Friday, 2 October 2009
GRINDING THROUGH YUNNAN
I lost Leana in the city of Jinghong! She was staying elsewhere, and left before me, I wasn’t sure in which direction. I was planning to head towards the provincial capital of Yunnan province – Kunming – where I could apparently get bike spares, so I headed off in that direction. I expected to cover the less than 500 k’s in 4 or 5 days – after all we’d been on the highway thus far in China, and I didn’t expect that to change. After only a short distance I was in for a rude awakening! The highway turned into a hi-tech Expressway, and I was politely escorted onto the “Old Road” by the police. One of the policemen spoke some English, and he informed me that the old road to Kunming was a “bit further”, there were “some hills”, but I would be “closer to nature”. Of course he was right on all 3 counts, but BY JUPITER what an understatement! The distance to Kunming turned out to be more than 700 km winding up and down serious mountain passes (most of the hills were between 15 and 30 km long). The road condition was somewhat poor in many places, making it rather hard on Old Saartjie (my rather worn-out bike). On day 1 the chain broke, and on day 2 the front brakes packed up – and so it went on. At least I was able to camp a couple of times in the mountains, and I booked into cheap rooms at other times to take a shower and do laundry. Food is very cheap, and one can get a wholesome tasty meal from the vendors for next to nothing. After 10 gruelling days I dragged myself into the well-known “Cloudlands” travelers hostel – to find Leana already there. She’d been very ill on the road, and I find it amazing that – under those conditions – she managed to cycle most of that route before deciding to take a bus. Now, after a few days in the city Leana is still rather weak, so we’ll wait here for her to recover. In the mean time I found some good bike spares, so at least one of us – Old Saartjie – is ready to proceed further into China. Daily distances cycled since Jinghong were:- Puyen area 70 km; Simao 85 km; Pu’er 55 km; Mountains 78 km; Mojian 73 km; Xing Cheng 75 km; Yang Wu 64 km; Eshan 60 km; Jinning 76 km; and Kunming 71 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town at the start of this journey is 47 636 km.