A local boy tells Jane some of the history before we head back to town after being gifted with pears (straight from the tree, which were delicious).  We are quite the tourist attraction as no tourists are about, well not lai wai’s anyway and we’re visited by the Police once again for passport and visas etc. but I'm getting used to this routine now.

When we leave the following day my gears are all over the place, it turns out the new chain put on is the wrong gauge (I didn’t know any different) so once again I would need to try and source another chain and sort out the gears.  It’s a lovely downhill for miles today, straight down into the valley where we stay at yet another hotel.  We manage to find a bike shop although the guy was going to take a hammer to the derailleur system in order to fix it but thankfully we stopped him in time and instead Jane had a go the best she could while reading a ‘how to’ guide online!  

We started back out on the road which climbed up another 1100m to a 2500m pass which was once again a seemingly never ending ride.  The higher we were getting the colder it was, but the buildings and farms here are changing and appear more Tibetan with the designs on the houses and local dress.  We took a photo at the top of the pass and started to make our way downhill however the cold was biting which made everything numb.  We stopped in at a ‘weigh station’ for the lorries for tea and a heat and I was all for throwing my tent up right beside it to get in and get warm but the officers told us it was too cold and dangerous to camp out here.  Before I knew it Jane had arranged a lift with one of the trucks down to the nearest hotel, and the staff at the station asked us to join them for food first which was exactly what was needed.

Our lift turned into a story all on its own, so let’s just say the lorry had a blow out which took a good couple of hours to fix, the driver then had to stop for his dinner, then water stops for the brakes of the truck, then more checking tyres before another blow out right in front of a hotel at 1am.  It turns out we had traveled around 100 km (mainly downhill, so we missed out on enjoying that ride), untied the bikes from the back of the truck, threw our luggage and bikes inside and crashed for the rest of the night, I was totally wiped out from our efforts.

We only cycled 12 km the next day to Liangshan where I managed to get a narrow chain for my bike and the gears fixed, but once again Jane wanted to book into hotel and head to KFC, which we did.  I managed to dry my tent out by putting it over a railing in the stairwell of the hotel which was handy and reorganized some stuff.  It’s been a tough few days over the pass and missing out on the downhill but I’m glad I got bike sorted.  

Next morning turned into a farce with Jane throwing yet another tantrum and storming off, and to be honest it’s all wearing very thin.  After we had packed up and were out of the hotel getting bearings and deciding which direction to get out of town, Jane threw her wobbly.  Shouting and ranting at me so much so that I burst out laughing, I thought she was taking the Mickey.  But no, she was serious and stormed off.  I caught up with her at the traffic lights and asked what was wrong, but I can only describe what came out her mouth as vile and abusive so much so that I headed on, I certainly wasn’t listening to that.  I had been more than tolerant of her moods and tantrums and wasn’t going to stand for any more.  So to my relief we parted ways, and I couldn’t be happier, it’s like a weight being lifted, that’s extra baggage I’m glad to be without.  No doubt she’ll have her own version of events but each to their own as they say!

I cycled out of town, around the lake to a beautiful sunny morning and had a stunning journey down through farmland where everything is laid out so straight and perfect.  It’s a gentle up and down day with the most beautiful weather and views that I’ve had and it’s a complete joy to be out cycling.  I make up a lovely camp down by the river and enjoy a beautiful sunset before bed; it’s been an interesting day.  I'm glad of more of the same the following day with gentle roads through a lovely valley; it’s most enjoyable now cycling with no-one tapping their foot waiting on your arrival round the next bend…  The valley is stunning and I once again enjoy every minute.  Near evening time though, all the fields are burning, I don’t know why they do this, it creates a smokey haze down the whole valley which gives it a foggy appearance which is actually quite nice and I enjoy another night of wild camping near a disused old quarry.

Next day cycling isn’t so easy although a lot of that is down to the state of the road, it’s all ripped up for resurfacing which goes on for miles.  It’s all up and over and through the valley but again it’s beautiful, the weather and lovely scenery which keeps you going.  I find a great lunch spot, although not serving food, I’m invited in to join two guys for lunch as there are no places nearby and I’ve spent the last few hours just climbing.  This was a great experience, I’m sat at the table and one guy keeps adding food to my bowl, they can speak a little English and we communicate as best as we can.  Lunch is a cabbage soup, pork and green peppers, rice, bean sprouts, tofu etc and afterwards I’m given warm chestnuts and shown which ones are good and how to peel them.  I’m given a bag full of them to take away with me but their hospitality was really appreciated.

I eventually get down to PanZhiHua where I’m going to stay for a few days to renew my visa, the road follows the river down and is really pleasant after all the hills.  I get booked into a cheap hotel run by a nice family, no more of this fancy hotel stuff and I’ll not be munching on KFC twice a day while I’m here, that’s for sure.   

So the end of a chapter... meeting up with Jane got me on the road and cycling so no hard feelings, it’s turning into a truly amazing adventure.
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