12th November 2017
China is an absolutely amazing country full of surprises. Just when we think we’ve seen it all, the great dragon pulls another gorgeous trail out the bag.
The last week has been spent leaving the urban area around Chengdu, heading into the south of Sichuan province and attempting to take a semi-mapped trail down the Yalong River.
We had quite a funny moment just before turning off the main road down our river track. Looking to fill up our trusty 5l bottle of water so we could set up camp, we pulled over at a house which had a few cars parked outside. Going through the gates into the courtyard hoping to find a tap, we instead found about 80 Chinese folk drinking beer and eating noodles. An immediate hush descended and all heads turned our way. Dave strode straight for the tap and left me to deal with the crowd. Within seconds we had been pushed down onto two minuscule stools, with a big bowl of cooked chunks of beef shoved in front of us. The whole crowd towered over us as we awkwardly sat there trying to chew through the tough meat. I asked someone who spoke a bit of english what the special occasion was and he quite bluntly said “my aunt is dead”. This led to us feeling quite embarrassed as it dawned on us we had gatecrashed a funeral! Anyway, we politely declined their invitation to stay and they kindly sent us on our way with a whole bag of meat!
The route down the Yalong River was absolutely incredible. The scenery was amazing and the single-track dirt road winded across ridges between idyllic villages. At one point we took a wrong turning and we climbed up an insanely steep ridge giving us amazing panoramic views of the rural landscape - farms and fields cut into these epic valleys and hills. This gave us a chance to nip down to the main road and get some petrol and more food so we could spend more time on a route that was taking us a lot longer to cover (no bad thing!).
On the second evening, at the end of an amazing day The Red Baron simpered to a halt not wanting to give any more power. Looked like another carb problem. From our map it looked like the next town was 26km - not ideal roads to be towing on! Annoyingly we also had our toolkit (along with my gloves and dave’s hand warmers) taken from our panniers as we slept a few nights previously. A lesson learnt camping to close to a road. This meant we couldn’t fix it ourselves.
We decided the best course of action was to set up camp, have a few beers, swim in the river and sleep on it. Was such a nice evening and great to be swimming again! Our showering record is also very dismal at the moment, and considering we haven’t been able to find any deodorant anywhere in China, its fair to say we stink a wee bit, so any chance for a dip will be welcomed by most of China.
The next day Dave towed me to the next village where we borrowed some tools and fixed the carb problem ourselves. We carried on along similar roads as to what we had been doing until we reached our junction to cross the river. To our excitement and joy, it was a ferry crossing giving us an opportunity to get our bikes on boats - the ultimate adventure.
Climbing up the other side and out of the valley, we were forced to stop by construction workers claiming the road was blocked until 6pm - 3 hours! We didn’t have any food on us and had only managed to find instant noodles for lunch so the idea of camping on the side of the road didn’t enthuse us. Seeing a construction lorry coming our way, we realised it was going to be let through. We kitted up and prepared ourselves for a mutiny. The construction workers insisted we weren’t allowed past but I played the dumb foreigner and seized the opportunity with Dave quickly behind me. Turns out this meant the other 10 or so motorbikes all followed suit and we were all on our way!
We are now at Lu Gu Hu Lake, and have just had a long and massive fish lunch, the local delicacy. We now enter Yunnan, our final province in China where we head south to the Vietnamese border before heading east to our symbolic final destination - the YuanYuang paddy fields just south of Kunming. (We will probably get there a week or so earlier than predicted so will then carry on east until we run out of time!)