China – Chengdu und Fazit

Pandas 🐼 and China conclusion, Days 317-320

We really like Chengdu. It is a living city. Everywhere bicycles can be borrowed. Ping Pong and Karaoke is played in the parks.

Together with the other cyclers Guy, Kamilla, Coco and Violette, Judith visits the world-famous breeding station of the pandas 🐼 in Chengdu. In an incubator, we admire the small, helpless creature, which then grows up to these relatively large, thick, heartfelt pandas 🐼.

Surprisingly, there is no suitcase wrapping machine at the airport in Chengdu. This confirmed Justin, who works at the airport. He kindly organises bubble wrap film for us, in which we pack our bikes. On Friday morning Justin accompanies us to the airport. At check in we experience again the strict Chinese controls. Our luggage is scanned several times. At the stopover in Zhengzhou, we are stopped in front of the passport control because we do not have a blue ticket like the other passengers. Only now we understand, that we should have taken this when leaving the airplane. Once again, the Chinese do not know, what to do with us. After several phone calls then the responsible person is summoned and we also get this card. Again, we are not informed when the boarding or when the departure is. Even when we wait an entire hour for departure, there is no information. The people here seem to be used to having someone think for them and waiting for the next orders.

Conclusion China:
China is an incredibly exciting and adventurous travel destination. Unfortunately, our one-month visa, with a two-month extension, was far too short to travel the big country. But already with the two provinces Yunnan and Sichuan we got to know two different and scenic areas. We were especially pleased that we were able to discover something of the very warm Tibetan culture. Culinary China offers an unimaginable, large selection. Picturesque with the high mountains and the rice terrace it is a natural paradise! However, as far as the administration is concerned, it is energy-consuming and a test of patience. Luckily we applied for our visa in Vientiane, Laos and not in Hannoi, Vietnam. Several cyclers told us that they camped in front of the consulate for four nights to keep their place in the queue. The visa is really a problem, it determines and makes a trip to China extremely difficult! It is generally difficult to get information, such as which areas are closed, what visa extension documents are needed, and what are the condition of the roads. The regulations change very quickly and are implemented according to the mood of the officials. So we learned several times that we were sent away by a bus, sim card store or hotel with a “may yo” (does not work, does not exist). People are usually very friendly, although communication is a big challenge. Never have we learned so little of the language as here in China. This has to do with people speaking Tibetan in some of the areas we have traveled to and Chinese being very difficult to learn.

The sometimes very ruthless behavior towards the people, animals and nature has frightened and saddened us several times. For example, animals are kept in the smallest cages, artificial terraces built in national parks, lavishly ordered and not eaten food or ruthless honking and overtaking on the street.

We are glad that now slurping, spitting and honking will come to an end!

China- Litang, way to Chengdu

Culmination & Police escort, Days 308-316

In Litang we visit the big impressive temple. Since our Chinavisa ends soon and we know from read reports that the direct route to Chengdu is a very busy road, we decide to take the bus from Litang to Garze. On Monday morning at 9:00 clock we get on the bus to Garze. The two bikes we can easily put in the aisle and to our surprise for free, although the day before, the woman at the counter just shook her head when we explained that we want to take our bikes on the bus. We are amazed about the great tolerance of the other passengers, who have to lurch past the bicycles. After more than 7 hours of bumpy drive we arrive in Garze. The road was partly under construction and so we are glad that we have taken this section by bus. We like Garze right away. The city is surrounded by snowy mountains and there are many restaurants, various shops and a market. Although the whole city is covered with scaffoldings, we conclude from our observation that the façades are being renewed in a uniform and old-fashioned style to make the city more suitable for tourists.

The decision to cycle this section from Garze to Sertar pays off already on the first day. It is a lonely, new road with a great panorama. A short section is still under construction. The houses here are extremely beautiful. They are made of clay, stone and wood and painted in dark red color, blue and orange. Black storm clouds form in the sky and it is just a matter of time when it starts to rain. When we sit in a restaurant in Sitongda and have a snack, it rains. Once again we were very lucky 😀 It does not take long for the sun to show again and we pedal on a nice, small gravel road a few meters in the direction of our last, high pass and camp on a yak field.

The ascent to our last high pass at 4500müM is extremely nice. The view over the snowy mountains, the fir trees and the lonely temple with the golden roof make up for the effort. The descent on the gravel and through the construction site takes more time than we thought. Tired we find a nice place to sleep by the river.

When we want to leave the next morning, Andi noticed a broken spoke on his rear wheel. Luckily we already have experience and it is quickly replaced. We cycle along the bumpy piste along the river and long for asphalt. After Tarzé, a barrier blocks the way. Two policemen stop us and let us understand that we are not allowed to continue. They make a call and after a while, a third policeman comes who can speak some English. He tells us that Sertar and Larung Gar are closed to foreigners, why they can not explain. (We read on the website that Larung Gar has over 40,000 monks and nuns living in small, rock-built houses. We have seen photos and it really must be very impressive, and the government ordered a massive reduction in 2016. We suspect that riots are being feared by foreign tourists and therefore this area, like Tibet, is being closed down.) The police are discussing what they should do with us. Since we are hungry, they offer us an instant noodle soup. Then it goes fast. A pickup truck is stopped, which drives us to the next police station in Sertar. We enjoy the bumpy road in the car.😀 In Sertar our bikes are loaded in a police car and in a second we follow. Since we still have to go shopping, the three policemen accompany us to the market and to the gas station, so that we can fill our gas bottles. While driving, our driver takes a selfie from us. In Larung Gar, the police make an extra stop for us and ask us to take photos of Larung Gar.

Back on the bike we enjoy it to destroy altitude meters. The gorge with the very beautiful, castle-like houses and the many Tibetan flags are beautiful. We also see some monkeys that do not fit into this alpine landscape. We agree that the risk of taking this path was definitely worth it! Shortly before it gets dark, we cycle and find a place to camp by the river.

Even if it always goes downhill, the track is tiring. The area does not change much, so we are all the more surprised about Guanyinqiao, which turns out to be a lively town. Here there are not many western tourists and so we pose countless times for selfies… After a rest day we cycle along the river to the next bigger town Ma’erkong, which is also very busy. It even has its own small marketplace just for the popular Chinese caterpillar mushroom. It is a tube fungus that attacks caterpillars. These are patiently collected by farmers and nomads and sold for a lot of money. They are used in Chinese medicine to treat cancer, lung, liver, kidney and circulatory complaints and to strengthen the immune system. They also have an aphrodisiac effect. Thus a true miracle cure against almost all the sufferings of the world 😀. From here we take the bus to Chengdu. We’re lucky we get a seat. Once again it was a good decision to travel this section by bus, as this is also a very busy narrow road with many tunnels and the highway is still under construction. After 7 hours drive we arrive happily in Chengdu and are warmly welcomed by our Warmshowerhost Justin. Deep into the night we exchange views with Coco and Violette, a Belgian cycling couple who are also Warmshower guests of Justin.

Total distance: 613.55 km
Max elevation: 4543 m
Min elevation: 493 m
Total climbing: 3451 m
Total descent: -6142 m

China – Xiangcheng, Way to Litang

Just beautiful, Days 301-307

In Xiangcheng we get to know the Tibetan culture. In the evening, young and old meet at the village square at 19: 00-20: 00. One group dances to traditional music, another marches with its prayer chain several rounds around a sacred pillar (Kora), others push the prayer wheels as they pass, and some simply watch the action. The music sounds from a speaker and the bells ring from the prayer wheels. It is a very peaceful and happy mood.

Since the direct route from Xiangcheng to Sangdui is under construction, we take the detour via Daocheng and ride 40 kilometers back. Early at 17:00 o’clock we stopp cycling, because we find a great place to sleep on 3800müM and do not want to stay too high. We enjoy the evening and crawl into the tent early. At night we marvel at the beautiful and near starry sky.

The 4700müM pass is the target for the day. The Chinese have done a great job, because the road is very bike friendly with many curves and built with a pleasant gradient. So we are surprised when we are suddenly on top of the pass. We continue cycling, fly on the super new surface and pass the simple huts of the nomads who live here in the summer with their yaks, horses, sheep and pigs. At an old monastery with gold-decorated roof we stop. A monk leads us into the courtyard and into the splendid prayer room where there are three large golden statues. The exceptionally large monk, almost the same size as Andi, invites us to yak butter tea with yak cheese and tsampa (a kind of bread porridge) in the monastery kitchen. In the village of Mula we stop in the village restaurant, where we are admired by the curious children. On the high plateau of 4100müM we set up our camp.

After a cold night, we are glad to be warmed by the warm sun. The plateau leads up to 4500müM and reminds us of a valley in Uri, Switzerland. It follows a breezy descent through a desert-like landscape to Daocheng, where we enjoy a Sichuan dish. But this is too oily for our taste. In the evening we arrive in Sangdui, where the greengrocer throws us a mandarin and presents us with watermelon pieces. The people are really friendly.

Two high passes are on the agenda. The area is very nice. We see marmots that never whistle, a species of wild chickens and hares. It starts raining on the rabbit mountain pass 4696m asl, almost snowing a bit. On the downhill we get wet. After 5 hours of cycling we arrive in Jiawa. From there it is only 29km to Litang. On the last pass before Litang in front of a monastery we meet two monks. They are enthusiastic about our bicycles, but especially about the color of our bikes. We are celebrating another jubilee: ​​12,000 kilometers.

In Litang on our hotel marathon we come across a Tibetan family, which unfortunately have no room for us, but invites us for tea. In a large bowl, a monk prepares “Tsampa” and shapes it into pyramids. This is for the upcoming celebration and for Buddha.

Total distance: 292.84 km
Max elevation: 4668 m
Min elevation: 2693 m
Total climbing: 4958 m
Total descent: -3899 m

China – Way to Xiangcheng

Over dusty road and high passes to Sichuan, Days 297-300

Juhui, we are on our way again! A remote area with high passes is waiting for us. That’s why we visit the market once again and fill our bags with enough provisions. We take it easy the first day. At 2800 meters we find a nice spot by the river where we camp. It has not been so warm for a long time. In the best weather we continue cycling and manage the pass of 3900müM. At the top, countless Tibetan prayer flags blow in the wind. Warmly packed we enjoy the beautiful view. The nice thing about cycling passes is that mostly after the pass shows a whole new area. So we come into a narrow, green valley with large stately homes. We find a good hotel and enjoy the warm shower.

The next morning is the royal stage to the next larger city Xiangcheng (Xiangbala) on the program. Royal stage because a 60km long gravel road with partially sandy sections waiting for us. We are making very good progress and have a long lunch break. After three hours we reached the mountain pass 4300müM. The route continues on gravel and some climbs we tackle until then the road is sandy and extremely dusty. After six hours cycling we find a nice spot on a beautiful stream on 4300müM. In the morning we are greeted by a yak herd and a shepherd. We have never seen such big and beautiful yaks even with calves.

The descent in this sand and dust almost more exhausting than the climb! Again and again we are fogged by passing trucks and cars. After being shaken up for an hour, we reach with great relief asphalt again in Ranwu. A quick detour to the Hotspring is unfortunately disappointing and so we are back on the drive to Xiangcheng.

We left the Yunnan region with the pass and arrived in Sichuan. In Sichuan, the area and the people have changed a lot. It is drier, very barren in height and at the bottom of the river it has oasis-like, green terraced fields. The people are very friendly, have a very dark complexion and speak Tibetan. Instead of “ni hao” is now called “hallo” and with our Chinese translation app we sometimes get stuck, because many can only read the Tibetan script. To our great disappointment our SIM card does not work anymore. That means here in Sichuan apply extremely high roaming charges for our Yunnan card. In a few hours, the monthly credit is used up.

After five hours driving, we arrive dusty in Xiangcheng at the hotel. Luckily, we are already in the room when it starts to rain and to our great surprise we can take the dusty bicycles into the carpeted room, where we shower them off in the large bathroom. To our delight, Guy and Kamilla are still here and we exchange our experiences once more.

Total distance: 232.22 km
Max elevation: 4333 m
Min elevation: 2675 m
Total climbing: 4382 m
Total descent: -4621 m

China – Shangri-la

Wait and see! Days 284-296

In the city of Shangrila we start the visamarathon the next morning. To get the registration confirmation, we cycle to the police station. But only the second station can issue the confirmation of registration. At PSB (Public Security Bureau) we find everything closed. What now? It is Friday and according to opening hours, it should be open. But fortunately an official waves us in. We are kindly informed that the registration confirmation is not enough. It takes: A written travel report, a filled visa form and for a special document we must cycle to a foto studio at the other end of the city. The requested form is created for 80yüan (12.-sFr.) and we get 8 additional passport photos. We can definitely use them again later.

On Saturday we go with all documents to the PSB. Oh no! The office is closed again, even though they clearly promised us that it will be open. We see that the projector is running and the light is on. Curious we nock at the door. But nothing happens. Andi discovers a telephone number and soon a dynamic officer arrives, opens the door, puts on some Chinese music and sets up her office table while we are sitting tensely in the waiting room. Then it’s our turn. Oh no, the passport copy is missing. But somehow it works without. After one more photo, fingerprints are taken and 160 yuan per person (24.-sFr.) have to be paid. In five working days we can have our visas and passports back again 😳. No, we do not want to wait that long! The officer tells us that this is fast and that in other places it even takes an entire week. As we finally ask, when we can pick up our visa, she says: “Okay, come back on Monday!” We can hardly believe it! What was that? A joke? We can even call the officer on Monday on here mobile when we leave, so she is in the office when we arrive. Incredible! That’s China!

We use the time to discover all the delicious Chinese food: We try Dumblings, yak cheese, Chinese-Burger, dried yak meat, butter-Milk tea (not our liking), hot soymilk, nudels, wantan (kind of stuffed dumplings in a soup), yak yoghurt und flatbread. But in our absolute favorite restaurant, which is very inconspicuous and has just three tables, we were served with nice different dishes with vegetables and legumes. The friendly cook and her daughter offer us the last meal for free. Meanwhile we can eat easily with sticks.

Every day we stroll through the pulsating market. In contrast to the sleepy old town, which was built around 2002 and burnt down four years ago to 70% and completely rebuilt again, the market is extremely lively.
We stock up with blankets, hot and thermos bottles, since heating is unknown here. But they have mattress heaters, which we will miss in the coming stages over 4000müM in the tent. In addition, Judith needs a replacement sleeping mat, but unfortunately there is only Chinese quality here…

Kamilla and Guy the cycling couple from the USA arrives. We are pleased to see them again and we have a wonderful time. They introduce us into the cool “Bananagram-Game”, which we handicraft our self later.

On Monday the officer has no time and we should return to the office on Tuesday. On Tuesday the cycling couple Stefan & Jessica and Juanita arrive, so we are 7 touring cyclists in the same hostel😀 We have a very exciting exchange with intensive planning discussions. Because all are frustrated with the too short visa for such a big country and with the complicated Chinese administration. It is frustrating how the visa determines the itinerary and the speed of our journey. So Jessica, Stefan and Juanita are too early in Shangrila (In Shangrila extension is only possible in the last week of expiry) and can not extend their visa yet, but this rule does not apply to the next PSB. There, they have to be before the last 7 days of expiry. However, to get there is just not possible by bike, so they have no choice but to go by bus to Leshan.

On Tuesday we can finally pick up our passports with the new visas. However, Andi’s cold has gotten worse and we are waiting for a few more days. After almost two weeks in Shangrila, Andi’s cough cured and we head for Litang. During the last months we have discussed a lot and researched, where our journey should continue. We finally decided how and where to go after China! Flight is booked. But we keep it secret 😀.

China – Lijiang, way to Shangri-la

No walk in the park, but worth doing! Days 275-283

9 months we are already on the road. We use this to warmly thank all the dear people, who kindly supported and helped us before and during our journey! 🙏
On a small side road we cycle the last kilometers through the blooming landscape to Lijiang. In Lijiang we have a picnic in a park. Even in this touristy town Lijiang we check into a cheap, new hotel for 40 yuan (6.-sFr.).
We visit the old town of Lijiang, enjoy the beautiful view over the rooftops and dive once again into the bustling market. In the evening we meet Guy and Kamilla, the cycling couple from the USA and we have a very exciting exchange.

After two days of rest in Lijiang we cycle in nice, but very windy weather, off in the direction of the Leaping Gorge. We choose the way through the snow mountain national park. At the entrance to the park they charge 100 yuan (15.-sFr.) per person. Fortunately, Judith remembers the blog from a German cycling couple that they did not have to pay. We also manage to convince the guards that we only cycle through without visiting the park and can cycle for free through the park. The landscape with the larches resembles the Engadin. The scenery with the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is beautiful and we roll over the highest pass on our trip 3200m asl. There are a lot of cars filled with Chinese tourists who go to play golf, to take pictures with the yaks or to the gondola. Some even carry an oxygen bottle. Especially at the lake with the yaks, we can only shake our heads over the scenery.
The second ascent has it, as a cobblestone road leads up to the top. We destroy some height meters until we then set up our tent on 2900m asl. The campfire warms us and a worried Chinese admonishes us that we also need to extinguish the fire well. It is very dry.

Andi is plagued with diarrhea and so we are glad that the next day we have a 1700m downhill. The view of the third longest river in the world Yatze is unique! On the terrace fields, the grain is being harvested, mostly tied by hand to sheaves. The ferry takes us in Daju to the other side for 50 yuan (7.50 sfr.). The wind whips through the Tiger leaping gorge straight into our face, while we fight up the partly sandy gravel road.
Andi does not feel fit and so we cycle to a lookout point in the Tiger leaping gorge and then turn towards Shangrila.

We rest for one day so that Andi can regain his strength. Meanwhile, Kamilla and Guy have arrived. Our paths separate again. We drive without luggage only briefly to the viewpoint in the gorge. Without luggage, it drives quickly and we fly past the ticket booth. This we notice only when someone calls us from the old inconspicuous cottage. Later we are stopped by two security men who want to see our ticket, which costs 65yuan (9.-sFr.) per person. We explain to them that we did not see a sign and that we do not want to go hiking and only want to drink tea in the Guesthouse. This is okay for them and we enjoy the view into the canyon while we eat a Naxi bread. This is a flatbread, which is baked in the pan.

Then we roll back to our hostel and with luggage we climp the winding road and enjoy the sensational view just before Haba on the beautiful terrace fields. In the cozy living room of the guesthouse, the owner cooks us a fine dinner. Andi’s belly still rumbles a bit, making the hard climbs even more exhausting.

In Dugou we visit the white terraces. The natural are very beautiful, but further down artificial terraces are being built. We can only shake our heads.

In San Ban we find a good shop with lots of vegetables and fruits to our delight. However, the infrastructure here at this altitude and in the small villages is usually poor.
We camp at 2800m asl and wrap ourselves warmly in the sleeping bag. It is very cold and the wind is blowing around the tent. Brrrrr! In the morning we are grateful for the warming sun and we bravely crank up the further altitude of today’s stage. It goes over 3600m asl! The beautiful view rewards us once more. Shortly before the last pass of 3700asl to Shangrila we camp on 3300m asl at a bus stop right next to the road. We did not find any other flat place and we were just too exhausted to ride even further and we did not want to stay even higher up! The night was cold again. In addition, Judith’s six-year-old Exped-sleeping mattress is now broken too! It has opened a bladder at the dumbest moment! So it was not a restful sleep.

Fortunately, in the morning we are greeted by the warming sun and we cycle the last few meters up to the highest pass of our travels 3700m asl. The air is thinner, the grass drought and the firs smaller. The next valley is barren than the one before. Yaks, horses, goats and pigs graze in meager meadows. The villages look abandoned.

The state farmhouses are partially decayed and some are newly renovated. Our food supply is gone and our stomach growls. Once again there is no restaurant and in a shop there are only sweets and noodle soup. We cycle on and hope to find a restaurant. We stop just before Shangrila. We eat very fine, but it has never been so expensive! So surprised and shocked by this high price we can do nothing but pay and in the future be more careful and ask in advance.

In Shangrila the hotel search becomes an odyssey! Since we need a hotel for the extension of the visa with permission for foreigners. We rattle off all the hotels that would gladly accommodate us and suit us, but it always turned out that they can not register us because they do not have the permit. Finally, we find one, which is just more four times more expensive.

Total distance: 297.23 km
Max elevation: 3703 m
Min elevation: 1612 m
Total climbing: 6023 m
Total descent: -5056 m

China – Dali, way to Lijiang

Spring is here!, Day 270-274

With the new, exciting audio book about China and its history, it climbs by itself the last pass and then down to our first destination, Dali. First we arrive in the big city Dali. Only 15 kilometers later is the touristy, but very beautiful old town. Before we meet our Warmshower host, we see the USA cyclists Guy and Kamilla, who have been on the road for two years now and will be cycling the same route as we do. We will definitely meet again on the way.

Heimat shows us the local market and the beautiful, but unfortunately very touristy old town of Dali. We enjoy having Continue reading “China – Dali, way to Lijiang”

China – Kunming, way to Dali

All seems Chinese to us!, Day 262-269

We land in the middle of the night in Kunming. Everything seems Chinese to us! Fortunately, we experience a great readiness for help of the Chinese here. We are even spontaneously invited by Chinese Anderson for dinner and introduced to the Chinese language. We are overwhelmed. Organizing the SIM card proves to be very difficult. Everywhere we are sent away again. The area where we stay, is very Muslim influenced and so we find our beloved dates at a shop in front of the mosque. The next day at lunch we meet the Pakistan students. They invite us to their home. We have exciting conversations with many good tips for helpful apps. In China, Google, Whatsapp and Facebook are blocked. Installing VPN’s proves to be very difficult, only ExpressVPN works really well. We enjoy the fine tea and the Pakistani dinner. With their help, it is a piece of cake at the university to get the SIM card. This big and warm hospitality touches us a lot! Even the taxi costs back to our hotel are paid!

Well packed in the warm cycling clothes, which we had to dig out of the deep of our bags, we cycle towards Dali. Unfortunately, this stage is not so nice, as it is a larger road with moderate traffic. We are all the more pleased to enjoy the first hotpot at noon. In the evening we find a great, cheap hotel in the small village. For dinner we are even presented with vegetables from the garden.

With these pleasant temperatures, we can take it slowly in the morning. The area is very nice now. First, the little-used road leads along a river. Then there are many terrace fields, which are planted with different vegetables and on which is worked efficiently by hand. It is also longer light until half past eight and so we camp with beautiful views and our flashlights come late into operation.

As far as Lucheng, we are struggling with headwinds, with dusty roads, with many trucks and with a six-lane road, luckily not too busy. The highlight of the day is the old town in Lucheng. In the evening, the strong wind and thunderclouds keep us from camping.

The next morning we drive finally again a nice pass with a pleasant climb. At lunchtime we stop at a small restaurant. We simply point to the dishes of the other guests. Mostly in the restaurants there are big refrigerators with a glass wall. Then we point to the vegetables we want to have and are then looking forward to what is served. As in Thailand, we have to say explicitly that we do not want MSG, sugar or soy sauce, because that’s the only way our stomaches do not rumble. The strong wind keeps us from tents this evening. We are looking for a hotel, which is not easy with the Chinese characters! But we managed to find one.

Total distance: 419.74 km
Max elevation: 2454 m
Min elevation: 1478 m
Total climbing: 4173 m
Total descent: -3900 m