Friday, 4 December 2009
SAARTJIE PUTS HER FEET UP
Don't panic, as my bike (Old Saartjie) hasn't gone into permanent retirement. After reaching our Northern-most point in China (Chengdu city), Leana and I had to head back South, visa expiry being just one of the reasons for the hasty retreat. So, first of all we had an interesting 19 hour train trip from Chengdu back down to Kunming. I arrived back at Cloudlands Hostel in Kunming to find quite a gathering of long-term cyclists (about 10 of us in total). We'd all been travelling individually or in pairs, and had followed different routes, but all of us moving South to escape the harsh Chinese winter (Germans Robert and Martin in picture). My efforts to get on an overnight bus from Kunming down to Jinghong were in vain, as there was no space for the bike and my ticket was refunded. However, the next day both Leana and myself were more fortunate and made the 9 hour bus ride down to Jinghong which is less than 200 km from the Laos border. Although the "moving parts" on Old Saartjie were spared due to the train- and bus travel, there is - as usual - some sort of damage, but fortunately not too serious. After the short rest my poor old bike had to hit the road running - on the 2nd day after resting she cracked the 50 000 km barrier on this trip. From Jinghong Leana took another bus further on to Laos, while I preferred to cycle (we'd both been suffering from a bout of flu, but I'd recovered sufficiently to be able to cycle). I'd rather not say anything about Swine Flu, as you never know who may read this report and I don't fancy any time in quarantine. I was sorry to leave China, but Laos is a good relaxing place to go from there. However, there hasn't been much time to relax, as in only a few days I've cut through the "short NW" corridor of Laos. I've also finally caught up with Leana in the town of Houei Xai, on the Mekong river. I arrived here in the gathering darkness after racing the sun before it disappeared into the river. On the opposite bank of the Mekong lies Thailand, where we plan to take the ferry tomorrow. Distances cycled since Chengdu have been:- To and from railway stations Chengdu & Kunming 15 km; To and from bus terminals Kunming & Jinghong 23 km; Menglun 76 km; Mengla 77 km; Luang Namtha (Laos) 110 km; Vieng Phouka 65 km; and Houei Xai 124 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town at the start of this journey is 50 348 km.