January 18th, 2011

I am sat in Vientiane, Laos. A bit French, clean but a bit run down, a lot of tourists but with very good food and the knowledge that the hills are over its all good. even better was the news that the Thai embassy will give you 60 days double entry for free. Yeah, no smiling at pond life or anything resembling a backhander, just hand in a form with two passport photos, come back the next day after lunch and try not to stare at all the western freaks… there are some odd people here…

So Thailand tomorrow and thats it with Laos. The country was only 700km from border to border but so far it is up there in my top two. If you have a chance to visit this place, aquire a mountain bike with suspension, go ultra light and get off the main roads into the woods. Go find some elephants and hill tribes before its too late.

On a different topic, how is this one for a new road to ride?


 The number of overland cyclists has to be seen to be believed in Laos. Everybody has had the same issue with burma being closed forcing a detour into China. If this situation changes, expect all the traffic to go through India again. On this note I should point the way to this man…



By some beautiful randomness the book I have been looking for turned up in a second hand book shop here… it took me a morning to read and I would suggest you buy a copy off amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-High-My-Everest-Odyssey/dp/156331830X). I know of at least one person who knew this man and well… yeah…

So anyway 2500km to Singapore,  then a Singapore Sling at Raffles? :)  

(As always go to http://www.bossanovabikeride.com/ to see pictures from somebody who can be bothered to find an internet cafe when others would rather stay in bed and watch bbc world.)

January 8th, 2011

158km to Thailand and the hills should be finished with…. :)

January 1st, 2011

“We took the customary summit photos and ate some chocolate. I felt the usual anticlimax. What now? It was a vicious circle. If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another, slightly harder, a it more ambitious – a bit more dangerous. I didnt like the thought of where it might be leading me. As i in some strange way, the very nature of the game was controlling me, taking me towards a logical but frightening conclusion; it always unsettled me; this moment of reaching the summit, this sudden stillness and quiet after the storm, which gave me time to wonder at what i was doing and sense a niggling doubt that perhaps i was inexorably losing control – was i really here for pleasure or egotisim? did i really want to come back for more? But these moments were also good times, and i know that the feelings would pass. Then I could excuse them as morbid pessimistic fears with no sound basis.” Joe Simpson Touching the Void

It seems very strange to be reminising about the trip already but sat here in Laos but for the first time Martin and I looked through the photos of China, from the very start when we made a video in Tajikistan where with brash excitment we proudly proclaimed to the camera that we where only 200 miles away from the chinese border. Back then china appeared as just another country. “It is big sure, but 5000km at 100km a day means that it could be done in 60 days with 10 rest days to see stuff…” famous last words eh?!

Well that was my original idea but it is fairly clear to anybody who has been reading this of late that to complete the goal of cycling across China it has taken more miles, time, effort and money than I could ever have envisaged in my optimistic naviety. When planning a route across the third biggest country in the world, i would suggest that your planning extends further than taking a blade of grass, ripping it to scale with that of the map and then aligning it and going, hmmmm one thousand, two, three, four, no, certainly no more than five thousand kilometres…

We crossed the border into Laos on the 26th of December. I reached the border before Martin as the last day left us only 55km to do and I refused stubbornly to use the granny ring. I wanted out of the country and I charged head down the whole way in childish excitment arriving to a non descript customs building to no fanfare, no dancing band and no hand shakes. Just the ubiquitous Chinese bus of tourists taking photos of themselves stood outside the aforementioned buildings.

Sat on the ground I was reminded of the time on the last trip when I crucifed myself to get into Istanbul. The same elation tinged with a sense of dissapointment. The quote above touches this feeling in a more elequant fashion than I could ever write… You give three months of your life to something, you dream of this day for so long and then when it comes it will never be able to live up to your expectations. so instead I sat on the kerb listening to Black Sabbath and waited for the smiling face of Martin to arrive studiously trying to ignore the group of women shouting “change money?” at me.

To get to that border and to have that special little moment, well it was 105 days in the end and just over 4000 miles of cycling from the border with Kygrystan to the country of Laos. Average cycling distance per day? We estimate that only 25 days of the 105 where rest days so roughly 50 miles a day or 38 if taken as a total. that does not sound like much when viewed as a daily average but the thing I wish to try and convey to you was the relenting pace that we had to maintain in order to get out of China.

Wake up, eat, strike camp, martin zeros his odo as I do not know how to do mine, ride 20k, stop and eat something. Ride another 20k and eat something else. Ride yet another 20 and stop and have lunch. Lunch which involves walking into a restaurant being stared at, picking a table with a view of the bikes then walking into the kitchen and pointing at food and the wok and doing the international gesture of fry this food for me then walking back out of the kitchen normally saying “i have no XXXXing idea what we are getting mate” grabbing a can out of the fridge and peeling the paper of the chopsticks and waiting. You then force as much food regardless of wether it is good or bad into your stomach before you encouter the gag reflex. At this point one more mouthful means you are full enough to cycle in the afternoon and then the haggle over the price, “25 for rice, no no no no….” then back on the bikes with a heavy stomach and the midday sun. Another 20k and a rest and something to eat then the last 20 with tired legs looking for somewhere to sleep, making sure there is food and water for the morning. Put up the tents, start the primus eat noodles yet again, blow up the roll mat, lock the bikes to the tent, read a couple of pages then fall asleep.

The routine changed depending on the landscape. In the desert it truly was the monotous regime that i have described above mixed in with mile after mile of slip streaming. After Xinging when China truly starts in the more arable lands and then south into the mountains, distances decreased, slip streaming became too dangerous but the food, the breaks and the rhythm never really changed.
And that is why my feelings of China have been so negative. China was merely a backdrop I feel to a physical challenge. This for me was never about discovering the sights of China, it was about getting across it. Martin saw the pandas in Chengdu (I stayed in bed, “xxxx the pandas.. youve seen one panda youve seen them all…”), we both refused the high entrance fee to the giant buddha in Leshan but other than that, no tourist attractions whatsoever. No great wall of china, no terracotta army, no world expo… nothing is left in my mind but a fading blur of road and chinese food.

So do i feel that the energy and time expended on this was a waste of effort? No. I am left with a strange taste in my mouth for sure but as i said to Martin the other night “that was the best trip I have ever done on a bike in the worst country i have ever been too”. china is as mad as a box of frogs. That is all you need to know. I am of the opinion that if you are from the west you could spend the rest of your life living within the country and still not come to any solid conclusions as to how it operates or the mentality of the populace. The cliche of “an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery” holds true.

The Chinese are inscrutable but when viewed as a whole the Chinese population deserve the utmost respect for many reasons. Living within a beuarcratic corrupt police state that mixes hypocritical political ideology with the rampant greed of consumerisim and short term profit taking they are not given much room for free expression or lateral movement.
In a country where children as young as 4 or 5 walk down the street with a red hankerchief tied round their neck to signify their membership of the communist party and where re-education camps (which are not a fallacy) can be found juxtaposed against hummers, mercedes and all the outward trappings of the new burgoning middle class one feels that china is a thirld world country that has just won the lottery. Slightly naieve and gauche but with the confidence that new money brings with it.

But has this money made a difference to the populace? For me I can only comment on the limited section I have seen with reference to the time frame i passed through in. Thirty years ago I am led to believe that China had a limited number of private vehicles on the road, bicycles ruled the streets and people where coming out of a time when millions had just died from starvation. So it would be morally reprhensible to say that the growth that china has experinced via industrilastion is anything but positive. (The negative side of enviromental destruction, pollution and the elephant sitting very proudly in the corner of the room with a big sign painted on its side saying “errr not much oil left there guys… and how exactly do you have a system of infinite growth based on a planet with a finite level of resources…?” shall be firmly ignored)

Chinas defence of its amusing archaic hypocritical political stance is that the new wealth of the nation is being socialised. This means that the country gets richer together. Leaving Central Asia and coming into china that stance is validated in that there are actually sealed roads, electricty and clean drinking water. The basic essentials are supplied by the state even into the furthest regions we found but this then poses the thorny question as to wether China should be having involvment in these regions. Namely everything in the autonomous regions in the desert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang) down to Tibet.

Xinjiang you have to accept will always be chinese because there are deposits of oil and natural gas. This area will never be relinquished and is home to a people who appear lost in the middle of the world, cut off from the rest by mountain ranges and immense distances there life now a pale copy of the chinese one played out in patchy oasis towns. The uyghur people that we met almost represented the emptiness of the distance. Always staring with vacant eyes and open mouths one felt that the barren geography had impressed itself into the minds of these people. A strange land full of peopled fuelled with nothing but sheep kebabs, bad bread and a hatrid of the Chinese moving into their land.
Visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/05/china.tibet then start writing letters to your local MP who I can confidentally predict could not give a XXXX. That is if they can even find it on a map in the first place. This area, never had nor never will be as fashionable as the cause of the Tibetans. It is however I feel more relevant to China.

As for Tibet.. The original idea for me was to try and take the southern road through into Khatmandu. Unable to afford the cost of a tour guide and worried about my ability to cycle for an extended period at high elevation, unsupported on a bike that is really not designed for such roads I left any dreams about Tibet to the end when I thought we could dip through on the same route that Ian took. Finding out that sleeping with your boots on in minus 15 nights is not fun, led us back to the safety of lower altitudes and we dispensed with any ideas of Tibet. to late in the season, too cold, too much of a risk in jepaordising the bigger picture of getting across China. We later learnt of some Germans that had to come down off the hills in a bus abonding the idea of cycling because of a frost bitten finger. It really is cold up there.
So ultimately we saw no more than the border lands as we skirted around the area. You can imagine how frustrating it is cycling through the desert with mountains rising up out of the ground on your right hand side knowing that you are unable to go inside. That makes the incentive to ride in there even greater. I strongly belive that a trip through Tibet would be one of the most incredible places you could cross on a bicycle, but not at the moment. maybe in 5 years I do not know.. but at the moment you have two options, One go in unsupported and avoid the road blocks and blag it or two throw a lot of money and have someone follow you in a 4×4. Or go for the ultimate and avoid the road blocks altogether and cycle where there are no roads. Google crossing the Tang Chang for the adventures of one man we met. Think your tough?

Moving away from being unable to get into the area, the political situation was still visible in the Tibetan areas we cycled through. Dancing in Tibetan nughtclubs with Chinese miltary police watching you and the outright refusal to camp due to what could ony be either an outright fear or ditrust of any foreigners will last with me for a long time. China has been in Tibet for 60 years now and will not be leaving any time soon. The conflict between a nomadic cluture without fences with one that wants to put fences up.. Its happened before and will happen again. As an english person I can not take the moral high ground on this one by any stretch of the imagination, but its in this crucilble that the only conculsion you can draw is that the tibetans have a moral right to this land. The more i travel the more you start to understand that the communities that still live within the limits of the land are the ones that are the most special.

Hyper growth as seen in china with the ubiquitious concrete mixer seen throughout the land has left a network of identikit cities that are utterly souless and void of any true character. designed with rulers and budgets they have not evloved naturally to fit the local populace. Truly horrendous places in many respects and that more than anything is what scraes me about Tibet. If the Tibetans fall victim to the Chinese growth model then the people will be forced down off the hills, moved into high density housing and expected to produce and consume like the rest of us.

Some areas of this world where we live have a carrying capacity for a limited number of people. Once exceeded then either the soil is depleted, maintained as a sponge to squirt more petro chemicals on or food and resources are brought in. the tibetans have been living in a sustainable fashion for many years and i might be painting a romantic picture naively but a life in a yurt has to beat a life in a chinese new city.
As long as China is of importance to us in the west as a trading partner then Tibet will never be free. Our governmenents are We are happy to turn a blind eye to the many atrocities that have been performed in this part of the world and instead scare us with stories about men with turbans who are jealous of our freedoms…

The tibetan areas ended as we started heading south. The landscape became hiller after the desert and the sheer mass of population squeezed into these arable lands is incomprehensible. China has 7 percent of the worlds arable lands with nearly a quarter of the worlds population. every square inch is farmed. Every square inch. the inguenity of the local population in finding a little bit of land to stick some cabbbages is truly remarkable but it makes putting a tent up absolute hell. Hence the never ending terracing meant night after night in the cheapest hotels in towns. Some where good, most where bad and a huge amount of them ended with a knock on the door at ten at night with the police asking to see our passports.

Brief moments of respite where offered in the form of hostels where we encoutered other westerners and western food. Riding away from these protected little ghettos back into the land of staring, squatting, spitting and shouting was always the hardest. As was knowing the distances ahead. 4000km to go, 3000km to go, 2000km to go, my god we are still here….

The arable lands gave way to the forests of Yunnan. Over the tropicum we rode through bamboo forests, past elephants (chained to posts in yet another shocking display of chinas treatment of animals), huge spider webs, snakes on the road and rubber plantations. this landscape gave rise to the glorious feeling that we where entering the tropics and china was coming to a close. the skin of the pople was getting darker, the archietcuture had changed to pole buildings and days where spent riding along looking at the ingenious ways bamboo is utilised in furniture, motorcycle panniers, motorcycle helmets, hats, houses, fishing reels, winnowing trays. There is something special in seeing these things being made and for me it was one of the highlights of the trip. Old men sat by the side of the road stripping bamboo canes into progressively thinner pieces before weaving them into something eminently practical.

Then christmas in the woods, we went to a restaurant where we bought meat (still unidentified), spuds, and beer then rode down the road, up into a rubber forest where a fire was built then a hammock was slung between trees and the dissapointment of missing friends and family back home was dutifuly ignored. The fact that the Chinese outside of the main cities could not care less about the day made life easier but it was still a day to be forgotten in many ways.

After this it was a rush to the border where we met a geordie who had tourettes cycling north to Kunming to get a visa. Cycling with a bottle of spirits and very little equipment he personified the whole “i dont give a XXXX because it will all work out…” mentality.

After the border we met Cathy a wonderful Kiwi woman who was cycling round with her ukulele. sat in a restaurant on the laos side singing xmas songs was not something I will forget for a long time. A very nice and helpful woman. Good luck on your future travels.

Then 4 fast days of Laos where we met a helpful Canadian coming north (www.CoveringTheGlobe.com) who gave us news on the road ahead. The mountains felt like hills after the gruelling stretch after Kunming and we rode down two days faster than expected overtaking on the last day two slightly beligerent old dutch ladies. The first I have to mention who tried to ignore me on the road. It seems that the cycling community is very small, only two degrees of seperation exists in that you meet another guy on a bike and they know mutual friends or know people who know them. This link I feel is the product of a shared empathy, if you are on a bike you understand that you need the help of other cyclists for information and advice. Plus the simple joy of knowing there is somebody else as stupid as you in the part of the world… So it was an immense surprise to see the two dutch be so rude. We are guessing that they flew in having only two panniers and where not enjoying the ride as it was stinking hot and the hills where steep and the road unsurfaced and covered in a layer of fine dust that was thrown up every time a car passed… or they where apalled at the sight of someone who has worn the same clothes day and night and not showered for two weeks… could be the latter….

Either way it ended comically in that we ended up staying at the same guest house that night and then in the same restaurant, and then we met on the road three times and then in laung prabang… so no it was not awkward for either party in the slightest as we studiously tried to ignore one another…

And then into Luang Prabang where the same game was conducted. Lots and lots of westerners all walking down the street trying to imagine that they are the only ones here with the locals… LP is very very toruisty. A world heritage town full of restaurants and bars. But the quality is high. Higher than anywhere i saw in china, there is bread, cheese, instant yeast, tim tams, leffe, beef steak in a blue cheese sauce, duck pate, red wine that is from france and not relabbeled cooking wine (ian checked the label after months in china a bottle of wine is still to something to be slighty feared… truly the most horrendous wine ever to be tasted no matter how you spend on a bottle) and joy of joys sandwiches on the street made with chicken cheese and bacon.

It has been wonderful to reach this point of the journey and to have shared the last couple of days with ian again who made it out of Vietnam and here despite mechanical problems feels like the perfect ending of China. Ian after arriving very kindly too Martin and I out for cocktails and dinner to celebrate crossing china and meeting up again. To sit in a restaurant with a knife and fork, a cloth napkin, clean unchipped plates and a wine menu. My god that evening will live with me for a very long time. After drinks in a bar that faces out onto the river, we left and ended up in a local nightclub with a 50 year old guy from Manchester who hilariously explained to Ian that he was on the sick in England and was just travelling round here for a bit… Ian then still in his capacity as a medical proffesional dispensed medical advcie to a random english girl in the club. all this whilst a 5 year old child was playing next to our feet in the middle of the nightclub at 1 in the morning….

There are a fair few freaks here it has to be said. After coming out of central asia, china and now into south east aisa it is my firsy introduction with the eclectic people that spend time here. There are long term travellers, drop outs, sexual predators lurking in the bars for local girls, sexual pervets who are with their asian younger girlfriends who are barely out of puberty…, drug abusers, ukranian fire spinning photographers who travel with their cats, short term tourists and my favourite the backpacker.
I feel it would be remiss of me not to share with you dear reader some of the best-over-heard-being-said-by-a-backpacker- quotes with you: (country indicates nationality of those that unleased these beauties…

“we are off to see some old whores weave some shit” Australia

“yeah i won 86 thousand dollars on online poker” UK

“yeah and i am in a bar and a bunch of whores tried to knife me” Ireland
me_ “so why did you get in a fight with a bunch of whores?”
I_ “we where drinking in this bar right to see the ping pong”
me_ “ping pong?”
I_ “yeah ping pong”
me_ “what your playing ping pong in a bar?”
I_ “No, the girls get the ping pong balls then spray them out of their snatch”

Me: So you have been to thailand?
Australia: “yeah i have a good connect in thailand. Good peoples in thailand bra”
_long pause_
_even longer pause_
“but the thai government, no good bra. no good bra. r.”
_short pause_
_”good chillum in thai bra. No what I mean bra. Good connect in thailand bra.”
_very very long pause_

The guy at this point then realises a tuk tuk driver is outside, throws his pool cue down, runs off from the pool table out into the road shouting
“wait!! I need opium”

Vang Vieng is the next stop on the road. 200km from here and it it is a place that you are either going to love or hate we have been told. It will be interesting if nothing else.. In the meantime I am going to spend the next few days doing nothing and debating whether to drop five dollars on a packet of cornflakes…

I will leave you with some of martins photos from the last stretch.. he has quite an eye you have to admit :) He is also the first Uruguayan ever to cycle across China.. worlds first ladies and gents :)
Going from left to right across the rows…

1- man with knife after just killing the pig. you heard one of those scream…
2- local meat market with all the motorbikes
3- one of martins rare punctures…
4- riding through a 2km tunnel, head torch flashing trying to miss the holes you can see on the right of my rear wheel. this was a good one, most of them did not have lights…
5- cooking chips by the side of the road
6- no idea?
7- cyclists :)
8- unsealed road out of kunming. we tried the motorway and ended up being given a police escort off it…
9- one of the best camp sites we found in china, a group of lads came shortly after who shouted us dinner and a bottle of spirits
10- bong hits with a fag. no really.
11- ok..
12- crawling down a hill off the side of the road where the barbed wire had been pulled away we found these elephants chained up with neither food nor water….
13- xmas eve
14- old china
15- another puncture
16- overtaking lang
17- Text on the very upmarket bakery sign that martin is standing outside of brandishing proudly a free coffee they gave us for drawing such a crowd (more than the poor girl on the microphone trying to get people in…) reads below… (i should mention five minutes after this photo was taken we turned down an interview with the local paper “no interviews today, too busy!”…


18- good cafe very bad bread
19- mao. did he even understand his own country?


sore legs….

December 22nd, 2010

350km to the border… 280km in Laos to do, all this before new years eve… The hills are horrific and i want a roast dinner which i am not going to get. Oh and my legs hurt a lot, other than that all is well as martin has just managed to hack some random persons wifi as the Chinese as usual are not letting us use any internet cafes…
merry xmas everybody :)

December 12th, 2010

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 :)

November 29th, 2010

how they did it before in the old days.. some good info and a lot of overt racism…

If the link is not working then go to crazyguyonabike and look for journey to the centre of the earth. Just look at what they carry… my god.

One last one..

This guy rode the road I wanted to do but in the opposite direction in the 90’s. Unable to get through this time but you never know if it will open up in the future (probably not eh…). A nice line about how it was a lesson in the management of pain :)

Why I am posting books? I am bored… Sat in Leshan waiting for another visa extension of the Chinese government. So in brief:

- The road south has 1450km left and looks very bad which means my birthday will be in China (bad) Xmas will be in China (very very bad) and new years is likely to be in the middle of nowhere and not vang vieng as planned
- A drunk Chinese kid tried to break into our hotel room. We thought that was a bit cheeky when there was a policeman downstairs. Turns out if you are a cleaner mopping floors you are allowed to wear police uniforms and have no connection with the authorities whatsoever
- They eat dogs in Chengdu. Want to see something that will make you cry… Dogs in cages on the back of a motorcycle off to a restaurant…
- They eat ducks heads here in Leshan

November 26th, 2010

It always makes me smile to think of the scallies walking round liverpool with their arms out swaggering down the road..  Not just Liverpool, there where a few people who shall remain nameless that I knew before I left that thought they could hold their own…

So you think your hard…?

Ok then… This was found on an austrlian forum whilst researching water points across the desert…

Re: planning long distance summer tour

Postby Detail » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:05 pm


So you really want to bike an uninteresting main highway into gale force headwinds during the Wet Season?

So what?

Man, last year I met a woman who’d biked from Germany to Australia via all the ’stans and Tibet. Then a year of off-road tracks around Oz. She’d just biked from Cairns to Adelaide via the Birdsville Track, in January.

Her bike had no gears.

If you want to do something different at least tackle something that will be a challenge: the Canning Stock Route; Cape Yorke via Lakefield National Park; the Gunbarrel Highway.

Highway 1?

That’s a sealed road man.

I met a 7 year old kid biking that.

Point made?

November 25th, 2010

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know

The poetry of Donald Rumsfeld

As promised more pictures that ended up on the cutting room floor due to Martins high standards.. for me they will more than suffice to convey the, hmmmm craziness of this place to you…


Pigs heads found by the side of the road....

Pigs heads found by the side of the road....

Sheep in a bag on a bike. Nothing unusal there then...

Sheep in a bag on a bike. Nothing unusal there then...

Nice bike, check out the chain guard... old boy wearing what everybody else wears standing in front of his house.. in a brief moment of stillness between waving frantically that we can eat further on down the road... nice guy.

Nice bike, check out the chain guard... old boy wearing what everybody else wears standing in front of his house.. in a brief moment of stillness between waving frantically that we can eat further on down the road... nice guy.

When was the last time you saw an aluminium kettle being made by the side of the road? get some old coke cans, a centrifugal fan attached to an old car battery, an old barrel and some fire clay and your away. No idea what was used for the crucible but the pour results where very good...

When was the last time you saw an aluminium kettle being made by the side of the road? get some old coke cans, a centrifugal fan attached to an old car battery, an old barrel and some fire clay and your away. No idea what was used for the crucible but the pour results where very good...

Green tea. Sorry....

Green tea. Sorry....

Tibet and its pilgrams... religious devotion never fails to push the boundary of what the human body can endure. The people in this photo are 70 year old women...

Tibet and its pilgrams... religious devotion never fails to push the boundary of what the human body can endure. The people in this photo are 70 year old women...

Never ever buy chinese tubes.... every day you can find me sat on the floor with the tyre levers out...

Never ever buy chinese tubes.... every day you can find me sat on the floor with the tyre levers out...

Fishmongers by the side of the road... not quite your local tescos is it...

Fishmongers by the side of the road... not quite your local tescos is it...

Get bored cycling across a vast country? find some rubbish in the road and write abusive messages for your mate who is behind you to find as they ride up a 12 percent gradient...

Get bored cycling across a vast country? find some rubbish in the road and write abusive messages for your mate who is behind you to find as they ride up a 12 percent gradient...

Ride up a hill for 30km, then through a tunnel with no ventilation for 2km dodging a bus that drove straight at me.. through a fake old chinese village (ye olde china), stop to eat sweet and sour pork with no pork, then back up another hill with switchbacks, road works one car crash and then this. Highlight of my day. Say no to smack kids....

Ride up a hill for 30km, then through a tunnel with no ventilation for 2km dodging a bus that drove straight at me.. through a fake old chinese village (ye olde china), stop to eat sweet and sour pork with no pork, then back up another hill with switchbacks, road works one car crash and then this. Highlight of my day. Say no to smack kids....

The standard mode of transportation for countless millions... A 125cc motorcycle.. You can fit 4 sheep on one of these, 30 chickens, 4 people, scaffolding poles you name it... note the fold down pannier holders and the crash guards which you rest your feet on easy rider style as you weave down the road, at night, with no lights on...

The standard mode of transportation for countless millions... A 125cc motorcycle.. You can fit 4 sheep on one of these, 30 chickens, 4 people, scaffolding poles you name it... note the fold down pannier holders and the crash guards which you rest your feet on easy rider style as you weave down the road, at night, with no lights on...

Wicker work.. i have to learn how to make these.. they have wicker winnowing trays as well that are 10ft in diameter, truly beautiful craft work. There is an old china here if you look hard enough...

Wicker work.. i have to learn how to make these.. they have wicker winnowing trays as well that are 10ft in diameter, truly beautiful craft work. There is an old china here if you look hard enough...

with a fag on- always with a fag on.

with a fag on- always with a fag on.


To leave you with two short stories as it has just taken two hours to get the above photos uploaded..

The first is in regards to an american english teacher who was teaching a classroom full of chinese kids on the run up to xmas.  One of the kids upon his return home tells his parents that the teacher had been talking about jesus. Two days later the teacher was forcibly deported from the country for talking about religion to the kids…

Next one.. i read about this one up north but have not been bothered to go and find it, remember the nail house story from the olympics (google it), anyway very similar one here in chengdu.. the guy had his windows shot out, found 14 live snakes in his kitchen and sustained serious wounds from what he claimed to be a beating with an iron bar. the property developers said that he sustained his injuries whilst running across the building site.. :)

So off to see a giant buddha and get another visa extension then it is full on down to Kunming and the border of Laos as fast as we can manage as time is not on our side at the moment.

Big thanks to Kim and his wife here at the hostel (kims cosy hostel, chengdu) one of the best I have ever stayed in. You want to go ahhhhh? kim and his wife met travelling in lhasa, after 2 days they had decided to get married and start a hostel togther.. they now have 2 kids and a hostel which serves full english breakfasts…

November 23rd, 2010

Strange the things you find on the net isnt it…


5000 pounds cash prize… the only big problem is that it is running the wrong way and entry is 3000 pounds… Without bags those distances are not that bad… and with only 100 people in the game hmmmm

So anyway, I am in Chengdu and I am in a very nice hostel eating as much food as possible. the day we got here I must have put 6000 calories down my throat and I was still hungry. The roads here are taking it out of us.. 8 days straight up down, up down. It would appear to be like this all the way south so from struggling in the granny ring to bombing the other side appears to be the way.
In terms of the area… well I would by lying to you if I said Chengdu has taken a special place in my heart. Another huge chinese city (try 13 million people..) lacking any charm as anything old has been ripped down to be replaced with gaudy neon concrete buildings… sigh. My abiding memory of this country will be concrete mixers. From the countryside to the cities they are everywhere. That and seeing old shapers and lathes that have been delivered here from the west. I knew that our tools where being shipped out here but to see them. That really hurt a lot.
A different kind of pain is sure to be experienced by the two welders I saw working in a shop on the way into this city that spilled messily into the road with cardboard welding masks… It defies belief.

Anyway on a lighter note the hostel has been good in that we have met some people who speak english at last. A number of brits here who have reinforced my belief that some people should not be given passports… (”Uruguay isnt that in europe…?” and “****ing hell you cycled here from england, did you have a rucksack on the whole way?” and my favourite “you don’t sound very scouse, you sound german, you speak weird”) and a sense of concern that south east asia is going to be full of, how can i put? well you know what i am thinking dont you..

Other very good news, Martin got a discount off Hilleberg after contacting them for a new tent. Please never buy anything from Vaude, not only do they produce bad equipment they have appalling sales support. Buy Hilleberg and have done with it they really are the best tents in the world..

And D showed up again. The japanese guy who started in Cape Town… Small world no?… Hopefully we can catch up again in Kunming and cycle into Laos together. D went through Tibet from Golmud to Lhasa and then due east. Apparently 30 military wagons where going against him on his way out every day… funny how buddhists need to be watched is it not?
Best not talk of such matters till I am in Laos. However I will mention that there is a very very large statue of Mao on the main square here. there are also huge hanging banners with the hammer and sickle on the way into the city. If somebody could please explain to me how you have the communist flag flying proudly on the way in then having a 50 meter hanging Dior banner within sight of the statue of Mao (along with a mcdonalds and a starbucks…) then I would like to know… the epitome of conspicuous consumption next to a man who.. well Mao is Mao. Cognitive dissonance must be experienced by a large number of people here. Either that or they just go with the program. Best not to ask too many questions eh…

To add on a positive note I have seen another indication of a future trend…


Is a bad example as a number of the ones that are EVERYWHERE here look a lot better… want one? less than 200 american dollars…
You could not make them for 200 dollars if you wanted too? Incredible.
Oh yeah the record so far for number of people on one of these is three grown adults.

tip to self do not post drafts… :)

If anybody can translate what the below is I would like to know… More strange adverts and wall paintings to come when I get the chance to upload them…


Day lord knows…

November 13th, 2010

“the civilised world flies on the golden wings of wisdom” Seen painted on a wall by the side of the road…

So.. we are in a city. I know not what its name is, just that it is China and people are staring at me like I have two heads. After four punctures and 115km we got here.. from yet another forgetable nameless city. The high number of punctures are due to the Chinese inner tubes, the natural dispensation the Chinese have for smashing glass bottles on the road and sheer bad luck. If you want to get stressed try taking all the bags of your bike, swapping both the tyre and the inner tube then getting 5km down the road only to repeat the process. whilst being stared at. Always the staring.

The worst or maybe the best, at least the most memoroable for being made to feel like a complete freak/celebrity was yesterday when we tried to get a taxi into Tibet. We have elected to cycle down the 212 as opposed to the 213 that runs through Tibet (ignore what the map say’s it is Tibet) as it is too cold at altitutde. so by coming down off the mountains we give ourselves a buffer against winter, which we are on the cusp of at the moment. The problem is that all the Chinese have taken the same attitude and the population here is staggering. The longest we have gone without seeing anybody is ten seconds. After the desert it feels a bit too much. Every square inch of land is terraced for farming, mainly cabbages and sweetcorn. Tractors and trikes labour along the road oblivious to the lorry drivers whacked out on imitation red bull drinks (red deer, red camel etc..). In a word stressful, but the scenery is a marked improvement on the pollution that we saw going in and out of Lanzhou.
So after Fergie’s recommendation and our own morbid fascination with the ritual of Sky Burials we elected to leave the bikes in the hotel and take a taxi up into Tibet to try and take a photo of some vultures eating a corpse. The things I do for you dear reader…
So after twenty minutes drawing pictures of cars and pointing at a map we get the hotel to call up a taxi, another fifteen minutes on the street haggling a price with the driver led us to being swamped with kids. As the crowd grew, traffic was stopping to see why two wide eyed idiots where remonstrating with a taxi driver… We ended up jumping into the cab paying the higher price just to get away…
To cut a long story short we misjudged the distance. Badly. 12 and a half hours in a taxi to cover 300km. That should give you an idea of what the roads are like… To give credit to the taxi driver he never once rolled his eyes when two westerners got in, paid him a days wages to drive to the middle of nowhere, get out, take a p*ss, shrug when the bloody thing you went all the way there to find could not be found, then get back in the car and ask to be taken back to the city…
We did eat Manti with some Tibetans who where riding round on motorbikes herding yaks and horses. One of them had an american flag covering his motorcycle, an expensive pair of trainers, a mobile phone and asked Martin and I for cash. Isn’t globilsation great….

Speaking of which Chinas coverage of the G20 meeting is funny but not as amusing as their coverage of the UK students protesting over tuiton fees.. Which side of the fence do you think china sits… I was reading in the China Post last week (China’s daily english paper) about the nobel prize winner who shall not be named… I am paraphrasing now as I can not remember the exact quote the author of the piece made but it went along the lines of ‘human rights should never be geiven precedence over national soverignity’….. Voting tory looks like the soft option now eh… And when did you turn over from the dross that is CCTV onto the Military channel? Different world folks… Speaking of CCTV the state owned television station, we where interviewed back in Kashgar and we might have been put on air, we might not. I might have been on German TV as well but hey ho..

As a matter of reference I should mention that after another long struggle to find an internet cafe and then another ball achingly long ordeal/argument to ask for a computer we have been led into a ‘private’ room with laminated screens, soft lighting and even softer chairs.. ahem..

On a higher level than the gutter.. go see what some friends are up too…


Yopu have my respect for that one, wonderful to hear that you are still alive.

Right next post should be in Chengdu where there is rumoured to be an Irish bar and wait for it…… CHEESE! In a country of lord knows how many million you would think somebody could teach them how to make a cheese butty…