Just a bit of road-works going on – Yangtouzhen to Xinduzhen

Seriously? It’s five? It actually feels like the right moment to turn around and have another nap before getting up. But up we get, pack and hit the road before 6 am. A nice morning ride, flat, little traffic and not hot at all. Like, only 27 degrees and moon instead of sun in the sky. Rice paddies all around us.

Awesome. This could be like all day! Wasn’t of course. It got hot. It got steep. It got city-ish. Okay, at first, the city-ish part was great as we got fried noodles, soy-milk and mantou at the side of the road for energy as well as really well maintained public toilets for the morning routine even before we reached the city of Hezhou.

It felt like we were climbing so much – I couldn’t believe the downhill wasn’t there yet. Niklas claimed we had a gradual downhill but too much headwind at some point but I still claim it only looked as if but wasn’t. I was tired, exhausted, dehydrated – and then the road was blocked. A short look on the map –  as well as all the motorcycles and cars turning off the street – showed us which way to go or… to climb. Well, at least it was beautiful and idyllic. Oh – and uphill. At the end of it was a look-out-point. So we would get water there and probably go up and have an even better look-around. But no – it was closed. So, no (extra-)view and no water.

***

„Nah, we just get water at the next village“ I said after having a look at the map. We just had lunch as well as my bag fixed in Butouzhen and the next villages were marked on the map. So no problem there and we still had a bit in our bottles. We set off – and the road was closed. … The map indicated we had to go the long-way-round and no villages until the very end. I checked with Huan, who we sent pictures of the road-signs, if we really had to go around. But since that’s what the signs said („Drive slowly“ as well as „Road blocked“) and ALL the motorcyclists went around, we eventually did the same.

Appears to be a perfect road…

Of course – it was even more idyllic than the first turn-off. It would have been perfect for camping. If it was just a few hours later and we had just a bit more water and a bit more food.The road was in exact the condition, you would expect a small road to be that’s been used as a major road since May. Not-so-pristine. That and the (up-)hillyness of it – and we needed an hour for these 5k.

Please mark the road conditions we had instead.

When we finally got back to the main road, we couldn’t make if the road was really blocked by roadwork or if there were just these signs. It looked perfect and new from what we could see and a car emerged from there, right there and then.

After 12 hours on the road, we made it to Xinduzhen. I was exhausted, Niklas high on endorphines. We spent our last cash on the nicest hotel I could find, feeding Niklas some cake and me a fancy-pink-pitaya-drink, getting some souvenir tea for Niklas  and a hair-wash for me.

Such beautiful, intense colours!

Before we dragged on to the next ATM. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. They wouldn’t take Niklas credit card and we just spent our cash on all the above mentioned essentials…

Eventually, we were successful and I fell into a deep slumber.

The roadworks we followed for kilometers and kilometers in the morning

  The view you get for all this hard-work!

Shanghainese-style eggs with tomato and a lot of sugar. All gone, eaten by half-starved-me in 15 minutes during the end of the day.

No camp in the hills after all – Pingle to Yangtouzhen

Never ever have I taken my tent down and packed my bags as fast as I did then. We were just sitting in front of the tent, enjoying the evening, talking, blogging, waiting for the dusk to settle and the temperatures to drop at least a bit before we would crawl into the tent to sleep.

We were relaxing after a days ride – going pretty much only uphill in the morning until we had a long break at a café at the edge of Yuantouzhen. From there to Zhongshan we went fast – enjoying a long and graduate downhill that allowed us to up our average speed by more than 2km/h. Just before Zhongshan – as the name predicts – we had to go uphill again, but not in a bad matter.

Most of the day we had spent following the G-Road, with a lot of trucks, noise and dust from trucks that were carrying split and always loosing some. So we really enjoyed the times, were we left it to go along the village road.

So – here we were. Off a pathway from the smaller road that led through the mountain area, beautiful, kind of quiet – and still packing our stuff as if we were going for the world-record in speed-packing. A thunderstorm just started and whatever you would call our camp – idyllic, quiet, picturesque, relaxed, beautiful, kind of hidden – ’safe during a thunderstorm‘ just wouldn’t come to your mind.

We had 30k in the dark until the next hotels, which we were racing for. Rain came with thick, cold drops, and Niklas could see even less as his glasses got wet. 25k to the hotels, when we got to Yangtouzhen – and our new campground in front of a store. The lovely Zhong Qiuxiang from the restaurant next door organised that spot for us. It was so nice meeting her and we were really happy for a safe spot. Even though we got up at 5am so we would be gone when the store opened in the morning. Inside the tent it was hot as the concrete heated up during the day and didn’t cool down, dogs were barking outside and we were right next to the G-road, something we didn’t think about when we were just glad about not having to race through the rain anymore.

Please take in the beautiful-blue, not-thunderstormy sky we had all day!

 

Short night ride. Yangshuo to Pingle

We planned this as a short ride in the late afternoon, so we had one more day to roam around Yangshuo and it’s tourist attractions. We opted for the bus to Xingpingzhen and once there, realized we wouldn’t have to debate whether or not we pay the shocking fee of 238 Yuan per person to go down the river on a motor-driven plastic-bamboo-raft as we didn’t bring enough cash anyway.

Getting my beloved mantou and some baozi for the way, we set off along the river, past the very beautiful view that’s pictured on the 20-Yuan-Bill.

Same same!

There’s a pathway just along the river almost all the way to Mashan. It’s an enjoyable and easy hike past impressive, big and green bamboo.

A bit like the fried-frozen-icecream in Hainan. But not as good as the original.

Leaving Yangshuo

It really turned out to be a beautiful, short night-ride – about two hours for 30k. We had some steep hills, but thanks to the rest, shortness off the ride and time spent off-bicycle we tackled them easily and were able to do the downhills before dark.

We spent the night in a hotel just across the street from the bigger Hawaii-Hotel with a panoramic view onto the river and the hills – which we didn’t see too much off since our arrival at dusk.

Along the way

 

Going up – Climbing in Yangshuo (and Gongcheng to Yangshuo)

There he is. Up on the wall!

„To your right… to your right… just a bit higher, yes there…. Very good. Keep going. Move your left feet a bit up… That’s it. Now – get up… Very good- and now reach up. Yes. There. Keep going. You can do it….. Up up up, there, yes…“ That’s Lilly, Mike and me, calling out to Niklas who is just accomplishing his first ever outdoor climb at the butterfly spring. And he made it. All the way to the top and was glowing with adrenalin-fueled happiness when we greated him back on the ground.
Just around lunch-time the day before I called Lilly  – „Hey Lilly, we just arrived at your hostel!“ – We found it without any hassle thanks to a lucky guess to turn right when we didn’t know which way to turn on West Street and then discovering the small sign which lead us down the alley right in front of her hostel. We checked in and once we were showered Lilly welcomed us downstairs.
It almost felt a bit like coming home and being in a bustling tourist hub like Yangshuo we were really glad to have Lilly to go to. She and here place were recommended to us by Hywel – a couchsurfer from Australia who I recently hosted and climbed with – who was just a few months before in Yangshuo for climbing. Even though he really had to struggle with the fact that our trip wasn’t based around climbing but cycling and that we would be happy with a day or two at the wall.
Lilly is awesome and a real power woman running her hostel, climbing and looking after her guests just the right way – she walked us to nice places for lunch and dinner, she also organized climbing gear for us and came with us as our guide. Oh and she recommended us nice places for our daytrip.
For climbing, she showed us a place and cracks where even people with our low climbing skills had a good time and success. So if you go to Yangshuo for climbing that’s a very good place to go and maybe even get in touch with other climbers (we were not sooo lucky, as we just missed a group and August is too hot to be main season for climbing in Yangshuo).

For the bicycle related stuff – the road from Gongcheng to Yangshuo is pretty good and we don’t remember any major climbs or downhills. The pavement was okay – not smooth, but no major potholes and not covered in split.

                    Fisher at work in front of the picturesque hills of Yangshuo

Past Hunans oldest village: Jiangyong to Gongcheng

This day made up for the hard work the day before. The roads were paved, even though the pavement was worn and we had headwind – but hey, we had a road. All the time.

Brown tourist signs led us to Shanggangtang – an ancient village. Actually the most ancient village of Hunan Province and not so commercialized. Too bad we are totally illiterate around here and that place doesn’t cater for foreigners yet. But see for yourselves – it’s very picturesque to look at.

    Lunch break

Sunset with bicycle

No clue about the rules for this game – but it’s played all over Hunan with eagerness, seriousness and involving quite a bit of money.

 

Where are the roads? – Dao to Jiangyong

Uhm… no, google maps. This isn’t a road where we could cycle. These are train tracks. Fenced off for a reason. So, we took another way, hoping to get closer to the S-road, leaving the (back-)country roads. Slowest progress ever – 5 hours for 30kms.

One of the easier moments.

 

No bridge? No problem! We just go through the rice fields then.

Of course all this didn’t stop us from taking in some culture. We were in Jiangyong and therefore in Women-Script-Country. Nü-Shu is a phonetic script that’s been passed down in between women in this area for more than a thousands years – started in a time, where girls didn’t get an education.  It was used to write each other letters or for decoration on fans and the like. Listening to Pride and Prejudice on the tour, where exchanging letters is a vital part of communication, the importance of this appears especially obvious.

At the museum: Nü-Shu and translation into simplified Chinese.

Writing on a fan

Oh what a nice place! Lanshan to Dao

Mantou for breakfast! I was delighted when we left the hotel we scored steamed Chinese bread and fresh soy milk for breakfast. Which we enjoyed under a nearby bridge but outside the village as it was relaxing not to draw a crowd when we stopped. The roads were hilly but okay-ish until Dao. We debated whether or not to call it a day if we found a nice hotel.

Following the directions of a shop owner just before crossing the river we found an okay-ish place but she asked a pretty high price – more than double of what I paid elsewhere for a similar room. Across the street was a 7-days-inn for less and very nice, comfy and clean. Just… I communicated my wish for a room and even though I was understood, I wasn’t sure of the answer. The lady wanted to help me very much, that was obvious. But we were lost. I couldn’t understand what she said nor read what she wrote. And she couldn’t use my smartphone. But somehow we worked it all out, I guessed the correct questions and answers, we paid, got our room card and the staff helped us get our bikes into the elevator.

Walking around the city we found a Giant bicycle store (just next to the river close to the island with the temple on it, or follow the road down to the river from the 7-days-inn and follow it, when it bends to the right). Again, I was delighted as my brakes were starting to wear. I was prepared to use my few words of Chinese and a lot of pointing and playing sharade as usual. But we were greated in English! Wow. We agreed to come back with our bikes the next day. We were even offered an earlier opening time but 9am was just fine. You think that were enough highlights for a day? We had two more. A really nice hair wash and one of my favorite dishes – these dumplings with peanut butter sauce just at Xiao Jiang Zhong Lu. 

Nowhere to Lanshan – So, we sleep with the light on?

As determined as Niklas was, he got his shower and air-con. The hotel was so…. not-clean I would have preferred tent and no-shower or air-con. I stayed at a lot of places so far – and I dare say, this was like the grossest.

Anyways – the day started lovely, we passed by a hotel within the first three k and had breakfast-soup in town. And a bit later some fried stuff and soy-milk. That’s bike touring for me. This kind of food.

Heat-protection for our saddle during lunch

We were quiet an attraction again. Niklas as expected way more than I was. Niklas being taller than pretty much everyone, having a beard and being blond… really fascinates people. For size-relation, I am 20cm shorter than him and about the size of the taller men, I reckon.

As we were meddling with our bikes a small group of people gathered and a woman tried to buy my multi-tool… I got it back off her and we decided to get going and see for our bikes later.

The day was supposed to be easy, not-so-far, so we would find a hotel soon, enjoy the village, update the blog for me… It wasn’t. Even though we only went the planned 75k, it felt like we would never get there. It started easy enough, but after a while the road subsided to dirt, and we were getting slower and slower. So we ended up in the one and only place we found in that city, sleeping with the light on, to distract the night-active cockroaches.