Published: November 17th 2007October 29th 2007
China has welcomed in a new era of cycle touring for us. Not only do we fit right in on our bikes, but the tent and cooker have become redundant and we no longer need to carry extra water. Villages are plentiful, and hotels are amazingly cheap although they vary hugely in quality. Food is also very cheap, and China seems like the land of plenty after the paucity of ingredients in Mongolia. And on the whole, we are having success ordering vegetarian food. We can say ‘I am vegetarian’ and show them the phrase. We also show them our wordless communication book and point at the pictures and say ‘bu yao’ (‘don’t want’) pointing at the meat and ‘yao’ (want) pointing at the vegetables. Then we move onto ‘yo’ (have) to establish what ingredients they have and choosing what we want. Staff are eager to help and this system seems to work successfully about 90 percent of the time.
Our first day cycle touring in China! Having supplemented our large scale map with English place names with a Chinese map, and saying goodbye to our generous couch-surfing host (Nancy) we cycled out of Xian under
a blanket of smog which did not lift all day. Still the activity going on around us and by the sides of the roads kept us interested. All around us we saw the corn harvest in full swing, yellow bushels of corn hanging up or drying on the road. Here in China the load we carry on our bikes pales in comparison to those around us. We still attract much friendly attention, but more due to being foreign then having bikes.
After lunch the road began to climb, the pollution began to lift, and the jagged shapes of the Qing Ling mountains rose before us. With autumnal colours and a clear mountain stream, it was just like cycling through a classical Chinese painting. Homes across the river valley could only be reached by swing bridges. Giant quartz rocks ornament the river, but unfortunately they also ornament the gardens of city people who provide a market for the river to be plundered of its’ treasures. Tonight there was no hotel available when we were ready to stop, we were directed to a village 30km away which would have meant cycling in the dark. So we asked about
camping, but the chances seemed slim on the precipitous landscape. Eventually men working on the road showed us to a room with a concrete floor where we set up our camping equipment.
I (Sonya) was feeling unwell with a cold and although the scenery was stunning and the climb gradual we stopped early in a village with a very basic hotel.
We know there are pandas in these mountains around us, and it transpired that the village we had stopped in was bordering on a WWF wildlife park so we made some enquiries in our hotel about arranging a tour to see pandas. I’m sure pandas are very elusive, as are the deer antelope and monkeys also on the brochure, and in our hotel we were jokingly told that the only monkey we would see was one of their staff! Tourism in this area is very undeveloped and communication is not at all straight forward but we believe we have a tour arranged for tomorrow morning.
Did not see pandas but did enjoy a very good tour in the park. Somehow it ended up being 6 hours instead of the 3 we
thought we had negotiated and costing much more but never mind!
Spent the morning climbing up to the pass at 1700m, the road snaking up the hill and the mountains which had loomed above us gradually shrinking down to our height.
Once over the hill we enjoyed a continuous descent to Foping and saw stands of bamboo start to appear, indicating that we have arrived in a subtropical zone (though it didn’t feel like it!) Daily life in the mountains is very basic, the hotels we have been staying in use water piped directly from the river which they boil on coal fired stoves. Toilets are outside squat versions. Little sour red berries are being harvested and processed, dried in bamboo baskets outside before being put through a kind of crushing machine, (from which they emerge looking like maggots!)
Today our road climbed and dropped and snaked around through little villages and fertile terraces while we noticed the brand new expressway cutting a direct line via giant viaducts and tunnels through the landscape. It barely looks to be in use but appears a great monstrosity. Strangely there are no cars on our
road, only trucks and scooters. The trucks use ear splitting air horns, which they sound without any qualms! It seems the local population cannot afford cars and probably most do not see the benefit of the giant super highways although at least it will have reduced traffic on their roads.
Todays ride was through a valley in which we ended in the much larger city of Hanzhong. The valley is fertile and full of rice paddies. Water buffalo or cows are used to tow a plough, sowing and tending the crops is mainly done by hand. A highlight was seeing a man herding geese.
Oct 20 day 187
Xian - couchsurfing (stayed with American English teacher - Nancy)
Taxis - 20
Maps - 15
Food - 15
Total = 50
Euro = 5
Oct 21 day 188
Xian - couchsurfing
Visited Terracotta warriors
Entry 90 x 2
Bus to warriors 28 Rb (7 each way)
Total = 298
Euro = 28
Oct 22 day 189
Xian - couchsurfing
Cycled around the city walls (hired a tandem)
City wall entrance 60
Hire of tandem 40
Food and drink 60
Scan documents 20
Total = 331.4
Euro = 31
Oct 23 day 190
Cycled 63 km from south of Xian and to G108 and along this road.
Hotel 60 Rb
Total = 130
Euro = 12
Oct 24 day 191
Cycled 60 km further along G108 - entered Qing Ling mountains
No hotel in vicinity - enquired in a town where men building the road where staying in basic accommodation. They provided us a room with concrete floor where we laid out our camping equipment at no cost (would not accept money) and also brought us a meal.
Euro = 1
Oct 25 day 192
To Daten on G108 (only 28km - stopped due to Sonya feeling unwell)
Basic hotel (concrete floor and outside squat toilet) 30
Total = 130
Euro = 12
Oct 26 day 193
Rest day. (we moved just 8km up the road to km 1445 of G108 in order to change hotel as the previous one was not clean.
Hotel 30 (again basic with concrete floor and outside toilet
but at least the room is clean)
Tour arranged through hotel to WWF supported national park (Heihe forest park).
Pandas, monkeys and deer antelope in park but we did not see them.
Tour 280 (we had understood the cost to be 160 the night before including entrance tickets but it seemed there was a misunderstanding of sorts) Our driver gave us a very good tour, showing us waterfalls, rock formations, and a temple, but he tried not to pay the park entrance fee (which annoyed us as the money would be to support the national park).
Total = 374
Euro = 35
Oct 27 day 194
Km 1445 of G108 to Foping 53Km
Crossed Qing Ling mountains - our highest point of journey so far at 1705m.
Now we are officially in a subtropical zone.
Hotel 100 (luxury with carpet, Ensuite, heating, English TV, hot water, they even did our laundry)
Food and drink 45
Total = 174
Euro = 16.5
Oct 28 day 195
Foping to Long Ting 81Km
Food and Good meal in hotel restaurant 45
Total = 105
Euro = 11
Oct 29 day 196
Long Ting to HangZhong 77 Km
1 flat tyre - Nigel front
Flash hotel 120
Flash restaurant 72
Other food and supermarket 71
Total = 263
Euro = 27
There are more photos below