jeez that line on the map is getting long now… right the good news is that Martin and I have managed to arrive in Kunming safe and sound albeit very wet. Storms on the way in left my fingers looking like I had been in a bath too long until I woke up today.. Getting to this point is somewhat of an achievement with the roads being like they are. We elected to take the quickest route down from Chengdu which ran alongside the main motorway/duel carriageway. It transpires that the A road for want of a better description goes up and down every mountain, through every village and suffers from a conspicuous lack of tarmac. So it was the main road then…
The Chinese it has to be said do not mess around when it comes to civil engineering jobs.. want a main road that goes from A to B? Then run it with tunnels and bridges as the crow flies. In a way it was quite nice as we had a hard shoulder for the majority of the ride down here, where you could look down into peoples houses or my own favourite was the strange scenario of riding up a river. In the middle of the gorge they had constructed a road elevated off the surface of the water and I have to say as bad as I feel for the locals who have to endure the monstrosity that has been created, it made my life a lot easier..
The downside was riding through a never ending sequence of tunnels. Taking it in turns to ride at the back with head torches on flashing mode rotated round so the cars coming from behind could see is scary beyond belief. Many of the tunnels are over 2 miles long, 6-7% gradient, and normally with no ventilation and no lighting. If you want to get fit try screaming “crank” as loud as you can with the roar of a lorry behind with its lights off as you try and get out of the tunnel as quickly as possible, praying that there are no potholes in the road as your eye sight has been diminished to a hazy oval due to a car going through with its lights on full beam… before you exit into sunlight and pray that the next sign you see will be indicating a long descent and not a tunnel.

As bad as it sounds it could have been a lot worse. The lie of the land here is tough. We took one day off from Chengdu and have ridden every day with only the last two hitting 100km. It is impossible to get the distances in that I want as you have to be able to wake up and get on the bike again the following day. So with the aid of my now forlorn looking mp3 player that I rolled over in my sleep and smashed to bits with my elbow whilst camping it has been head down the whole way.

So the last leg lies in front of us, less than 700km to the border and I am damned if I do not cycle every inch of this country. It has been a strange experience so far, I feel that because of the language barrier and the attitude of many of the Chinese people it has become a personal mission to beat the country. Strange and stupid no but I am channeling a large amount of frustration and at times anger into getting out of the country…

Sounds a bit harsh? Want to cycle down the road and see a man throwing rocks, not stones but rocks at a dog chained to a post from less than a metre and a half away?, or the woman hitting a toddler with a stick that was bigger than the rule of thumb…? or the spitting that never fails to disgust me (want to eat in a kitchen where the chef is spitting on the floor?) or the driving that leaves one feeling that the drivers in this country have a genetic disorder. I want to leave China happy in the knowledge that I do not understand the people, the culture or the direction it is heading in. Enough is enough.

So to end on a positive note, happy moments from the last week and a bit as it has not been all bad :)
- camping underneath a motorway flyover next to a small unpolluted stream where we lit a fire and martin got to experience the simple joy of toasting marshmallows on a stick for the first time. If I can find flour damper is on the cards…
- cooking omelet and chips in a hotel room. It has taken this long to find some decent oil that is not the product of ground fish, so pushing the fear of a chip pan fire out of my head I have been making french fries on the camping stove
- leaving a truck drivers hotel room that was very very cheap but one of those places where you slept on a thermarest on top of the bed in your sleeping bag and still felt dirty
- Realising that by taking the indexing off the gears you never need adjust them. I am sure it wears down the drive train quicker but for a lazy person like myself it is ideal. Still no solution to the Chinese puncture problem. Averaging over one every other day and it is driving me insane. I have one spare good tyre that has a rip in so it might be patched or I might just suck it up and cut the bead off the old one and run it inside the damaged one like on a trials bike to stop any more snake bites. It is getting to the point now that if I cycle over a stone I get a puncture…
- Seeing a “spicy girl only” sticker on the back of a new vw polo driven by two Chinese guys out cruising… Good luck there lads..
- Meeting a Chinese man who ran a shop that wanted to give us free food. The second person in 4000 miles. Bless you sir.
- All those 20km descent signs…
- Camping round the back of a petrol station and reading touching the void in an afternoon
- Finding a new type of packet cake available in all shops that is not filled with that strange egg mix
- Meeting yet more cyclists here in Kunming
- Nearly hitting 9 and a 1/4 thousand miles on the clock
- http://magazinesdownload.com and bbc world here at the hostel….
Oh and hearing my first xmas song :)

One Response to “”

  1. Thorn says:

    Hey Andy! Love the adventure and blog bro. So, I’m a friend of Martin’s–I love that I can now read up on both of you adventures, and get a english-perspective on his journey. Like the part about marshmallows–being an American, more or less raised on rice krispie treats, it was a shock to us when we lived in Uruguay, that have have absolutely no marshmallows. I know what a joy it was when my wife smuggled some back from the states, and we made marshmallow everything for a week, hehe. So, I know precisely what a magical moment that was, teaching our friend Martin how to roast one over a fire. When he gets to North America, I bet he has them at every camp…hehe. Anyway, great stuff, email me or check out my travel/darts blog at my website…and as an englishman, I’m putting you in charge of finding and reminding Martin to take pictures of dartboards in bizarre places, if you see any. Safe travels bro, watch out for those sharp little chinese rocks! Adam

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