Distance vs Height – Yongfengzhen to almost Zhaoqing

Freshly showered and with fresh motivation we were on the road again.

We had been pondering, if we cycle into Guangzhou and then Shenzhen. But since none of us enjoyed cycling in Shenzhen at the starts of our tour, we decided to keep west of these places and eventually take a bus. So our last stop would be Zhaoqing, Guangdong. A small city of about 4m, enjoyed by many people from Guangzhou for it’s fresh air and beautiful scenery.

Depending on the route we were 70 to 90k away from there. So this could have very easily been our last day of cycling and of no-more camping.

Last day – first(!) flat between the two of us

We set off with this bittersweet feeling you get, when you know, something is about to end. A bit sad, a bit looking forward to going home (Niklas at least; I could have gone on for… let’s say, a while, at least).

I was at ease with the kilometers we were doing – depending on the time and progress, we would camp a last time outside Zhaoqing before going in a really nice hotel.

Having to roads to choose from, we opted for the shorter one. Even though, we would leave the s-road for the smaller x-road. We saved 20k in total for 20k on the x-414. And heavens… we really worked for every single kilometer of that.

That’s the view we got – I was too exhausted to care enough to cross the street for a better pic

First, the road was full of potholes, but flat. Then it started to gradually climb before the real climb started. We got slower and slower and realized, we would be totally exhausted if we stick to the plan of having lunch once we left the x-road or in the village that we would pass pretty much at the end of it.

So after looking for a nice spot to rest, a tiny, deserted construction site served as our napping-and-picknick-spot.

Our construction site – the village was in the valley so going down didn’t seem worth the effort

This really nice car overtook us, stopped and one of the passengers got out to take our photos as we were almost at the top. So we stopped as well and I walked up to the then terrified looking guy, smiled, hold up my mobile and successfully asked for their wechat to get the photos.

Two kinds of highway, water and road – and we ‘sleep’ in-between

We put some effort in finding a secluded camp on one the side roads, but eventually gave up as every spot of land was either field, dump or a house. Camped between the river and the highway.

Looking for a camp – pretty sure, this building was deserted.

 

 

Fruit for photos and a fellow cyclist – Xiangtang to Yongfengzhen

This day, again, we were allowed to stay on the roads we wanted. Lucky us, huh?

But still – after breaking camp – we just felt like we were doing something, that had to be done, instead of enjoying our time. Like, we were in need for a real rest. But we felt like we didn’t have the time, since Niklas wanted to spent some time in Hong Kong and there weren’t so many more days left of our tour.

Seriously -touring for a few months feels sooo sooo different, when it comes to rest days and stuff. I can only imagine what touring for a year or more must feel like. The feeling of independence and freedom is so much greater the longer you tour.

As it got a titsy-bit cloudy, we decided to postpone lunch for a bit and put our heads down, to get a few more k done. When we were, or at least I was, finally reminded, why I was doing this shit:

A young guy in his car stopped us to hand as some water (which happened a number of times to me) – we just gulped down half a liter each, soooooo good! – and some wet wipes (THIS never happened before… and with having skipped the improvised shower the night before due to the thunderstorm and just had a quick wash in the tent – I wondered how bad we must appear by now….). Turned out, he was a cyclist himself. Thanks to that (my Chinese skills are very low and the bit I know is very much based around bicycle touring) and his eagerness in communication with me (I really depend on the will, patience and skill of the person I’m conversing with) I was able to learn that he cycled to Lhasa, Tibet (compared to that, we didn’t experience any hills whatsoever) and tell a few details of our tour (where, how long, how far in a day… stuff like that).

Only bummer is that I forgot to ask for his we-chat.

Later, at one of our many ice-tea-breaks I told the story of our tour to some other customers that then passed it around each other and to the shop owner. She eventually asked for a photo and I got some fruit in return – I don’t think I ever tasted anything as refreshing as these dragon eyes that must have been in the fridge until then.

  Best-ever dragon eyes

 

Stuff, we came past, but never understood – fire crackers are being laid out along side this field. Every night, we would here fire crackers going off and in the morning cycle past the remains. My theory is that it might keep birds or other vermin away from the rice.

Es geht weiter, wie es aufgehört hat – Xinduzhen to Xiangtang

Also, was wünsch ich mir als Radfahrerin, wenn ich endlich mein klimatisiertes, schönes Hotelzimmer verlasse?

Genau – eine Erinnerung darum, wie es eigentlich ist auf Tour zu sein. Ausgesetzt den Wetterbedingungen. Dem Verkehr. Der Straßenqualität.

Und so bekamen wir alles – die Baustelle, die auf der einen Seite in die Stadt führte, führte auf der anderen Seite wieder raus. Also viel Verkehr, schlechte, kaum befestigte Wege, Schotter und Schlaglöcher. Dazu noch ein bisschen Regen.

Nachdem der letzte Tag sich so sehr nach Kampf angefühlt hat, war unsere Stimmung entsprechend gedämpft. Ich hatte echt keine Lust mehr. Warum bitte schön, tu ich mir das an? Warum stell ich mir sowas unter einem schönen Urlaub vor?

Darum, zum Beispiel:

Unglaublich schöner Ausblick – und ein riesiger Bereich, der da, anscheinend von nur einer Person, bewirtschaftet wird.

Unser Nachtlager zwischen Bäumen – leider trieb uns ein Gewitter viel zu früh in die Zelte.

***

Diese Gruppe Kinder spielte ein Spiel, indem wir anscheinend den wichtigsten Part darstellten. “Wer traut sich am nächsten an diese komischen Menschen im Restaurant?” Ganz wichtig ist es da natürlich, anschließend lachend und kreischend wegzulaufen, nur um dann wieder zu kommen. Zwei ganz Mutige sind zu mir gekommen, als ich zu verstehen gab, dass ich ein Selfie mit ihnen machen möchte.

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.

 

Nanling to Nowhere

Leaving the rent in front of the TV we left as early as 6am. Hurray for our early start – too bad, we started before the breakfast places did. Of course that didn’t stop us from riding 35k before food, did it?

The ‘coolness’ of the morning was awesome. We made good progress but weren’t sure about hotels along the way and as the roads got smaller, the hills hillier, the sun less sunny, the strength in our legs less strong… we called it a day behind an old building just outside of Yingchunzhen (where there would have been a hotel). It was a nice spot, very well hidden. Only bugger was our shortness on water as well as dinner.

So, after having some snacks we were lying there, trying to sleep, trying not to touch each other and sweating like no-one ever sweated before.

Somehow we made it through the night and Niklas was very determined, to have a shower as well as an air-con for the next night.

Nanling National Forest Park – vaster than expected

Nanling was a bit bigger than expected. The gate was only two k from the hotel and we were expecting the hikes to start there. Somewhere. But nope… So we biked and biked and biked. And biked a bit more. And then we locked them at the first parking lot and got a taxi which drove us another ten k to the start of the waterfall hike. Which was very Chinese aka steps all the way to the parking lot where our bikes waited. But it was beautiful! Scenic. Quiet. Relaxed. And we got a swim underneath one of the waterfalls.

Oh the hills – First ride for Niklas. Shaoguan to Xinwu/ Nanling National Forest Park

This was a tough one. We had a not-to-late-start and the part until Ruyuan isn’t really woth mentioning. Little hills, sucking your energy.

In Ruyuan we had a lunch break, cooled down and hit the road again. And that’s where the real pain started. Up, up, up. In the merciless heat. Thunderrolling and threatining in the distance but no relief by rain or clouds.

So this was Niklas first day of cycling. Bloody, merciless, energy-sucking uphill. Slow, slower… The villages where I wanted to stop for a cold drink didn’t exist. Not good. And we were slow. Exhausted. Especially Niklas. It was his first ever day of bike touring. I tried to figure out the map but couldn’t tell if and when there would be a downhill today or if Nanling National Forest park was just up somewhere in the mountains.

I started to worry. Camping? In this heat? With a thunderstorm rolling in the distance? And with the little water supply and very little food supply weh ad? Didn’t feel good. Not at all. I felt ever so reliefed when I saw a hotel and a restaurant on google maps just a few k ahead. I told Niklas.

The hotel came. All fenced up. The restaurant. All fenced up. The whole village. All fenced up. Deserted. Maybe in high season? Maybe not at all any more? Whatever. Not for us. Every place we came past I scanned for a hotel. But to no avail.

At least, we came past a store. Stocked up on food and fluid supply, drank salted cold coke and went on. Niklas became mono-syllabic and I got fits of laughter. Our individual reactions to exhaustion. I was still able to talk, so I poor Niklas had to listen to me. We stayed close, so I told him, how good he was doing (remember – his first ever day of bike touring!), told him to keep going, told him, he didn’t get a cramp (he did get one but I wasn’t having anymore stopping at that point), to stop worry about his heart rate, he wasn’t going to have an attack and that we really were doing great progress (which was true. For some reason, we regained some energy and were making progress). I didn’t tell him when I decided that we were going to make it to the first hotels as I was a bit worried, he would have a fit and tell me, I was crazy and he was going to camp right there and then.

Then it came. Finally. The DOWNHILL we were working for all afternoon. Sweet joy! The last 20k were easy and we lived to see another air-conditioned hotel room and have dinner at a restaurant.

 

So hot! Hetian’Ao/Luoguangping to Wengcheng Restaurant

It’s hot. Even at ten am. And hilly. There were more long climbs that weren’t too steep and a really nice downhill towards the end.
Between 12.30 and 3pm I spent about one hour getting my hair washed and one hour eating. No idea how much time I spent at gas stations for the air-con. No idea how many times I put water onto my armcovers to cool down a bit while riding. I actually started reading up about mild and severe dehydration while enjoying water with salt and salted ice tea and salted coke.
I really do have a weird idea of a nice holiday… My bicycle computer informed me about the fact that it was 55°C in the sun. In the afternoon I started cycling on the wrong side of the road as that’s where the occasional shadow was. Which was needed as I was climbing again.
The downhill was awesome and long – but the air temperature was above body temperature most of the time so no coolness from the wind.

Tangtangzhen to Hetian’Ao/ Luoguangping

I had an awesome breakfast which included peanut sauce.

Landscape was beautiful, the sun fierce. I planed on a very short trip, only 10k to Fogang. But since that didn’t feel right I went on. And regretted it. I had to go another 40k before I found a hotel. Which was rather weird. The owner didn’t want to show me the room because it was on the third (second) floor. I insisted. Holy… I can deal with many levels of cleanliness, but this felt almost over the top with cigarettes over the floor. But no bugs. So it was an option. But next door was the next hotel – cleaner, newer and 20quai more. I was going to spoil myself. I shouldered my bags and staggered upstairs where I slept off my heat exhaustion.

48km

Everything. Shiwanzhen to Tangtangzhen

The next day held everything in store that cycling has to offer. Apart from rain and headwind. But emotionally. I felt everything from joy to despair to relief and exhaustion.
I enjoyed getting lost in beautiful landscapes along the Guangdong greenway.
I did not enjoy missing the turn off on the highway.
I was not to surprised when a road I was supposed to take did not exist.
I did enjoy a beautiful sunset over a river in the mountains.

I started to worry when pushing my bike uphill in the middle of nowhere after dark. What if this wasn’t a through road after all? What if I am stuck here in the mountains? Everyone was in their houses, I didn’t see a store in ages, I didn’t have proper lunch and no dinner at all yet. So I wasn’t to keen on camping.
Shaking with exhaustion I felt relieved when a motor cyclist came my way. We tried an failed communication so we both went on.* A few k later a shopowner in a small village was able to tell me that I am three k from the next hotel.
And true – a city came up, including a hotel
It’s so fascinating how you can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere in China and BAM – there’s a city, big buildings, everything…
100km.
Weather: hot hot hot. Sunny. No rain.

*at this point I put on my really really bright headlight that the … (heavy breathing. Counting to 10…) person in the store didn’t want to sell to me, telling me that I would never ever need that and it’s too bright for cycling.  I decide how much light I need. No-one else. It was not to bright. It was sufficient.

Longgang to Shiwanzhen

I swear I had intentions of leaving early but the hotel was so lovely and then I really had to eat before I started. So it was about 11pm when my wheels touched the road.
Riding out of the city was quiet okay. I was surprised how natural it felt and how easy I got back into cycling Chinese streets.
I followed big to small to tiny roads and just when it started to rain really bad with little warning – the smell of air changed seconds beforehand – I was literally right next to a bench with a sun-rain cover where I dunked under.
And just when I was really tired, really wanted to have a bed, i came past a lovely hotel, with a cheap, reasonable sized (sometimes these rooms are just huge and it feels like this hotel used to have seen some better times), clean (!!!) hotel with awfully nice owners.
Dinner was next door and so would be breakfast.
93 km

Klimaanlage

Klimaanlage.

Wenn deine Klappen sich sanft bewegen.
Wenn du einen kühlen Windhauch über mich gleiten lässt.
Wenn du – Energieeffizienzklasse 3 – meinen ökologischen Fußabdruck auf dieser Reise vergrößerst.
Wenn du die Luft in diesem Raucherhotelzimmer erträglich machst.
Dann will ich dich nie wieder verlassen.

At Stefans diving store

 I was greeted with the words a starving cyclist wants to hear: you must be starving. Let’s go eat!
Afterwards we arranged for a diving trip the next day. I had a good time but at the start I was so nervous I could have been diving at a kids pool and it would have been exciting. Plus the visabiliy was 3-5m. I was so scared of losing them I could have gone picky bag diving to meet my desire of safety. But soon I started to enjoy the reefs, crabs and fishes.

Getting there or die trying – Shenzhen to Longgang diving school

Bicycle way

That seemed to be the best strategy to get to Stefan in Longgang. Crossing the border to Shenzhen went okay but not smoothly. No one wanted to check my bags or complained about my bicycle. They just looked at me forever.
Once I had a sim card the trouble my bicycle tour was off for a start. I was a bit shy of Chinese roads at first and tried to follow the rules by using the bicycle lane. I forgot how bad this decision was but was quickly reminded. Chinese bike lanes get interrupted every so often. The pavements quality in only so-so and with every road you are crossing you have to get off… Not to mention the times where you need to cross but can’t as the bicycle lane and sidewalk are fenced off the road….
So I finally decided I either get to Stefans now or die trying. Exhausted and annoyed I set off to cycle a really nasty road with huge trucks. And there it was. A really nice pathway for walking and cycling.

Bangkok to Yangon by bicycle – overview off the ride and distances

Arriving in Bangkok

Day 1 – Bangkok to Ban Pong (91,5km)

Day 2 – Ban Pong to Kanchanaburi; Death Railway Museum and war cemetary (52km)

Day 3 – Kanchanaburi to Phunamrong, Bordercrossing Thailand – Myanmar (72km)

Day 4 – Phunamrong – crossing into Myanmar – to Sinbyndaing (49km)

Day 5 –  Sinbyndaing to Dawei (10km bike, then car)

Restday in Dawei

Day 6 – Dawei to Kyauk Shat (77km)

Day 7 – Kyauk Shat to Ye (89km)

Restday in Ye

Day 8 –Ye to 25km before Thanbyazyat (74km)

Day 9 – Before Thanbyazyat (war cemetary about Death Railway) to Mawlamyaing/Moulmein – (88km)

Restday in Maylamyaing/Moulmein

Day 10 – Maylamyaing/Moulmein to Thaton (69km)

Day 11 – Thaton to Kinpun (85km)

Day 12 – Sightseeing “Golden Rock”, Kinpun to Sittong River (41km)

Day 13 – Sittong River to Bago (65km)

Restday in Bago

Day 14 – Bago to Yangon (80km)

Total: 942,5km.

Last lap – first flat. Suicidal ride into Yangon

Yan shortly expressed his opinion of the road conditions and the current weather before he sped off down the mountain, when I realized there is something weird about my bike. Of course, a flat. In pouring rainy season rain. No way to fix that outside.

I pushed my bike to the next pool-hall, frustrated on missing out on the down-hill. While pushing my bike in, I smilingly played a sharade in favor of the head of the house so she knows whats going on. My tools slowly travelled to the bottom of my pannier so I unpacked on a table and made myself comfortable on the dry, stomped-earth floor.

The pinch had to be huge – there was no way I could get air into the tire. At least it would be easy to find. But… no. I circled with my hands and imitated pouring something, the international expression for

“I am sorry. I seem not to be able to find the pinch in my tire by the methods I have used so far. Therefore, could you possibly do me the favor of handing me a bowl of water, so I can use that to check? Thank you very much. That is very kind of you!”

Long before I had the water, I was sourrounded by three young men who were starting to take over. Finally the tiny pinch was discovered – right next to the valve! So, it was pitched! Great! And the rain had stopped! I praised everyone for helping me, had a picture taken and off I went.

Rain started soon – and the eerie feeling returned as well…  So, again – pushing. I stopped at a garage – in the hope of a spare tube. But they were only for motorbikes. The patch had started to leak and soon – I had three young men taking everything out of my hands. Even though their methods irritated me I let them do. Too annoyed and tired by all this.

I don’t have to mention that all this took like – forever? Even patching the tyres of a student I met on the road in China didn’t take that long. And he had like 7 holes as he was riding with the flat tire for a while – they didn’t know how to fix it and it took a while to communicate that I had the tools as well as the skills.

Yan started to wonder and later to worry so he came to look for me. Lucky, we didn’t miss each other. The road was two lanes each way, with a median strip and I had been “indoors” for a while…

Yangons traffic is heavy and chaotic. I don’t have to mention it was dark by the time we arrived? And raining? And the road conditions? It felt a bit suicidal playing a part in that on a bicycle specially since it was pretty h<rd to judge the wet road in the dark. Going the small streets wasn’t nice either due to the even poorer condition of these roads

We were so exhausted, that we limited talking to “8 more km”, “down this road, then left.” and then “It should be here.” But… it wasn’t. It? the Bike World Explores Myanmar Inn, where we planned to stay and hoped to be able store the bikes for the time of our trip to Mandalay – by bus due to lack of time.

We were tired. Exhausted. Hungry. Wet for hours. There was another address of the place on MapsMe.

About 30 minutes later, we were checked in, showered, asked for bike-storage and were waiting for pizza.

Sittong River to Bago

The rain didn’t start until 11:15 this day. So that coud have been a nice couple of hours of riding. Well, we started – to the total bewilderment of the staff – at 11:23. Just after it slowed down a titsy-bit. Our heads were down, rain was pouring, as we crossed the bridge. Lucky we had a look at it the night before.

It was flat – but we got a headwind. Traffic was a bit to heavy, trucks a bit too close to enjoy cycling.

Getting lunch was straightforward. We stopped after only 10k at a roadside restaurant and the owner grapsed immediately that we would like to eat. She showed some rice to make sure and led me to her curries. I pointed to one that seemed to be free of fish and still steaming hot.

We got cold fish-curry.

The most exciting thing that happened after that, were the traintracks. We crossed them an impressive number of times. And once – even a train came past!

Road-conditions changed from almost-ok to so-so to rather bad. Riding throuh Bago was stress – specially when we had to cross the bridge…

Exploring Bago the next day, was a lot of work and expensive (10.000kyat). The roads are in aweful conditions. The palace was impressive – Yan was very dissappointed as it’s only rebuild. The other sights are tempels, pagodas and reclining Buddahs. I dare say, we could have seen similar by just stopping along the road at different stupas and monastries.

Golden Rock – in rainy season – and bridge ruins at sunset

What a dissappointment! We got onto one of the trucks with benches, paid 2500 kyat for transport and life insurance – and off we went. Luckely it was almost full when we arrived so we didn’t have to wait. Everyone – apart from Yan and a Canadian dude – was wearing a rain coat. Just bought a few moments ago by one of the many street vendors.

The way up is really steep, nothing that could be done with a loaded touring bike – and even an empty one would have to be pushed. Amazing that the truck was able to do it.

Eine Person steht barfuß. Hinter ihr ist Nebel, durch den der Goldene Felsen hervorscheint
Yes – it’s visable!

It was wet – raining, then we were in the clouds. At the top, it was so foggy we actually worried if we were able to see the Golden Rock or just walk past it. At times you could hardly see what’s 10 meters ahead. Yan was so cold and wet by now, that he happily bought a rain coat.

The whole area was almost deserted, most shops were closed, hardly any pilgrims where there, a handful praying in a glass pavillon where you would see the Golden Rock if there was less fog… So it wasn’t impressive, nice or anything.

I dare say the best part was the food, hot tea and coffee we got while waiting for the truck to fill up to go down…

I was sure – never again will I be dry or warm. We already checked out of the hotel so we would load the bikes and go… Riding back to the mainroad and towards Bago -no matter how weak we were or how late it was. Or how wet.

Amazingly, I found some energy, we resisted the temptation of hotels twice and did 40km up to the Sittang River – quickly checking in to an unsuspected an very nice hotel so we could see the bridge and a nearby Stupa at sunset.

Functioning bridge as well as left-overs of a blown-up own, across a river, at sunset
At least – a highlight!
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Pagoda at sunset – of course I almost forgot to take of my shoes at the bottom of the stairs!