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Published: December 2nd 2007
We arrived in Guiyang off an overnight train from Chengdu. On the train we met a Chinese student (Judy) studying English as her major. We enjoyed conversation and she also helped us to retrieve our bicycles at Guiyang. During the conversation she warned us about ‘chiefs and robs’ in the area we are planning to cycle in. As this area is famous for its ethnic minority groups (aka hill tribes) I had in my mind an image of an angry chief! (however she was actually referring to ‘thieves and robbers’)
China’s railway service was taking such good care of our bicycles, we decided to save ourselves another 200km and sent our bikes on from Guiyang to Kaili, where we rejoined them for the next stage of our journey. Kaili is a small city bordering the hill territories of the Eastern Guizhou province.
Already in Kaili we were able to see a change in the ethnicity of the people. So far we have been travelling in areas of Han Chinese people, the majority group in China. Here, apart from slight differences in skin colour and facial features, the major identifying factor is the traditional dress still worn by many. Also it seems
that almost every woman has a baby or toddler strapped to her back by means of an embroidered baby carrier, China’s one child policy does not seem to hold sway in this area. One would think that carrying an oversized baby on your back would be enough, but the women carry large loads in addition to this. Two baskets suspended from a bamboo stick are commonly balanced over the shoulder.
As we left Kaili, following a river which led us gently upstream to the base of a mountain, we were able to see changes in architecture in this region as well. Houses are built of local pine, and balance precariously clustered in small village groups on the steep hillsides. The steep hills, where not still covered in pine, have been converted into heavily terraced rice paddies. Wind and rain bridges, a regional feature, are decorative covered bridges constructed without the use of nails. As with everywhere in China, construction is on going. In this region traditional wooden homes are hand built using wood dowels instead of nails.
Our first days ride out of Kaili was easy and short and we arrived in Leishan in time to enjoy the local Miao
The Miao are an ethnic minority people living in China's hill territory
Sunday market. Here we were able to see the raw materials for their clothing, brightly coloured embroidery yarn, silver crowns for festivals and celebrations, and hair ornaments as well as ready made embroidered clothing. The best thing about it was that it was a Miao market for Miao people, there was not a tourist or a tout in sight.
On our next days ride the road turned sharply and steeply into the mountains, and from here forth the beautifully sealed and quiet S308 was to test us with steeper than ever gradients, but reward us with fantastic views, timeless scenes, and looping descents. Occasionally we could hear a reed flute or drumming across the tranquil landscape
On hilltops trucks stop to refill water tanks used to cool their brakes as they descend, and in places where this is necessary local people provide the service. In one such place we discovered local Miao women utilising the time in between truck stops to work on beautiful scroll paintings. This made an impressive change from the usual embroidered shoe inners and knitted slippers that almost every local woman seems to fill her spare time constructing.
Fortunately I can report that we have not
yet encountered any thieves or robbers, or anyone with any ill intent, though at one point when Nigel was a little way ahead and a man carrying a sharp knife was grinning at me crazily I did consider that in another context I might be a little frightened! (Many local people carry sharp knives for cutting bamboo and other plants which they carry in bamboo sheaths).
Nov 16 Day 213
Guiyang to Kaili by bus - 45 x 2
Bicycle carriage on train 19
Food and drink 28 + 33 +30
Total = 280
Euro = 26
Nov 17 Day 214
Rest day Kaili - collected bikes from train station
Collect bikes 4
Food and drink 35
Miao craft (20 embroidered squares and 1 pair small boots) 550 bought from local Miao womens home.
Total = 649
Euro = 60.5
Nov 18 Day 215
Kaili to Leishan 43km following S308
1 flat tyre Nigel front
Food and drink 41
Miao craft - bought from specialised Miao Sunday market (embroidered baby carrier and skirt front 170)
Nov 19 Day 216
Leshan to Yongle 56Km
1 more flat tyre Nigel.
Good road but very long climbs, crossed 1280M pass and another at 1105M. Very beautiful ride through Rice paddies and Miao mountain villages.
Food and drink 67
Total = 129
Euro = 12
Nov 20 Day 217
Yongle to Rongjiang 76.5km
1 flat tyre Nigel front
Food and drink 45
Total = 85
Euro = 8
Nov 21 Day 218
Rongjiang to Maogong
Food and drink 52
Total = 72
Euro = 7
Tot: 2.071s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 20; qc: 114; dbt: 0.069s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.6mb