The Big Ride

China: From the wilds to the great wonders

We set out from Shangri-la (where we left off in Part I of China) which was at nearly the same elevation as we had hiked in Langtang, Nepal in the Himalayas. We would end up smashing the elevation we hiked in the Himalayas… only this time we would be in the saddle. Immediately when we left the city the road was a disaster, a rolling road of patches of wet and dry mud with huge gullies and potholes. Strangely, there are a surprising number of cars and even tractor-trailers (lorries) on the road considering its condition. Amazingly, the road quickly changed to tarmac and we were among some picturesque scenery. A green grassy valley surrounded by mountains and filled with shaggy black yaks. We continued on up into the mountains and across the first of numerous 4000+ meter passes. Tarmac was occasionally swapped out for muddy stretches of highway, with small cars struggling to soldier on looking like turtles trying to swim in mud. Lucky for us on one of the worst stretches there was a raised concrete drainage gutter about 4 inches wide that we could walk along with our bikes, we passed some chinese cyclists at this point trudging through the slop struggling to push their mountain bikes forward with their wheels so clogged up with clayey mud. We camped in small patches of flat land in fields or abandoned buildings we passed as we continued on up and down some epic climbs. The toughest day of cycling for me in China, and perhaps the trip was on a day when tarmac ended and a gravel road took it’s place on a mountain pass which ended up being around 85km and which took us to around 4500m and two days to bridge. The reduced level of oxygen, the rain, cold and generally shitty weather, the additional strain of riding on a rocky gravel road added to the hours of climbing made it all rough to say the least. However, the views were amazing and on this pass we crossed from Yunnan province to Sichuan.


Where the two provinces meet the road reaches 4,400m an is quite far from any villages or towns. However there was a small shanty town right on the border, at first it appeared to be like all the other passes with a stone pile and lots of prayer flags. But when we got a little closer we saw people milling around and small shelters made mostly of plastic sheeting and pine branches. Amazingly there was a little shop where we could buy a coke, the shop doubled as a local pub, which was filled with locals playing cards and pool. Yes they had a pool table at 4,400m in a pub which was half trench and half covered with corrugated metal and plastic sheeting.

As we descend into Sichuan we bumped and bounced our way down the mountain on the rocky road. Which, believe it or not is harder work than going uphill. Constantly on the brakes, concentrating on every stone in front of you and having to absorb each bounce and thump of your rear wheel. It’s tough work and you have some sore hands and butts to show for it all.



I’m, Hilde Ploegmakers, following you since we startend planning our trip. We startend cycling in April 2015. We were in Chengdu arround 24 november. We found a bookshop/cafe and saw tere was a reading trom some longdistance cyclist, yesterday…
Was that you?


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