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  Cindie's Sichuan Daily Journal and Blog.
Travel Writing, b log, Travelogue

Chengdu, to Zongdian, China
 
(Sept. 4 - Oct. 29, 2005)


WB01618_.gif (290 bytes)    Previous Journal Thumbnail Photo Page for this Journal

Tim's Letter for this Journal

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Sept. 3 - 14 Chengdu.  Mix's youth hostel, Pandas, Vince and Jesse buying bikes.  Buying jacket and tea houses.

 
Sept. 15 Chengdu - Qionglai. By the time we packed up and said our good byes it was 11:30.  Traffic was heavy, the sky overcast mixed with pollution.  It was not that hot but humid. Tim and Vince were ahead of me in traffic most of the time.  I had to work to keep up but I always managed to catch them at the light.  We rode past the Wuhun Temple and two guys on motorcycles collided because they were both looking at us ride by them.  This was not the first accident we caused and it always unnerves me when I see people get hurt because they do not watch where they are going.  The pollution was heavy and the city seemed to go on forever.  Somehow, during our time off in Xian and Chengdu, I had forgotten how noisy the road can be.  Luckily, the road was relatively flat so we kept a good speed.  We rode 40 km before we stopped in a little town for lunch.  We had a great lunch of tofu, mushrooms, and soup.

We arrived in Qionglai and began looking for a hotel. We immediately found one, Vince speaks and reads Japanese so he can read Chinese rather well.  I looked at the room and it was beautiful.  The room had a large double bed and the adjoining room had two single beds.  It also had a western toilet and hot shower, all for 80 Y ($10).  The only catch was that it was on the 5th floor, which means we had to climb four flights of stairs.  It was a very comfortable room.  Food has also gotten cheaper too.

81 km
Sept 16 Qionglai - Yaan. The weather was cloudy and the sky full of smoke from burning crops.  It is harvest season and some of the fields are being burned.  Since it is harvest time the markets and restaurants are full of vegetables.  The terrain was much hillier the I thought it would be.  I knew that we were surrounded by mountains by looking at the map but I could not see them due to the weather and smog.

About 10 km from Yaan the road was out and we had to take a side road.  This road climbed steeply up a hill and the road was slick with mud.  So slick Tim slide out in front of me and I barely got around him with out falling myself.  Hmm I am not going to like riding down the other side of this.  We reached the top with out a mishap, however going down the other side Vince got his first flat. 


Picture of Vince and Cindie fixing a flat tire.

We pulled over to the side of the road.  We had a nice place to pull everything off his bike.  Some how a very large staple had gone through Vince's tire.  Tim jokingly advised him to watch where he was going.  It took a little time to repair the tire and it began to rain lightly.  Finally we were down off the muddy hill and close to town, we only had 7 kilometers to go.  Just when we thought we had a fast run into town, Vince got another flat.  While he was repairing his flat it began to rain, only hard this time.  I got to try out my new jacket sooner than I expected.  I am happy to report that I remained dry while Tim in our old jacket was wet.  This does not make me very happy about our riding conditions ahead.  Tim does not have the proper jacket, the one we bought in Yangshou was fake gortex and does not repel water.  I will worry about him until we get out of the mountains.

We looked at two hotels and they were too expensive.  We finally settled on a room for 60 Y ($7.75) for the night.  We only had to go up one flight of stairs.  Yaan seems to be a pleasant town, we found a great restaurant with dumplings and beef noodle soup.  There was also internet so we could check our email.

72 km
Sept. 17 Yaan - Tianquan.  The weather cleared and the sky was blue.  A beautiful day we could see the mountains around us and I am relieved to get out of the pollution of the big cities.  It was a short ride to Tianquan but I was ready for a rest.  The terrain is hilly but we have not started our climb into the mountains yet. 39 km
Sept 18 Tianquan.  Stayed a day in Tianquan, we went to the Sunday market.  All kinds of things can be seen at the market.  Like these women getting treatment for their knees by applying suction cups.  Interesting.


Photo of women with suction cups around their knees.

 
Sept 19 Tianquan (850m) - km 2684 (1450 m) The scenery was fantastic today we followed the river most of the day.  Vince rode ahead of us and we caught up with him for lunch.  On the way Tim broke a chain and we had to do a roadside repair.  The vegetation varied from hardwoods, to bamboo to evergreens.  Somewhere in this area are Panda wildlife sanctuaries.  The small villages we rode through were well kept and pleasant and the people were friendly. We stopped at a small trucker hotel for the night.  The room was musty and the bathroom predictable (as in having an unbearable smell and ghastly sight).  The room and dinner for both Tim and I was 40 Y ($5). The family was somewhat friendly, we basically landed in their living room.  They also had the cutest puppy who stole one of Vince's gloves and started eating it. We retrieved the glove before any major damage was done.  We went to sleep early but were woken up in the middle of the night by someone who turned on our room light.  It was difficult for me to go back to sleep after that. 50 km
Sept 20 Km 2684(1450m) - Luding (1310 m)  Morning came quick and we were on the road by 8:30 am.  The morning was beautiful, misty and cool.  We quickly began climbing and climbed to 2100 m at a recently built tunnel.  The tunnel was 4.5 kilometers long and I was delighted that it was lit.  A sign in front of the tunnel said no bikes but we rode through anyway. 


Cindie and Vince preparing to enter the 4.5 km tunnel:  Notice that the sign indicates that bikes are not allowed but we had to get to the other side. 

We climbed another 100 m on the other side of the tunnel and then descended into the town of Luding.  We stopped for lunch along the way.  A pleasant days ride but I was pretty tired at the end of the day.  Ascended 880 m (2886 feet) descended 940 m (3083 feet).

51 km
Sept 21 Luding.  When we woke up early today we realized that we were not going anywhere.  It was raining and it looked like it was going to rain all day.  So we decided to stay.  I was ready for a rest day anyway.  This is a nice sleepy town, the people are very friendly too.  We found the internet cafe and surfed for a while, although I could not open many pages on the cafe's computers but could open them on our computer.

In the evening a group of 30 people came in, they were traveling to Lhasa on electric bicycles and motorized tricycles.  The were all over the age of 50 and quite a rowdy bunch. They left early in the morning.

 
Sept 22 Luding (1310 m) to Kangding (2445 m). We got an early start and it was a long climb to Kangding.  We ascended 1345 m (4412 feet) and descended 145 m (475 feet).  The scenery was nice and the traffic light.  We happen to pass the group of electric bicycles, one ran out of battery and he was pushing it up hill, later we saw that his friends went back and got him.  It just goes to show that human power is more reliable than electric or motorized power.  We went through one small tunnel about 11 kilometers from town.  I have to say that I am getting over my fear of tunnels, China has more tunnels than any other country we have been in.  One thing this bike trip has done for me is make me face my fears like tunnels and dogs, once I repeatedly faced them their power over me went away.  When I have no choice but to ride on it forces me to confront my fear.

We decided to go to the youth hostel Black Tent because it was in Lonely Planet and it got a good review.  They could not be more wrong.  The price was inflated to 30 Y ($3.75) in a musty dirty room with a broken window and door.  The room was not secure at all so we decided to leave tomorrow and find another hotel. In addition the bathroom was smelly and shared by over 20 people so it was constantly busy. 

50 km
Sept 23 Kangding.  We found a very nice hotel thanks to Daniel a fellow traveler at the youth hostel.  The hotel is run by a Tibetan family, is very clean and decorated Tibetan style.  The hotel is located less than a 5 minute walk up the hill from Black Tent.  The Kangding Hotel (very expensive) is located directly up the hill from Black Tent, the first alley way to the left of Kangding Hotel is the Tibetan Family Hotel.  The beds range from 20 to 30 Y per night, the bathroom is clean and the shower is hot all day.  The decorations of the room are uniquely Tibetan and the family is very friendly.  Can you tell that I recommend this place.  This is the kind of place that Lonely Planet should be looking for not the rundown Black Tent Youth Hostel.  Below is a photo of the entrance to the Hotel.


Photo of Vince in front of Tibetan Hotel in Kangding, China

 
Sept 24 Kangding.  We took the day off to acclimate to our new elevation.  It was a good thing too, it is raining.  We found all the amenities we were looking for, restaurants, grocery stores, and internet cafes.  We also had the added bonus of a few outdoor shops to browse for warm weather gear.  We have to be prepared for our 1800 meter (5900 feet) climb tomorrow.  We all bought some warm clothes to take with us.  I am not feeling well, Tim says it is the altitude but it feels more like the flu to me. Achy and tired with a headache.  Ok it might be the altitude.

This evening we met some Tibetan boys (brothers ) staying at the hotel with their uncle who is studying to be a doctor in Chengdu.  The are going to the middle school here in Kangding, one boy is 13 and the other 14.  They spoke good English, compliments to their Canadian teacher.  They were telling us about Tibetan food and before we knew it the owner of the hotel was making us Somba.  It is made with a type of barley flour mixed with yak butter and possibly vinegar.  It is eaten with your hands so we all washed up before we tried the new dish.  It tasted familiar and was actually pretty tasty especially after they added sugar.  I went to bed on a full stomach.

 
Sept 25 Kangding. We were suppose to leave today and I just do not have the energy. We decided to stay just one more day.  The air feels like it is going to snow, I hope that the weather clears for tomorrows ride.  We had a Tibetan breakfast of soup with lots of meat, buns and yak butter tea.  It was very filling.  After breakfast we went to the Tibetan temple across the street.  This is the second Tibetan temple I have been to, the first was in Inner Mongolia, the Wudang Temple, it was a beautiful place but no one was there.  The Anjue temple is small but very active.  One room had a large pray wheel and about ten old women pushing the pray wheel in a clock wise direction and chanting.  When I poked my head in to see what they were doing they invited me to join them.  Ok I have never done this before.  I stepped in line and was whisked off to another place. The wood on the pray wheel was well worn from being constantly pushed by little hands and smooth to the touch, the women were walking in rhythm to the low chant they were repeating.  We were walking in a small circle on a well worn path on the wooden floor.  As soon as I touch the pray wheel I could feel the energy of the women, with each circle of the wheel I got more light headed (I think it was the altitude).  I could hear the clanging of a bell and our pace picked up, soon I was walking in rhythm with the women, the pray wheel and their low chant.  It was difficult to pull myself away but I was getting pretty dizzy.  I thought that this experience was a one time thing so later when I walked by the temple I ducked in to join the women again.  Again, I immediately felt the energy from the women, I stayed longer this time and enjoyed the rhythm of their prayers.  I stepped away knowing I would return to spend time with these Tibetan ladies.  I will visit more temples as we enter the Tibetan culture, I wonder if all temples have this same pray wheel, only time will answer this question.

 
Sept 26 Kangding.  We were suppose to leave today but the weather would not cooperate. At least in the morning. We woke to a cloudy morning and then it began to rain.  The owner of the hotel sympathized with our sadness and sat us all down with a cup of yak butter tea and pastries.  He was right, it did cheer us up.  This was one day delay to many for Vince so he decided to get a bus ticket for Litang, it would not leave until 6:30 tomorrow morning.  I am extremely sad that we are parting company so soon, I was hoping we would ride together for a few weeks more but time is running out on Vince's visa so he must move on.

In the mean time we met an Israeli couple, Kolbe and Loletta and we all decided to go up and visit the lake at 3700 meters.  We hired a cab for 160 Y ($20) for the five of us. About half way up the mountain we stopped at a ticket gate.  It seems that they are turning this area into a park and now charge admission.  A ticket cost us 38 Y ($4.75) each, an outrageous sum considering we were only going to hike some and look at the lake.  Once again, Lonely Planet missed this in their new updated China book.  We all paid for the ticket we had no choice at this point.  The lake was beautiful, the sun was out and the scenery stunning. Soon there will be paths and stairways constructed for the masses.  If we had known about the extra fee we probably would have stayed in town and hiked somewhere else.  When we returned the taxi driver tried to charge us an extra 40 Y ($5) but we refused because that is not what we negotiated from the start.

Since we had a large group we decided to go out and try hotpot.  Hotpot is where you pick what goes in the pot and cook it yourself.  We had a spicy side with meat and a non spicy without meat side.  We threw everything from mushrooms to lettuce to beef and chicken in the pot.  We stayed away from some of the strange things that we could have thrown in like chicken feet, intestine and fish heads.

 
Sept 27 Kangding to Highway work camp.  We were all up early, we had to pack and Vince, Kolbe and Loletta had a bus to catch.  We said our good byes, I hate saying good bye, we will miss Vince and hope that his travels are safe and fun.  Kolbe and Loletta were suppose to catch the same bus but they only had one seat left so they came back and will leave for Litang tomorrow.

We began our climb early the weather broke and it looked like it was going to be a sunny day.  We began to climb immediately, traffic was stopped in many places along the way and we had to ride around parked cars to make our way up the hill.  Since we had a lot of climbing to do we kept our breaks short.  The road meandered and was very steep in places.  We were still 600 meters from the top when we took a break before our final push to the top.  Up ahead of us was a highway work camp.  Just as we sat down to eat it began to rain.  uggh.  We packed up everything and rode towards the highway workers. We stopped and warmed ourselves by the fire.  We asked the highway workers if we could camp in their compound for the night. They agreed and we quickly set up our tent.  It had stopped raining long enough for us to set up our tent and have a cup a tea and then the rain came again. Our tent help up fine and our belongings all remained dry.


Pic of our camp at the Highway Workman's compound.

The engineers invited us in for dinner that night.  We had beef and potatoes and eel and cucumber.  It was quite a shock to me when Tim announced that he liked the eel. Of course he did not know it was eel at the time.  I pulled out my phrase book and the engineer closet to me pointed to shanyu (eel) in my book.  We turned in for the night wondering if we would freeze in our little tent.  It was so foggy that we could barely see in front of us.  The night passed with us both staying warm and sleeping better than I expected.

Ascended 1300 m (4264 feet) Descended 140 m (459 feet)

27 km
Sept 28 Highway Camp (3650 m) - Xinduqiao (3550 m).  We were up with the sun and drying our tent as soon as possible.  The engineers feed us breakfast, a bowl of noodles with onions, garlic and cabbage. No surprises there.  We thought that it would be an easy day, a short 600 meters (1968 feet) to the top and downhill all the way to Xinduqiao.  It was 10 kilometers to the pass (4200 m, 13,776 feet) from the work camp.  We passed the highway workers along the way and they wanted us to stop and chat. Unfortunately we had to push on.  It was a relief to get to the top and start our descent down.  We covered the first 5 km quickly, it was paved and steep.  We also passed another highway work camp about 7 km from the top.  Then the road turned to dirt, just our luck.  It was a bumpy dusty ride for the next 35 kilometers.  So much for a quick downhill.  I am glad we stayed the night with the highway workers instead of pushing on over the pass to find a rough road.  The climate changed quickly over the pass, it was now drier.  We passed little villages of Tibetan homes and herds of Yak.  We rode near a family crossing the countryside with yaks packed with their belongings.  Modern day nomad meets the traditional nomad.

We finally arrived in the valley and the road improved.  We passed many hotels on our way into town.  We stopped at one and I looked at the room.  They wanted 60 Y ($7.50) for a bare room with two beds, a dirty toilet and no shower.  No thanks, we rode into town where we finally found a hotel for 20 Y ($2.50) a night.  We took a shower at the local bath house located a couple doors down from our hotel.  This town is like the wild wild west where herds of yaks wander down the street and cowboys and monks play billiards on the sidewalk. The buildings are made of stone and decorated Tibetan style.  This is the first place that I have seen Buddhists from the red hat sect.  Vince would have enjoyed this town.  Wish he were here too.


Photo of Tibetan Monk playing billiards.

Ascend 665 m (2181 feet) Descend  930 m (3000 feet)

52 km
Sept 29 Xinduqiao. (3550 m, 11,644 feet)  We took the day off to rest our legs for the next days climb over another 4250 m (13,940 feet) pass.  We asked if we could do laundry at the hotel today.  They have a peculiar way of doing laundry that I can only attribute to superstition. We were on the first floor of the hotel and were instructed to wash our clothes in the sink.  We washed our clothes upstairs while the family cleaned the sheets in a washing machine, well kinda.  They washed the sheets in the washing machine and then rung them out in the spinner with the soap still in them.  Then they sent us downstairs to rinse our laundry in a separate tub while they brought their sheets upstairs and rinsed them in the sink that we washed our clothes in.  It would have been easier for us to rinse our clothes in the sink that we washed them in.  If anyone knows why the Tibetans do this please let me know.  
Sept 30 Xinduqiao to Yajiang (2750 m).  I woke up and was ready to ride, I was ready but my stomach was not.  I felt nauseous all morning, I thought that I drank too much coffee and shrugged the discomfort off.  I usually feel better when I ride anyway.  We were climbing along at a steady pace when a truck came skidding around the corner in front of us.  I thought for sure it was going over the side of the cliff, the roads here do not have guard rails so going over is easy.  The trucker managed to keep the truck on the road and sped past us.  The whole scene was a jolt to my system.  Not too much later I was starting to feel quasi and as we climbed I felt worse.  I saw a place to pull over off the road, jumped off my bike and wandered over into the bushes.  I was sick, I hate the dry heaves.  Tim became concerned immediately.  He said, "You have altitude sickness".  I said, "no way, I have never had altitude sickness".  He then made me lay down on the ground with my feet higher than my head.  The thought of laying in that position did not appeal to me but Tim insisted.  Whew, amazingly I felt better after a few minutes and Tim said the color was coming back in my face.  In the mean time, he had removed the sleeping bags and extra water from my bike and put it on his bike.  We sat for a while to gather our thoughts about what to do next. I said I could go on because I knew the next town was lower and we were only a few hundred meters from the top.  We quickly made up our mind when two Tibetans on a motorcycle stopped and asked us for money. We said we did not understand and that was our cue to leave.

We finally topped the pass of 4250 meters, or is it 4412 meters like the sign said only to ride for another 5 kilometers to finally begin our decent down to Yajiang. 


Picture of Tim at a high pass, notice the extra luggage from my bike.  Thank you Tim.

The ride down from the pass was bumpy but at least it was not dirt.  I began to feel better with each switch back down.  We were hoping to find a restaurant on this stretch but we never came across one. Plenty of Tibetan homes and a small village but no restaurant.  We had enough food with us, this is not a stretch to rely on local food.  Matter a fact, sad to say, this is the first place in China where people were asking us for money.  It always makes me sad to see this, someone taught them that a foreigner will give them money.  We finally made it into town and had to make an extensive search for a decent hotel. Tomorrow is October 1 and the week is a national holiday so accommodations are going to be tight for the next week.

We met Dan while searching for a room.  He is a part time resident of Dali in Yunnan province. He owns a hostel or two there.  It was very enjoyable spending the evening with him, we went out to dinner and a tea house.  When we returned to our room, a private Tibetan residence, we had difficulty finding it.  Whew, a very tiring day.  One last thing, Tim was my hero today, he is my hero every day but he took extra care of me today, he went extra slow up the hill for me and carried everything he could.  He always teases me that he is the donkey well today he was the donkey.  His bike was piled so high with both of our loads it looked like a semi truck on two wheels.  Without his extra effort and encouragement  I would have curled up into a little ball and cried.

Ascend 940 m (3083 feet) Descend 1700 m (5576 feet)

74 km
Oct. 1 Yajiang.  Today is the first day of the national holiday week, the entire country has the week off so it will be busy and difficult to find a room for the next week.  We spent the day relaxing drinking tea and visiting the internet cafe.  We are trying to decide whether to leave tomorrow or not. We have a room with four beds and we are only using two beds. They wanted to move us to another room but we had already paid double what the Chinese would pay.  We paid 20 Y ($2.50) per bed when they would pay 10 Y ($1.25) per bed.  So we were paying 80 Y ($10) for the entire room. We stayed in our room and they found another place to stay.  Normally we would easily share but our belonging were all over the room and sharing our room with strangers is something we avoid, always, we are always willing to pay more for extra security and peace of mind.  
Oct 2 Yajiang - Roadside Hotel.  The small hotel emptied out early, everyone was gone by 8 am.  We decided to stay an extra day and told the owner we wanted to stay.  She said the entire place was reserved for the evening and we could not stay.  So we began to pack.  Then she said that we could move to another room for 120 Y ($12), the same room that she originally said was full.  Hmm she keeps changing her story.  So we decided to go, we do not like to get jerked around on the price of a room.  Besides we were all ready to ride.  The weather was clear in the morning, and the climb started immediately.  For some reason I was struggling more than usual up hill and when we came to a hotel two hours after we started the climb, I wanted to stay.  The room was clean, however, there was no electricity, the bathroom was an outhouse across the street built for buses stopping to fill up on water, and no shower.  The owner wanted to gauge us for a whooping 70 Y ($8.75) when the room should have cost 20 Y ($2.50) at the most.  We bargained the best we could and he would not come down. We reluctantly paid the asking price, we had no choice.  Lucky we did because it started to rain heavily after we got in the room. 

Little did we know that the stretch between Yajiang and Litang would be so difficult.  It was only 135 km but the weather was difficult, we were rained or hailed on daily.  In between it all there were very few hotels and virtually no restaurants, I recommend that anyone planning to ride this section on a bike should carry plenty of food and camping gear.  Our kilometers are fairly accurate but our ascend and descend log was not always turned on first thing in the morning so that data is an estimate.

Ascend  690 meters (2263 feet) Descend 130 meters (426 feet)

10 km
Oct 3 Roadside Hotel - Tibetan Home Stay.  We woke to the sound of rain, a light rain.  The hotel owner was ecstatic that it was raining and expected us to stay another night.  Much to his surprise we packed up and sat and waited for the rain to stop.  The minute it did we were off up the highway.  The reason we left was that our map showed a village  in just two kilometers, we were banking on another hotel in that village. When we arrived in the village it had no facilities at all, no restaurant, no hotel, nothing.  Opps, now I felt like we were out there, no place to go, the weather looked bad, and as we climbed it was getting colder.  I have to say I was nervous, what were we doing anyway.  Tim on the other hand was optimistic, hey we will figure something out. So as always I followed him up the hill.  He was right, three kilometers later, we came to a small town that was not on our map.  A good thing too, it started raining again.  A Tibetan man, a real character with a cowboy hat, thick graying hair, sparkling eyes, and a big smile, ran a small store and he sold us 4 noodles for lunch.  We asked him if we could take his picture but he declined.  Then the school kids came home and Tim was their entertainment for the afternoon.  First he played the hand horn, he cups his hands and blows air through his fingers and plays a song, the kids loved it.  He has entertained kids all over the world this way.  Then we took pictures and showed them to the kids, they were truly a lot of fun.  A Chinese family on vacation from the city, stopped to fill up on water and when they realized that we were traveling on bike they started handing us food. Bread, apples, cokes, mmhh that was very nice of them.  We ate everything they gave us.  It started to rain some more and we were in a dilemma on where to stay. 

Two girls showed up at the store and I asked one of them if they had a room to rent and she said yes.  Wow, that was easy, I took a look at the room and was thrilled to be staying in a traditional Tibetan house, it was clean and comfortable.  We negotiated 20 Y ($2.50) per bed.  We stored the bikes downstairs and brought our belonging up to the second floor of the three story building.  The house obviously had electricity at one time, but like the guy down the hill, there was no electricity now. That was ok there was a great fireplace for cooking in the kitchen and we all hung out around the fireplace.  It felt good to get the chill out.  The college girl was studying English so between our elementary Chinese and her English we had many conversations about family and life in China.  Late in the afternoon her father and brothers came home from working out in the field and cutting wood.  They looked wet, cold and hungry when they arrived. 


Photo of Cindie with Tibetan women in their kitchen.

We played our MP3 player on batteries and they all enjoyed the music we played from America.  We also looked at pictures on our camera of the previous days ride.  As the sunset and the house grew dark they lit a Yak butter candle that illuminated the kitchen fairly well.  I wondered how many centuries this technique has been in use.  Dinner was made in the kitchen and we all ate fried potatoes and rice.  Soon after dinner we all went to bed, I fit snuggly on the Tibetan bed but poor Tim had bruised ankles because his long legs did not fit on the bed.  I went to bed happy to learn a little more about what it is like to live in a Tibetan home.  One of the things I loved is that all the family members were very affectionate with each other and every one was genuinely happy.

Ascend 350 meters (1148 feet) Descend 50 meters (164 feet)

5 km
Oct 4 Tibetan Home Stay - Saddle campsite 1.  In the morning everyone was up and off to work early.  The only person left was the women who I negotiated the room with. Tim insisted that I pay while the entire family was there but I trusted the girl to be honest and that was a mistake. He warned me that she would take advantage of the situation and I ignored him believing that the girl would be honest with her family. Well she was not. When I went to pay for the room and food she charged us an outrageous sum for the food. We had rice and potatoes for dinner and Somba (barley floor and Yak butter) for breakfast.  She wanted to charge us 60 Y  ($7.50) for food.  To put it in perspective that amount of money would buy six more substantial meals including meat in the city.   I am more than willing to pay a fair price but that was taking advantage of us.  Tim was upset because he knew the money would not go to the family and instead to buy something for herself when she went back to college.  I paid and was very disappointed about it, are we just about money?  I thought we had a cultural exchange instead now I feel like we were invited in because we have money.  With a heavy heart we left, again in the rain.  I must remember that her family was very kind to open their house to us and that they were not aware of what she did, the family works hard and I appreciate them for being open with us.  However, I learned that I had a hand in this too, I set up the situation for her to take advantage of us and I will not let that happen again.  It may be human nature to take advantage of situations when we can.

We finally made it up over the pass that took us three days to climb.  The sign said 4659 meters but Tim's altimeter said 4500 meters, I believe Tim's altimeter, the altitude signs are off about 150 to 200 meters it does not matter to me it all feels the same.  We set up our camp in a saddle before a whooper of a storm rolled in. Our tent and sleeping bags are for Southeast Asia, light and jungle weather.  I am amazed how well we have kept warm and dry.

 


Picture of Cindie in our tent at our first of many campsites along Highway 318.

We camped in a saddle between two passes elevation 4150 meters (13612 feet) our highest camp ever.  Chinese families stopped by and gave us water and food.  We had plenty of food and water with us but it was very kind and generous of them to take care of us.

Ascend   965 meters (3165 feet) Descend 485 meters (1591 feet)

35 km
Oct 5 Saddle campsite to the Travis shack.  We woke to a heavy fog rolling up from the valley below. Our tent was wet and we needed to dry it before we rolled it up.  As we pulled out our belonging to dry in the sun Tibetan and Chinese families came by to see what we were doing.  The Tibetan families were interested in are tent they were perplexed by the tent poles, they could not understand how they worked but loved the tent.  They were all smiles and thumbs up. The Chinese families wanted to take pictures, I was beginning to feel like a celebrity and they would hand us apples, oranges and water.  We actually had more food when we left then when we arrived at this camp site.

We rode over two more passes and along the way passed a highway crew building but we pressed on to our third pass.  Just when the pass was in sight it started to hail, big hail balls too.  We stood in the hail discussing what to do next.  We have been caught in hail storms in the past and have a healthy respect for them.  We decided to turn around and seek shelter back at the highway building.  When we arrived there were numerous people taking shelter there.  Tim asked if we could camp there and the answer was no.  No, yikes now what do we do. We did what we do best, hang out.  The area was also a stop for buses and truck coming up and going down the hill.  Soon we were swamped by Chinese tourists who wanted to take photos with us and our bikes.  I now know what it feels like to be famous. It certainly can be entertaining.  This bit of fame helped us secure a room at the bus stop.  The man in charge decided to let us stay in a wooden shack with our bikes.  It was secure, not quite as warm as our tent, but enough to protect us from the elements at 4350 meters (14268 feet).  We broke our record for highest camp site rather quickly.   I have named the little room the Travis shack, we will sleep anywhere.  Hey I am not going to argue.


Tim with a young monk and his dad, standing in front of a wooden shack where we spent the night.  The Travis' will sleep anywhere, we are at an elevation of 4350 meters (14268 feet)

Ascend  785 meters (2574 feet) Descend 400 meters (1312 feet)

27 km
Oct 6 The Travis shack to the Yak camp.  We woke to a nice sunny day. I wanted to pack up quickly but the altitude slowed me down.  I was out of breath after taking just a few steps. On we pushed over our first pass that would turn out to be our highest pass so far.  The sign said 4718 meters (15475 feet) again I think that it is too high.  We were finally getting in some kilometers when we started to climb over another pass.  I was not feeling well, I was struggling again. Tim took what he could off my bike and still I was struggling. He wanted to take my rear bags and I stubbornly would not let him. So he did the next best thing.  He shifted down in a low gear and slowly rode up beside me, placed his hand on my back and pushed me up the hill.  My god where does this man get his energy, I feel like a worn out rag.  He would push until he was completely out of breath (me too).  Take a break and push me again. Finally we made it over the top. 

I wanted to take a break but the weather looked awful cloudy and dark so we pushed on to the town of Taziba.  This town had a hotel but we decided to push on, we would learn later that was a bad decision.  As soon as we arrived at the restaurant we were surrounded by the townspeople.  Every one was very curious about our bikes so we sat outside the restaurant and ate lunch.  The kids were all red cheeked and had runny noses.  Oh what I would do with a box of Kleenex.  Then a little old lady wandered over, she seemed as old as the hills but had genuinely friendly smile.  Then the cowboys all descended on us.  Tim said, "Here comes the leader of the group". I said, "Oh yeah, what does he look like?" his reply was, "Elvis".  At that moment I looked over and there he was, a rugged Tibetan cowboy with Elvis glasses and hair cut.  I could do nothing but giggle and this made everyone around me smile.  I love these guys.  After lunch we decided to push on another 20 km to a place where we thought would be a hotel.  On our way we crossed another pass and on the descent it started to rain.  I wanted to take cover put there was no where to go.  We rode on in the freezing rain for 5 km to the intersection of two highways.  There were restaurants there but no hotel.  I was cold, tired, and exhausted.  We asked the restaurant owner if we could camp out back and the answer was no.  No, we had to push on.  At this point a Chinese tourist helped us translate what we wanted to do.  I did not want to push on, the Chinese tourists on a private tour bus offered to take us to Litang, just 18 km away. I was extremely tempted but I wanted to stay with Tim, how would I find him if we separated. Besides the sun was out and I foolishly thought we could make it Litang. I turned down the bus ride, another bad decision for the day.  So on we pushed towards Litang, the restaurant owner said it was all downhill to Litang except for one small hill.  That one small hill turned out to be over 355 meters (1164 feet).  A pass I did not have the legs to get over.  Besides it started to rain so we decided to make camp off to the side of the road.  While we were setting up I realized it was going to be another cold night without a shower and I just cried, why didn't I get on the bus.  Tim on the other hand, said, look how beautiful it is here and as I looked up the valley I saw a herd of Yaks coming our way.  Yaks, oh boy, I have not seen many up close and personal, that would change quickly.  The herd slowly made there way towards us and I realized that we needed to protect our camp site or they would trample our tent.  So here I was, herding Yaks, they are about the size of a cow but have huge horns and a long furry tail.  I guess I am a little rusty because a little one got by me to the right and he hit the fence pretty hard, bounced off it and right into our tent.  Good thing our tent poles are flexible, the tent just bent away from him.  Our bikes got pretty rattle when the little guy hit the fence.  We were entertained the rest of the evening watching herd after herd of Yaks, horses and goats walk by us.  Then it was dark and we crawled in our tent, it seemed colder than usual and we were lower than the night before.  Then it began to rain and rain hard for more than an hour.  After the rain let up some I could here the river loud and clear. Hey wait a minute, I did not think it was that close. I looked outside and saw a river of water coming down from the road, straight for out tent and then veer off away from us.  Tim had picked the highest point around, another nightmare narrowly averted.  Our bikes were not so lucky, the river of water was flowing over Tim's rear wheel.  I tell ya that bus ride sounds pretty good right about now.  We went to sleep and it rained off and on all night.

 


Photo of Cindie herding Yaks around our campsite.  One managed to get through on the right, I guess Cindie is a little rusty herding Yaks.

Ascend  735 meters (2411 feet) Descend 990 meters (3247 feet)

48 km
Oct 7 The Yak camp - Litang (3920 m, x feet).  I opened my eyes and the first thing I noticed was the shape of the water crystals on the tent.  They were not the normal round shape but diamond shaped.  Oh no, it was snow.  I popped up out of my sleeping bag, opened the tent door and saw snow on the mountains around us and our bikes. Our poor bikes they were taking a beating.  I moaned and crawled back into my sleeping bag.  We slowly got out of the tent and Tim made coffee.  We were once again entertained by the herds of Yaks, horses, and goats going by only in the other direction.  We had a young monk visitor who was just curious, I made him a cup of tea but he had to leave and chase his herd of horses.  He was wet from walking through the underbrush but he did not seem to mind.  And here I was with my high tech equipment and clothes complaining about the cold.  He put in perspective for me.  I toughened up and packed to ride over out last pass.  It was a short 45 minute climb but I was mentally relieved to reach the top.

At the top a Dutch couple and their three kids and dog stopped and chatted with us, it is rare to see foreigners driving in China.  They were working in Chengdu, were residents of China and that is how they got a license to drive.  Greta generously handed me a handful of chocolate bars and said that they were once hiking in Iceland and some tourists handed them chocolate and she said it was the best thing.  Well I have to agree, I was nearly in tears, chocolate, chocolate will cheer any girl up.  What a luxury, now all I need is a hot shower.

We made the quick descent into town.  It was a warm sunny afternoon.  I looked at four hotels before I choose one, based on the shower of course.  We stayed at the Litang Hotel for 100 Y ($12) a night, private bathroom, hot shower and nice room. Just a little cold, Opps I forgot to check for a heater.  below is a photo of Tim before the hot shower.


Tim first arriving in a comfortable hotel room in Litang after 6 days of camping and hard riding at high altitude.  He is ready for a hot shower and shave.

Ascend 355 meters (1164 feet) Descend 490 (1607 feet)

10 km
Oct 8 Litang.  Rest day.  I was so tired from the last couple of days of riding that I just stayed in bed all day.  Besides it was rainy and cold outside.  
Oct 9 Litang. We went to Buddhist Monastery today, entrance to the monastery was free.  The place was relatively quiet however, we did find a group of monks taking a break from their studies.  
Oct 10 Litang.  We spent the day getting work done on the web page. When we originally asked to connect at the internet cafe we were told we could not.  We went to two internet cafes and both told us we could not connect.  So we did the next best thing, we went into the corner of the internet cafe and secretly connected our computer.  We spent the next three hours hiding from the internet owners and the authorities.  At one point a group of soldiers came in and sat down next to us but they ignored us.  We posted our photos, you can see them now and left the internet quickly.

We found a restaurant that had an English menu, Mr. Zeng, he is Tibetan and Chinese.  He cooks really good food, it is more expensive then the other restaurants but very tasty.  He is located a half a block from the Crane Guest House.  We met Luke from Australia there, he is studying Buddhism.  We met Luke the next couple of nights and really enjoyed his company at dinner.  We also met Richard a former rocket scientist (serious) from the US who is sponsoring 4 different Tibetan girls education.  He pays for their high school education and one of them is going on the Beijing University.  I am really impressed, I have to say that is one of the best ways I have see someone help a group of people in poverty.  I wish I got the name of the organization he went through.

 
Oct 11 Litang.  Another work day on the computer.  
Oct 12 Litang - Cogsum (3600 m, 11808 feet)  It took half the morning to pack, the longer we stay somewhere the longer it takes to pack.  So we left about noon on hwy 217 and rode straight into a headwind. We knew we were only going to ride 41 km because our friend Vince sent us an email and said that there was a hotel 41 km from Litang.  He did not stay there but he recommended that we do.  He pushed on and ended up staying with nomads at a much higher altitude.

The weather changed a few days ago, it is much drier now.  It is nice riding without worrying if it is going to rain.   Traffic is light on Hwy, 217, mostly local Tibetans going from village to village.  They all drive a machine with a lawn mower engine in front while they sit in a trailer attached to it.  If you have ever seen the movie "Mad Max" with Mel Gibson then you would recognize this vehicle.  It looks like a "Mad Max" mobile.  The Tibetans decorate them with florescent colors, flowers, and elaborate rugs.  They are the friendliest bunch of people, every vehicle that passed us on the road waved. It is nice to be acknowledged.  It shows how little traffic there is here.

We found our hotel at 41 km, the room was 20 Y ($2.50) and we could roll our bikes right in the room.  A large group of Chinese stopped for dinner in the evening and we enjoyed an evening of hotpot with them.  Everything including hearts, feet, liver and gizzards were thrown in the pot, I preferred the vegetables myself. 

Ascend 385 meters (1263 feet) Descend 650 meters (2132 feet)

41 km
Oct 13 Cogsum - highest camp ever, 4585 meters (15026 feet)  We leisurely packed in the morning.  I could not get Tim away from the little puppy that wanted to constantly play.  Just before we left a group came in with a monk, seemed ordinary to me.  However, the monk turned out to an important monk and he really liked what we were doing. So he blessed us and gave us white scarf.  Wow, I have never been blessed before.  We also had our photos take with a whole host of people.  Tim decided to carry my extra weight from the very start, we wanted to get over the pass today.

When we started out our climb it was calm and no wind. About an hour into the climb the wind started to blow hard.  It was another strong head wind.  Uggh.  Even riding behind Tim I was getting beat up by the wind.  The grade would have been easy but the wind made it feel like a steep climb.  After 13 km we took a break. The scenery is stunning, the river is crystal clear, the trees are turning the autumn yellow and the evergreens are a deep green and blue like a blue spruce.  I feel like I am in a National Park in the USA rather than China.  Then of course a Tibetan mad max mobile goes by and I realize that I am a stranger in a strange land.

We carried on for another 2 hours, the wind had let up some on the switch backs but we were both already worn out. So when a camp site presented itself we decided to camp.  our highest ever.  When we gathered wood we had to stop and catch our breath.  We could see the top but knew it would take a while to get there. We had water near by, it was snow melt, yes it has already snowed at this elevation but it was melting now.  We are above tree line so there is nothing to protect us from the wind.  We thought that the wind would die down eventually but it never did. We had a fire but it wasn't that warm.  It was a cold a blustery night.  Again, the scenery is stunning, sheer rock cliffs with snow in all the crevasses.  These rocks have obviously been glaciated, they ridge was carved into sharp points that resembled the shape of an ice cube.  I managed to get warm and some sleep, the altitude was daunting, I  woke up several times gasping for air.

Ascend 930 meters (3050 feet) Descend 95 meters (311 feet)

28 km
Oct 14 Highest camp ever 4581 meters (15026 feet) - Sumdo (4000 m, 13120 feet).  I opened my eyes and saw snow crystals on the tent.  Brrhh and the wind is still blowing. I got up and kept moving to stay warm.  We packed and tackled the pass in no time.  The wind was once again in our face. After the 4700 m (15416 feet) at 31 km from the hotel, we descended into a high valley.  We saw nomad tents in this valley, this is where we think Vince stayed the night when he rode through.  The valley was short and we were on another climb.  Our map said that the pass was 46 km from Cogsum.  It was hard to determine where the pass was, we were above tree line still, the terrain was granite boulders with water flowing everywhere, it would be very difficult to camp up here, possible but difficult.  The grade down the other side was gradual, it would have been a great ride if the wind was not blowing so hard in our face.  Going the other way would have been better, even up hill.  Oh well the scenery is beautiful and the canyon we dropped down into was very pleasant.  Again, a clean flowing river, evergreens that smelled wonderful the pine smell reminds me of Prescott. The Yak herders have moved down from the high country and now are in the canyons.  We watch a herd on Yak cross the river, Yup these are China's cowboys alright.

Just before we arrived in Sumdo we passed the Shengpi Temple, an beautiful Buddhist monastery.  In Sumdo we stayed in the only place the had rooms, it is called, "The First Manor".  The cost was 10 Y a bed.  The restaurant was nice but the bathroom was beyond typical.  It was overflowing. Tim took a picture of the men's side but I do not think we can even post it on the net. it was nasty.  In the evening a group of truckers came in and were extremely noisy, they even tried to break in our room, they thought the door was stuck.  Nothing like bolting out of bed when someone is breaking down the door.

Ascend 555 meters (1820 feet) Descend 1065 meters (3493 feet)

54 km
Oct 15 Sumdo 4000 m (13120 feet). We took the day off the bike and did laundry.  Tim worked on the bikes for hours, cleaning and tuning, he keeps our bikes going well.  It was a nice sunny day so it was great day for cleaning.  
Oct 16 Sumdo - Icicle campsite (4000 m, 13120 feet). The women at the hotel told us it was 14 km to the pass, she was wrong it was 17.6 km to the pass.  It does not sound like much of a difference but at high altitudes we can ride as slow as 4 km an hour, so it was an hour more of riding.  We were lucky that the wind was calm in the early stretch.  As we approached 4400 m ( x feet) I began to get light headed and was having difficulty breathing.  It is always a struggle for me to get over these high passes, even when Tim has taken most of my weight.  We took a break and I laid down with my feet up because I also felt nauseous.  I began to talk about catching a bus and Tim said, "Oh no, a Travis never quits", and walked over and grabbed my rear two bags and put them on his front handle bars.  I said, "No way you can ride your bike like that, and Tim said," watch me" and he did all the way up to the first pass which took an hour on the dirt road. 


Photo of Tim carrying my bags as well as his up over the high mountain passes.

I felt better, I could breath because I was not working as hard.  On the other hand I could hear Tim breathing hard but he just pushed on up the hill.  He continues to amaze me with his athletic ability, he says it is all in your head, the minute you start to think about getting on a bus you give up.  I believe this is partially true, I also believe I have hit my limit and he has not.  I truly appreciate him taking my bags and encouraging me to the top.  We still had to ride on another hour but by this time I had gotten the wind back in my lungs and could ride on.  Over the pass the decent was fast and easy, the road was paved less then a kilometer from the pass.  The canyon was absolutely stunning, going downhill is always pleasant for me, the air gets heavier and I can breath easier.  We camped at an elevation of 4000 meters.  We had a nice flat place for the tent and an excellent camp fire, the wind did not interfere with our comfort this time.  The camp fire made all the difference.  We would never have had a campfire in Central or South America, it is too dangerous.  Here in China, at least this part, it is common and no one bothers us. 

Ascend 860 meters (2821 feet) Descend 830 meters (2722 feet)

33 km
Oct 17 Icicle campsite - Xiangcheng (2920 m, 9578 feet). Another cold night, we had icicles hanging off the tent in the morning.  Hurry Tim, light that camp fire.  We cooked our breakfast of bread and tofu sticks on the hot rocks. hmm it tasted better than it sounds.  Since we have been at high altitude I have lost my appetite, I suspect that this may be the source of my troubles with high altitude.  It is not my nature to lose my appetite, in fact, in my old job I acquired the nickname " Chuck wagon" because I always carried food with me where ever I went.  I suspect that when I get to a lower elevation that my appetite will come back and I will be eating a whole months worth of food in one sitting. Riding at high altitude is the ultimate weight lose program, I do not know how much I weigh but I know my clothes fit better.

We headed down the hill, I thought that it would be a nice easy day.  We dropped out of our high valley and into another canyon, the relief from the bottom of the valley to the high peaks ranges from 3,000 feet to 9,000 feet.  Nothing like feeling incredibly small.  Tucked in the valley are Tibetan villages, large white houses with ornate doors and windows.  I assumed that the Tibetan homes would be small, I assumed wrong.  The typical Tibetan home is three or four stories tall.  The bottom floor is for the animals, so it feels like walking into a barn when you enter a Tibetan home.  The second floor is the main living area, a very large kitchen with a huge fireplace is the main source of heat, the living room is ornately decorated, the Tibetans are incredibly artistic.  The third floor is used for drying hay and other harvested crops.  Since it is autumn the third floor is filled with drying hay and corn.

We stopped at a road side hut and had noodles for lunch.  We showed the owner our flyer explaining that we were traveling around the world on bike and he was thrilled to have us in for lunch.  He gave us each a Pepsi and vegetables for our soup.  Lately, people have been giving us food when ever we stop, the people here are extremely friendly and generous.  We only had 24 km to go to town but it seemed like an eternity.  My legs felt heavy and my energy level was way down. Tim was tired too, but I could understand that, all that extra weigh he is carrying and then my rear bags to boot at the highest pass we have climbed yet.  We rode into town, it seems the entire town is under construction.  We met a couple from Shang hi and they showed us a nice little family run hotel.  We had our own private room, more like a bedroom, with the bathroom next to us.  It had a western toilet and hot shower, luxury.  We paid 60 Y ($7.50) for the night. I recommend the hotel, it is located in front of the bus station, the tile on the front has a large tiger, there is no sign that says hotel but just ask for a room.  Anymore we prefer to stay at family run hotels than the big impersonal hotels.

In the evening we went to a nearby restaurant and met Weng and Kay from Scotland.  They are here with a group of botanists and are collecting seeds to bring back to Scotland. They are hiking and camping at high altitude as well. They were extremely interesting to talk to, I am not sure how they do all that hiking, I am out of breath climbing the stairs.  I much prefer my bike to my feet lately.

Ascend 435 meters (1148 feet) Descend 1510 meters ( 4953 feet)

54 km
Oct 18 Xiangcheng.  We found the internet cafe, it is slow but steady.  I wandered around town visiting the market and various stores.  I found some cheese, it is fresh cheese, I bought some but decided not to eat much of it later.  I decided it probably was not pasteurized.  I am still resting from the epic ride here.  Tim is fine and does not seemed to be phased much by the riding.  We met the group of Botanists and friends at our favorite restaurant. We also went for a beer with them.  The will renting horses and trekking at high altitude.  The horses will be carrying their gear while they walk.  What an adventure.  They have also been to the pass that we will be riding. We now know that it is at 4125 m 13530 feet.  
Oct 19 Xiangcheng.  We did our laundry today, the family let us use their washing machine, I did three loads.  The wind was blowing so strong that everything dried in an hour.  I also ran around town buying provisions for the next couple of days of riding. The selection is not as good as Litang and Kangding but will get us through.   
Oct 20 Xiangcheng to overlook camp 3850 m (12628 feet).  We thought we would have most of the day for riding, however, when we pulled our bikes from the locked room I had a flat front tire.  It was impossible to find the cause of the flat.  At close inspection of my front tire there was glass, rocks and thorns embedded in my tire.  My tire is getting old. So we slowly checked the entire tire.  This took more than 30 minutes but we have learned in the past that it is better to take the time to find glass and thorns than it is to throw a new tube in and then repair a flat a couple of kilometers up the road.

We had breakfast at our favorite restaurant before we left town, the cook there was fantastic and charged reasonable prices. After breakfast, it was a steady climb towards our pass but the grade of the road was not as steep as we were use to so it was not such a grind.  The highway is called XV09 and starts in Xiangcheng.  We were planning on going over the pass today, but as we climbed and came to a nice camp spot near water we had to stop.  When we stopped we immediately had company.  Two cars with about 10 Chinese people who must have belonged to the camera club because they had more cameras then people in the car.  They must have taken at least 40 pictures with us, it was hard to set up camp.  Camp was nice, no wind and warm in the sunshine.  The weather is changing and it is getting cold, so I know it will be a matter of weeks and our lovely campsite will be covered in snow.  We had soup for dinner, noodles, mushrooms, and pickled bamboo shoots.  I bought a can of stewed pork that turned out to be bacon. It all melted into fat when I added it to our soup.  It turned out that it did not taste as bad as it sounds, maybe I am just hungry.  The night was warmer than usual because of the cloud cover and you know what that means.

Ascend 1040 meters (3411 feet) Descend 120 meters ( 394 feet)

21 km
Oct 21 Overlook camp to small Tibetan town with checkpoint.  We woke to cloudy skies, it was warm but I could see the moisture coming down the valley. Bummer I was hoping for a sunny day.  We still had to get over our pass.  Just as we were eating breakfast it started to rain, not hard but enough to send me running to the tent for shelter.  I was feeling better today so I took back most of my extra load from Tim.  He has been carrying the extra water bottles and sleeping bags since I pooped out on the last big climb.  Thank you Tim, he was now showing a little wear so I thought I better jump in and grab my own weight.  I was glad we camped where we did because there was no water at the top of the pass. Nice camping but no water.  The botanists warned us that there was no water at the top and there wasn't.

We knew we were at the pass when we saw the prayer flags, there are always prayer flags at each pass.  At one pass I saw a truck driver throwing little pieces of paper with prayers on them out the window.  I guess it is a type of blessing.  The prayer flags at this pass seemed to be new, they made quite a sight fluttering in the wind.  We stopped and took a photo of us in front of them, and yes it is cold. My feet froze on the way down the other side. 


Photo of Tim and Cindie with prayer flags in the background, we are at 4125 m (13530 feet).

The ride down was fast and fun, except for the occasional land slide.  We were amongst the Tibetan villages just in time for lunch.  We knew there was a place to stay at 55 km because the botanists did a home stay somewhere over here.  We continued on to town and stopped for lunch. 

We walked into this restaurant and it was like walking into the bar in the Star Wars movie where everyone is an alien. OK we were probably the aliens to everyone else with our black riding tights and helmets.  The restaurant's back wall was made of earth, the roof was made of plywood and plastic with rocks holding down the plastic.  The floor was earth and well beaten.  A big potbelly stove was in the middle where big pots of who know what was cooking.  The first man I saw had a weathered felt cowboy hat on.  He had at least two coats on, one a modern wind breaker and the other one made from a sheep, the sheep coat was on one arm while the other arm dangled to the side.  In his left hand he had a huge Yak horn, later I would find out it was full of snuff because he offered Tim some.  He declined.  In his right hand were beads, Buddhists beads that he twirled in his fingers.  He smiled at us and we decided to sit town with him.  I ordered two bowls of noodles and a cup of tea.  The tea had a strange taste to it and the glasses looked like they had not been washed in this century.  So we passed on the tea.  The noodles were pretty good except for the spice that numbs our tongues.  I think it is a type of clove.


We met this man in a small restaurant, he has a snuff horn in his right hand and beads in his left.

During our lunch it began to rain outside. That pretty much took the wind out of my sails, besides I knew we had to climb another small pass after town. We found a room across the street for 20 Y ($2.50).  We were invited around the pot belly stove while the owner cooked us up a couple of slices of potatoes.  They were good and tasty.  We also shared the room with two dogs and a chicken.  Yes a chicken.  He never left the room and the dogs never touched it, amazing.

Ascend 440 meters (1443 feet) Descend 825 meters ( 2706 feet)

36 km
Oct 22 km 57 to km 106.  We were up and over our climb in no time. The descent down was dizzying.  Oh I saw so many places to camp but we had to keep moving. The weather was on and off with the clouds and rain.  We rode through a few small villages.  We were now down at the river at 2800 m. We had dropped 1000 m and it was much warmer here.

The valley looks over grazed and most of the trees have been cut down. If this area ever has an earthquake these small villages will be very vulnerable to landslides because of the huge amount of deforestation.  I think of this because of the recent earthquakes on the other side of the Himalayas in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.  I look around here and think that this is not the place to be. 

We have three maps of this area, one Chinese, one German, and one Canadian.  The Chinese map is old put it at least has the village names on it.  The German map is way off, it is the Nelles Maps for Central China.  Normally these maps are pretty good but this one needs to be redone, I do not think that the Chinese in charge allow good maps or something.  The Canadian map shows elevation and surprisingly has been the most accurate for elevations.

We rode along the valley and started to climb again.  Our map showed that it was 5 km to the next village.  It was up yet another pass.  I voted to camp and we camped among a summer dwelling area along the creek.  We had a few visitors, a road crew who gave us some walnuts.  Tim showed them our stove, something they have never seen before. A stove that runs on gas.  They also watched us put up our tent. They tried to summon a ride but no one would take them. They would all stop to look at us and then drive off when the road workers asked for a ride.  Hey, these guys are taking care of the road for you, the least you could do is give them a ride down the hill.  Ungrateful drivers.  In the end the road crew had to walk down the hill.  We had soup for dinner and went to sleep at sunset.  It was a warm night and it began to rain towards morning. 

Ascend 725 meters (725 feet) Descend 1125 meters ( 4953 feet)

48 km
Oct 23 km 106 to Derong.  Well it looked like we were riding in the rain today.  At least for the climb.  Once we were over the pass the roads started to dry out.  We heading down hill and the wind was heading up hill.  The very strong head wind slowed our progress.

At one point I saw our road go up and over another pass at least 400 meters up. Oh not another climb. I wanted some food before we tackled that climb.  So we stopped at a little store with barely anything to eat, cookies and potato chips.  I was hoping for something better.  Tim kept telling me that was not our road and I kept insisting it was.  It turns out that it was not our road, it was a side road. To my delight we went screaming past the intersection.

The canyon was pleasant to ride down however I kept thinking going up would be easy with this headwind.

The hotel in town was fancy.  When I walked in each table had bowls of candy and cigarettes (no kidding) at each table along with liquor and soft drinks. I was not prepared for such decadence in such a modest town.

Ascend 460 meters (1148 feet) Descend 980 meters ( 4953 feet)

56 km
Oct 24 Derong.  We took a stroll around Derong today, it is a small town with some Tibetan homes and then the typical Chinese concrete block buildings. We stopped in a restaurant for lunch, it was located near the bus stop.  Many, many people came by just to take a look at the foreigners in the restaurant. Not many foreigners stop here. The town seems to have more young people then adults.  There is a high school and middle school in town and many kids from the surrounding area go here. Some of the kids practiced there English with us.  
Oct 25 Derong.  We decided to rest our legs one more day.  
Oct 26 Derong - Thorn Camp. The weather is clear and the road is paved. What a nice day to ride. We expected to get through the canyon today with such a nice road to ride.  Someone told me that there was only 10 km of dirt on this stretch.  That information turned out to be wrong.  There is actually 35 km of dirt. The province of Sichuan would not let go of us for another day.  We hit the dirt after km 42.  I have no idea why they stopped paving the road, the sides are prepared for paving, the project was just abandoned.  Is this a sign of economic slow down or a change in project priorities, we will never know.  The result is the same, dirt road.  We decided to make camp in an area where we could get water.  As we descended down the canyon it became more desert like and water started to become scarce.

We decided to camp on an old abandoned field, it was the only flat place we could find.  We checked out the site and nothing looked bad about the camp, that is until we moved out bikes down and then realized that it was full of thorns. We call them goat heads, they were a bit smaller but just as sharp.  I ended up patiently picking out all the thorns out of our tires. Uggh this could be a disaster.

While we were preparing our dinner of noodle soup we had a visitor.  He said her saw us from his home way up on the hill by pointing up to his home.  He had some prayer beads and tried to give them to Tim. Tim politely declined.  Then he asked Tim for his shoes by pointing at his shoe and then Tim's shoe and showing a sign that meant trade.  Tim politely declined the trade. He continued to asked Tim for his shoes many times as if Tim would change his mind.  Then he showed us his picture of the Dali Lama that he wore around his neck.  It was in a beautifully carved silver case, something else was inside, I could only guess what lucky amulet was in there.  He asked Tim for his shoes again and told him he could buy another pair in Zongdian.  Finally he got the hint and realized Tim wasn't going to give him his shoes or anything else and left.  Tim has shoes that are very difficult to find in China they are a size 48 (13) besides we do not hand out anything to anybody.  I feel it is just wrong to give out money, it corrupts people and takes away their dignity at the same time.  Unfortunately, some tourists give out something and then the locals expect it from every other tourist they see. We have seen this problem in many improvised parts of the world.

Ascend 425 meters (1394 feet) Descend 735 meters ( 2411 feet)

42 km road

12 km dirt

Oct 27 Thorn Camp - Xiaduo.  We rode for 13 km and saw pavement.  Yes pavement.  It was the town of Zhalantong where we stopped for lunch. This town has quite a few hotels and it looked like it would have been an interesting place to stay.  As we rode out of town we encountered dirt again, a rude reality.  Dirt for another 10 or so kilometers.  All the while we could see pavement on the other side.  Our Lets Go guide book said you could take a ferry from Zhalantong to Benzilan but I did not see any boats going back and forth over the river. Ah well.

Pavement finally came and we climbed to the town of Xiaduo and found a room for 20 Y ($2.50).  The toilet was across the street, down the road, and across the river.  Predictable.

Ascend 375 meters (1235 feet) Descend 390 meters ( 1280 feet)

23 km dirt

5 km road

Oct 28 Xiaduo - Pine Camp.  I woke up all excited, we were going to ride to Zongdian today. A mere 65 km away.  Sounded easy.  We had read another bike journal and it said the pass was at 3100 meters (10168 feet) and we were at 2100 meters (6888 feet).  So that did not sound so bad.  The road seems relatively new and has a nice grade.  We climbed for over 3 hours and then we saw the pass.  It took us another 45 minutes before we reached the pass.  I thought we would find a restaurant but we didn't all we found was a small store, but it at least had noodles and hot water.  The pass was at 3250 meters (10660 feet).

We were now riding in the pines, oh I loved the smell of pines.  I could tell that Tim wanted to stop and camp. I wanted to ride on, we could make it to Zongdian.  I was dreaming of a hot shower.  I did not want to camp. So we compromised, we carried enough water for the solar shower and we camped.  I got a hot shower and Tim got to camp.  It all worked out.  It was such a beautiful view too.

Ascend 1165 meters (3821 feet) Descend 75 meters ( 246 feet)

26 km
Oct 29 Pine Camp - Zongdian.  We leisurely packed up thinking it was an easy day of riding, we had already conquered the pass.  Wrong again.  We rode into a valley and past a small town with lodging.  Then we saw the real pass up ahead.  Hmm the bike journal I read did not mention another pass. Ah well it was a sunny day, we had a slight tail wind. A good day to ride so we took our time on the climb.  The pass turned out to be at 3650 meters (11972 feet). 

Then we dropped into a wide broad valley with tons of Chinese tourists riding horses in the open valley. It reminded me of when we landed in Yangshou over six months ago.  We rode from the middle of nowhere to tourist central in a matter of a kilometer.  It is more of a shock to the senses more than anything else.  I really do mind, when there are over a billion people in the country there are going to be a lot of tourists, that is all there is to it.

We headed to the foreign tourist end of town.  I was wanting some western food, Tim suggested a noodle shop and I could not stand the thought of another bowl of noodles at the moment.  I have had more noodles in the last month then I can count.  No thank you and we went to a restaurant with western food.  Nothing looked good on the menu, so I ordered broccoli and a chicken dish. That was good enough for me.  The western food was too expensive, I was having sticker shock.

While looking for a room I saw another cyclist so I decided to stay in the same hotel.  A Tibetan hotel right next to old town. I could see a very large prayer wheel from the window of the hotel.  That decided it for me, I have developed a fascination for pray wheels.

Ascend 855 meters (2804 feet) Descend 720 meters ( 2362 feet)

40 km
Oct 30 - Nov Zongdian 3350 meters (10988).  

  =====
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INDEX #3: SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to 9-15-06

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

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November 22 - December 15, 2004
Thailand
Bangkok, to Aranyaprathet, Thailand

Cindie's Daily Journals
Thailand #1

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
INTRO Crossing Over to the Other Side: Relocating to Asia

LETTER Thailand: Landing in a Whole New World.

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Thailand Thumbnail Pictures

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- Bangkok, Thailand
- Royal Barge Museum
- Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand
- Wat Phra Kaew and Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- Pictures of Wat Pho
- Bangkok to Chanthaburi, Thailand.
- Island Ko Samet National Park
- Thailand's famous Thai Food
- Chanthaburi to Aranya Prathet and the Cambodian border.


 

 December 16- January 16, 2005
Cambodia and Angkor Wat
Poipet to Tien Bien, Cambodia

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Cambodia Daily Journal

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Cambodia: Poverty Does Not Equal Crime.

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Cambodia Thumbnail Pictures

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- Pictures of  Poverty in Cambodia: Poipet to Siem Reap
- Picture from Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- Temples Bayon, Angkor Thom
Ta Prom (Temple where Tomb Raider was filmed)
- Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Eastern Mebon, Banteay Kei, Ta Som, Pre Rup

- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Tuol Sleng S.21 Museum of Genocidal Crime
- Killing Fields of Pol Pot Cambodia
- Phnom Penh to Tinh Bien


 

(January 16 - February 17 , 2005)
Vietnam #1.
Tinh Bien to Cau Ganh, Vietnam

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Online South Vietnam Journal

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Best Place to see Pictures
South Vietnam Thumbnails

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- Chau Doc to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
- Floating Market and Boat Trip Tour
- Vietnam War Remnants Museum
- Cuchi Tunnels, Saigon, Vietnam
- Cuchi Tunnels Cu Chi near Saigon, Vietnam
- Pictures from Dalat, Vietnam
- Bicycling from Dalat to Buon Ma Thuot
- Jun Village
- Buon Ma Thuot to Cau Ganh


 
(February 18. - April 2, 2005)
Vietnam #2.
Cau Ganh, to Lang Son, Vietnam

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Daily Journal for North Vietnam.

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North Vietnam Thumbnail Pictures.

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- Cau Ganh to Hoi An
- Hoi An, Vietnam
- China Beach to Hue.
- Marble Mountain
- The Citadel in Hue
- Impoverished Highland Market Can Cau.
- Poverty Village of Bac Ha.

Hanoi water puppet


 
(April 3 - May 21, 2005)
Guangxi, China
Pingxiang to CongJiang, China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Finally in China!

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Three Years and Still Going

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Best Thumbnail Pictures of Guangxi, China

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- Pingxiang to Nanning, China
- Nanning, Guangxi to Liuzhou
- China's Karst Topography Landscape.
- Liuzhou to Yangshou, Guangxi, China
- Zhuo Yue English College in Yangshuo, China
- Li River bamboo boat trip in Yangshou..
- Ancient Chinese Stone Village of Fuli.
- Impressions light, dance, and music.
- Mountain biking through Yu Long Valley.
- Guilin to Congjiang Guangxi, China
- Reed Flute Cave Guilin China.
- Ping'an Guangxi, China.
- Dragon's Backbone and Rice Terraces.


 

May 22 - June 27, 2005

  Guizhou and Hunan, China
Congjiang to Zhangjiajie National Park China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Guizhou, China

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Made in China: Free Birds in a Caged World!

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Pictures of Guizhou, China.

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- Congjiang to Kaili, Guizhou, China
- Kaili Guizhou - Wulingyuan National Park, Hunan.
- Wulingyuan (Zhangjiajie) National Park, Hunan.


 

(June 28 - July 15, 2005)

Beijing, China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Beijing, China daily Blog and Journal

Best Place to see Pictures
Best and favorite pictures from Beijing, China

Full size Picture Pages

- Pictures from Beijing, China
- Pictures of Forbidden City, China
- Summer Palace
- Great Wall from Jinshanling Simatai, China.
- Badaling Section of the Great Wall of China


 

(July 16 - Sept. 3, 2005)
Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, China.
Beijing to Xian, Shaanxi, China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, China daily journal (blog)

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
The Many Faces of China: Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, Provinces.!

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Thumbnail pictures from Inner Mongolia, China.

Full size Picture Pages

- Beijing to Jining, Inner Mongolia.
- Grasslands of Jining, to Wuchuan (near) Hohhot
- Hohhot to Bautou, Inner Mongolia, China
- Wudang Lamasary
- Bautou to Yulin, Shanxi, China with Photos from Genghis Khan's Mausoleum.
- Yulin to Yanan, Shaanxi, China
- Chairman Mao's Headquarters and Residence in Yanan, China.
- Yanan to Xian, Shaanxi, China.
- Terracotta Warriors #1
- Terracotta Warriors #2.


 

 (Sept. 4 - Oct. 29, 2005)

Sichuan, China
Chengdu, to Zongdian, China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Sichuan Blog

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Into Occupied Territory: Tibet!

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Sichuan Thumbnail Photos

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- Giant Panda Breeding Center #1
- Red Panda  in Chengdu, Sichuan, China #2
- Chengdu to Kangding.
- Kangding, Sichuan, located in Southwestern China.
- Mugecuo Lake near Kangding, Sichuan, China.
- Kangding to Xinduqiao
- Xinduqiao to Tibetan Home Stay.
- Tibetan Home Stay to 4718 meter (15,475 feet)
- to Litang, Sichuan, China.
- Litang Lamasary Tibetan Buddhist Monk Monastery
- Litang to Sumdo, Tibet
- Sumdo to Xiangcheng
- Xiangcheng to Derong, Tibet.
- Derong, Sichuan Province to Tibetan Shangri-La, (Zongdian)


 

(Oct. 30 - Dec. 24, 2005)

Yunnan, China
Zongdian to Mohan, China

Cindie's Daily Journals
Yunnan daily blog - journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Out of China: slipping past the watchful eye of censorship.

Best Place to see Pictures
Yunnan thumbnail photos

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- Shangri-La, - Lijiang - Dali, China.
- Dali to Jingdong, Yunnan
- Jingdong to Puer
- Puer to Jinghong, Yunnan, China
- Xishuangbanna Tropical Flowers and Plants Garden.
- Mengla to Mohan, Yunnan, China (border with Laos))


 

December.25, 2005 - January 23, 2006
Laos
Boten to Vientiane

Cindie's Daily Journals
Laos daily blog journal

Click here for our first downloadable video called
 "LAOS: VIDEO POSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD.

Best Place to see Pictures
Laos Thumbnail pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Boten to Oudomxia, Laos.
- Laos Wood Carving Factory
- Oudomaxi - Luang Pabong
- Luang Phrabang, Laos: Monks, Wats, and a boat tour on the Mekong River.
- Luang Phrabang to Vang Vieng, #1
- Luang Phrabang to Vang Vieng, #2
- Vientiane, Laos


 

January 23 - March 12, 2006

Northeast Thailand
Nong Khai, Thailand to Bangkok

Cindie's Daily Journals
Northeast Thailand Blog and Daily Journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Four Years DownTheRoad!

Best Place to see Pictures
Northeast Thailand Thumbnail Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Nong Khai to Dan Si
- Dan Si to Lop Buri
- The Ancient Ruins and Historic Temples of Ayuthaya
- Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.


 

(March 13 - April 18, 2006)

Southern Thailand
Hua Hin to Satun, Thailand

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's latest daily journal for South Thailand.  Now with over 4 years of entries!

5 minute Thailand Video
http://downtheroad.org/video/Files_Video/2Thailand_DownTheRoad.wmv

Best Place to see Pictures
Pictures from South Thailand.

Full size Picture Pages

- Hua Hin to Ranong
- Ranong to Krabi
- Boat Tour of Ao Phang Nga Bay
- Ko Lanta Beach to Satun Tropical Thailand


 

(April 18 - Sept. 15, 2006)

  Malaysia #1
Langkawi, Malaysia to Parit Buntar

Cindie's Daily Journals Malaysia

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Two 1-Way Tickets to Australia Please

Best Place to see Thumbnail Pictures of Malaysia

Full size Picture Pages

- Langkawi to Nebong Tebal
- Underwater World Aquarium Langkawi
- Bird Paradise, Langkawi, Malaysia.
- Malaysian Home Stay and Cyclist Guest House.
- Traditional Tamil Indian Wedding
- Malaysian Home Cooking and Traditional Food
- Hand Made Pottery Factory
- Chinese Fishing Village and Party.
- Toddy Plantation Farm and Palm Oil Production.
- Malaysian Chinese Temple of Heaven and Hell.
- Malaysian Indian Hindu Temple and Religious Ceremony

 

(May to August, 2006)
Malaysia #2

Tanah Rata to Taiping, Malaysia

Cindie's Daily Journals

Video: Malaysian David's Cyclist Home Stay (5:35 min)
http://www.prescottyellowpages.com/Video/3Malaysian_Cyclists_Home_Stay.wmv

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail pictures of Malaysia #2

Full size Picture Pages

- Cameron Highlands Trails and National Park
- Butterfly Garden
- Boh Tea and Sungai Palas Tea Plantation and farm
- Mardi Research Center, Tanah Rata
- Tanah Rata, Cameroon Highlands, Malaysia
- Indian Fire Walking Ceremony at the Hindu Temple
- Our 8th Wedding Anniversary the Cultural Indian Way
- Chinese Cultural Opera and Traditional Arts Celebration
- Malaysian Indian Religion
- Malaysian Guesthouse and Homestay #2

 

(July - Sept. 15, 2006)
 
Malaysia #3 and Singapore.
Taiping, Malaysia to Singapore

Cindie's Daily Journals for Malaysia

Best Place to see Pictures
Malaysia #3 and Singapore

Full size Picture Pages

- Penang hill Chinese Temple
- Taiping to Melaka, Malaysia.
- Taman Alam Kuala Selangor Natural Park
- Melaka, Malaysia, Southeast Asia.
- Cheng Hoon Teng Temple and Chinese Hill (Bukit China) Cemetery
- Melaka, Malaysia to Singapore


1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

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