How Far Have They Got?
Many thanks to those that have donated.
Week 15 Summary: Along the Yellow River
This week: 575 miles, 9,736ft climbing and 44:29 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 7914 miles, 170,212ft climbing and 618:40 hours riding
Day 101: Sunday September 22nd:
With a decent breakfast inside us we left the hotel around 08:30 and got back on the busy A310. We’ll probably be on this road all day as we go in and out of the hectic towns and as we follow the Yellow River.
We have a steady ride planned for the day and we just cruised through the miles laughing and joking as we went along. We were mainly telling Rylan about his duties for the day; first job of the day – order the lunch. He did a grand job as went for our staple diet with a few twists, by adding couple items we had not tried. It’s always good to mix it up a little.
We enjoyed the company in the café, and they all came over for the obligatory photographs. It took us an age to leave but it was all good fun. We even took the Sterling currency out for them to take photos of; very weird. As we left the café Keith had a little play in the river and pulled out a soft shell turtle possibly a (Rafetus swinhoei: [unlikely – this is the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, which is almost extict – only 3 known specimens. More likely to be Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis): Ed]) or one the café had lined up for their guests.
After lunch we carried on with the steady pace as Linney had changed the route slightly so we could get to the hotel in good time for the rugby! So we came off the 310 and hit the back roads where the fun began. The first part was no problem but then the road got a little bit bumpy. I dropped behind as I had a puncture and then I lost sight of them. I carried on going and came to a bit of junction where I turned east as I thought that was the best option. Then I had another puncture on the rocky road and still had no sign of the others.
I took stock and decided to head for the 310 road again. It was a bit difficult but finally I managed to locate the super highway. Nothing for it but to push the fully laden bike up the incline then over the barrier and onto the super highway. First I checked that I am heading the correct way (East); result yes. So just hit the highway.
Unknown to me Keith had gone back to look for me and as I have no Chinese SIM card I can only message with a WIFI connection. As we are all capable of looking after ourselves Keith had a look around and then got back onto the 310 road. Unfortunately he was going in the wrong direction and ended up doing 15 miles before realising.
I knew the city we were heading for, but not the hotel so just rode to the city and with the light fading and no WIFI signal my plan was to get to the park that we bookmarked this morning then find the first hotel and have a beer. As I got close to the park I found a hotel, booked in and raided the fridge and took all their beers. I touched base with Linney and Rylan to let them know where I was and arranged to meet them in the morning.
Though Keith was still not in he was in contact with the boys. It was not a great finish to the day but a good lesson learnt; keep together! All in all Linney and Rylan did 85 miles, I did 90 miles and Keith did a massive 125 miles.
Day 102: Monday September 23rd:
Although the team split across two hotels we got ourselves sorted with the faithful social media sites. I sat in my hotel foyer and watched last nights rugby on my phone while the rest got ready and cycled the 1.5 miles to meet me.
With a few pleasantries and nods of the head we then the exchange of route details so everyone has the details of the intended hotel. Though this is pretty difficult as the route does change throughout the day. As we left the city of Sannemxia we had the choice of the toll road (we are not allowed on it but sometimes they let us or the 310 which is being worked on and so is very bumpy.
We went for the toll road option and rode all in formation as we passed the barrier. The guy shouted at us but we just waved and pedalled through. It was all ok – even though a police car passed us almost immediately it just drove straight past. On the smooth road we started to get a decent pace going which changed when we hit a steady climb. It was nothing too serious just a long drag that went on for about 9 miles.
Just as we reached the summit there was trouble ahead. The traffic marshals pulled us over and we acted all innocent although it was fairly obvious they would not let us continue on the road. It did seem that all they wanted to do was take pictures of us. We just sat on the Armco barrier laughing and joking. Then the police turned up; same procedure – pictures of us all and then the flat bed truck turned up. We put the bikes on the back with us sitting against them. Nothing was tied on and with loads of shouting and pointing (not aggressive – as always because we do not understand, they tend to shout lounder and gesticulate like mad). We had no idea where they were taking us but it ended up about a 10 mile trip to the next toll station. They say it was dangerous to ride on the road but in my humble opinion if was far more dangerous to ride on the flat bed truck at 60/70 mph. It was a pretty good experience though and a bit of a laugh.
We said our goodbyes to the police and flatbed truck driver and then started our ride again. It was a shame we did not gain any time after all the fussing around. Rylan was a bit disappointed as he thought they were taking us to our hotel at Luoyang.
The road was not in the best condition as they were building a new road adjacent to the old road which made for difficult technical riding at some points. We stopped for lunch at a small place called Chang cun zhen and met a Chinese guy who was cycling from Xi’an to Beijing. Wetried to have a little chat but his English was like my Chinese. We ended up just smiling and riding together for a few miles.
The ride into Luoyang was difficult to say the least. It was like riding through a building site with trucks and buses trying to sneak past you as cranes lifted sections of the new road in to place; it was chaos.
As always Linney guided us to the hotel and booked in with consummate ease and with the added bonus of cold beers from the shop inside the hotel. Rylan is getting the hang of it now.
Day 103: Tuesday September 24th:
We had a nice breakfast at the hotel before we left; a mixture of both East and West cultures. It’s nice to mix them up a bit and especially nice to have a hot coffee as we have not seen that very often these last few weeks.
We hit the road around 08:30 and were straight into the same road-works we had last night. The road system in Luoyang will be amazing when it is finished however it is terrible now. It took us at least 1 ½ hours to get out of the city; we were going around in circles, up un-paved road, into dead-ends and all sorts of crap roads. To cap it all Rylan had his first fall on his new bike and then blamed me for being slow too crossing the busy intersection. No damage to the bike just a bit of scuffed bar tape (how will I sell this on e-bay now was his only concern?).
Eventually we got onto the new road and then had a couple of hours of good riding which put us back on track to complete the 90 odd mile ride we had planned for today.
We stopped for lunch just before the town of He luo zhen in a tiny café just at the top of a little climb. We all had a massive bowl of noodle soup. Rylan takes an age to eat his with the chop sticks though he is getting better and not spreading the noddles around so much.
After lunch we carried on the new road for about 5 miles but then came to a big barrier across the road; closed! Linney was onto the maps like a hawk. I think we have an option; take this little road over the mountain and we should be able to re-join the road later.
We all nodded in agreement and started the climb. About half way up we stopped at a junction to check the maps. Rylan mad a little quip, “i’s like we don’t have a clue where we are”. Yep he is right, but nothing can go wrong. We ended up above the closed road but separated by a steep ravine that had partially collapsed,. That’s why the road was closed!
We all surveyed the options and none of them looking promising. Finally we settled on getting the bikes over an Armco barrier riding down a dirt track onto the road. We all dgot own with no dramas, just two punctures for Rylan and I. We fixed them and set of past the collapsed bank and after a few miles came to another barrier; the workmen just opened it for us with a smile.
Though these adventures had delayed us a little, we all treated it as a bit of a joke, riding on the closed road was fun. We even went through a mile long tunnel – all good fun – before we joined onto the rest of the traffic.
The ride into Zhengzhou was an absolute pleasure from stopping to have a bag of grapes about 15 miles out of the city centre we rode through immaculate parks past massive sports stadiums and busy street-life culture; very impressed. The city did get really busy in the centre but it was nothing we could not handle. We booked into the hotel with no problems and I think we are now out of the tourist hotel madness, as they are all keen to take us now.
Day 104: Wednesday September 25th:
It was a nice early breakfast this morning although that did not make any difference to our starting time. Rylan had a flat back tyre as we rolled the bikes out but they were both still doing their hair, so Keith and I sorted the flat out and mended a few inner tubes while we watched the world go by. Eventually they come out looking very smart after the laundry run last night.
We left the hotel around 08:30 through the busy streets of Zhengzhou. We had rode about 15 miles yesterday into the city and did at least the same again to get out of the city though the road was very good with plenty of room for cyclist and the electric scooters.
No sooner where we out of the city when we hit the next town. We were just rolling from town to town on busy streets. This is how it going to be now.
With flat busy roads we kept up a good pace hitting the next big city of Kaifeng just in time for lunc. We rode through the suburban area then into the heart of the city and stopped in a busy local café for lunch. As it was so busy we chose the best option; pick what the locals are eating. But it was not a great strategy Rylan ended up with a fish soup and he hates sea food! Linney had local soup; not great, Keith had chicken bones, while I had a salad and Rylan’s fish soup (I quite liked it). It was all finished off with an ice-cream from the shop over the road.
With just over 30 miles to go it was a breeze getting into Lankao. We went straight into the hotel. It was not the best but certainly good enough for the night. We booked in and then did some essential bike maintenance. I replaced the chain I had changed in Xi’an!
Day 105: Thursday September 26th:
Many Happy Returns to Mum/Nana on her 83rd Birthday. We hope she has a great day. We did send a card from Xi’an but not sure when it will arrive. [Not yet arrived, but she did love the presents you ordered: Ed]
With England playing rugby today we had planned (loosely) to have a relatively short day and leave early so we can get the streaming sorted on the PC. It’s all about the planning.
The first bit of the plan worked a treat as we were on the road around 08:15. Once we are out of the city is was a straight forward road to Shangqiu around 65 miles away. Very soon we were out of Lankao keeping up a good pace as always happens when there is rugby on. We were flying through the villages and towns with nothing very exciting to report; just eating up the miles. We did stop at a little fruit-sellers stall for an Asian pear; the guy was really good and gave us a little seat to sit as we watched the traffic pass by.
Soon we are on are way again and still keeping up a good pace. Before we knew it we had less than 20 miles to go so we stopped in a small village for some lunch. Rylan is still having problems with the chop sticks but said he was starving so he was going to eat his noodles (it looked like spaghetti bolognaise) even if it took him all day. To be fair he is riding really well, so we need to slow him up a bit.
With the city limits clearly visible we rolled into Shangqiu through a park that will be nice when its finished with boating lakes and gardens spread across a wide area. It looks like it’s a couple of months away before it fully opens. It’s a shame but the same can be said for the hotel we had pin-dropped; still under construction – nothing like a good plan! I think Linney and Rylan knew because they soon had an alternative hotel about a mile away. If Carlsberg made hotels it would be up there with the best; no arguments from Keith & I as we watched the wedding party have their photo shoot. It made a change for us not to be invited in but it was probably something to do with the cycling shorts I am wearing same pair for over a 100 days! They are a bit worn to say the least!
Keith is currently doing his IT stuff and trying to get the rugby on a live-stream; work in progress [I don’t think they are having any luck with live-streams or VPNs: Ed]
Well Keith failed his IT test as he could not connect to the UK VPN so we could not watch the rugby on the big screen. Plan B was to watch it on Rylans phone while we had our buffet dinner in probably the 2nd poshest hotel we had stayed in. As we sat down for the buffet dinner the poor lady came over and said we had to pay the equivalent of about £20 for the dinner. It was all paid so then the flood gates opened. I know Linney had enough for all of us though we all had are fair share, especially as the beers were also included. We spent 2 ½ hours there all told and it was 80 quid well spent.
Day 106: Friday September 27th:
With breakfast at 06:30, I for one was still full up from last night but managed to eat quite a lo. Once again it was difficult to get Linney out of the place and Rylan was in heaven using the knife and forks. We all left the breakfast area with our pockets bulging with fruit and sweets.
It was very easy to get out of Shangqiu being a new city it was all designed in grids similar to US citie although there must have been at least forty high rise buildings in various stages as we left the city behind us. It is unbelievable how much construction is taking place all over China.
With all of us all feeling good, the road clear and with long flat stretches we pushed the pace a little. It was nothing too difficult and we met two Chinese guys on mountain bike with panniers. It looked like they were doing a bit of touring but we could not understand them at all. We cycled with them for a while then pulled off the road for a soft drink at a small village (Zhongfeng). We sat on four chairs in the middle of a service station much to the amusement of the staff.
Then we pushed on again through miles and miles of sweetcorn drying off on the side of the road. We rode for over 30 miles with the stuff spread out on every available space. As we entered the small town of Yongcheng we decided to stop for lunch; not much choice, but chose a little place on the high street between the tyre shops and market stalls. We only lasted 2 minutes as Keith could not put up with the blokes shouting so we rode on a few miles then stopped at a small road-side café.
The owner and his wife were really pleased to serve us taking pictures and laughing at our attempts to order the food. The food was very basic but filling and the bread was the best we have had in China. They laughed at Rylan making a sandwich; you never know it may catch on! Even the resident mouse made an appearance running across the floor and under our table while we were eating.
The last 20 miles were through industrial areas with coal mines and power stations every couple of miles. Then it was a simple run into the city of Huaibei. The first hotel was fully booked so we rode ¼ mile down the road to the next cheapest one and it was all sorted in ½ hour.
Day 107: Saturday September 28th:
It’s Debbie’s Birthday so I wished her happy birthday this morning and got an instant reply from Texas; it was a couple of hours early in her time-zone. It’st the thought that counts.
The youngsters getting a bit used to the early starts (not that early). Now we are getting further East it is light at 7 now, whereas in Kashgar it did not get light till after 8, although it get dark really around 7 at night.
So we got away around 08:15 with 90 odd miles planned (but not routed) today. We all decided to break the back of the ride in the early section through the industrial landscape littered with power stations, coalmines and heavy engineering works. It kept Keith and I occupied while riding, but not sure if the “young uns” enjoyed the scenery much.
Then it all changed back to agriculture land and we were riding up tree lined roads with plenty of shade. It was very nice riding and we were eating up the miles on long flat roads. Just after Suzhou we stopped for the obligatory soft drink. We were sitting outside a local shop with the lady secretly taking pictures of us. Linney and Rylan are smiling at them. We are all very used to it now.
We carried on to the lunch stop still through the agriculture landscape though the roads had go a bit wider. With nearly 60 miles done we stopped at a small family run café; like a pick and mix with the vegetables. I’m not sure what Linney and I picked, but plate after plate kept coming and a big bowl of soup. We manged to eat all of it, much to the surprise of the owners, they even let us off some of the bill. They probably feeling sorry for the starving English guys.
As we left to carry on out came the phones again for a quick picture. With less than 30 miles to go it was a bit of a straight run into Bengbu though we said we may stop for a drink about half-way as it was quite warm – around 34 degrees and quite humid. Very nice conditions to ride in really.
With 10 miles to go we pulled into a little village shop. Well we thought it was little. Once they set eyes on Linney and Rylan the whole village turned out, from Grandmother (for Keith and I) to their teenage nieces and daughters. The phones were going wild with the pictures. We had a couple of beers and a bit of a laugh with the villagers and then said our goodbye with a smile and a wave.
We carried on to Bengbu, a big bustling city, to our hotel. We did get an offer of a local stay with a Chinese cyclist on the run in but it was pretty difficult with four of us so we smiled said thank you but we had a hotel booked. Fair play he guided to the hotel – nice guy.
Everyday and ALL the Details
Overland To India
See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.
This week they left Samarkand for Tashkent and finally left Uzbekistan and re-entered Kazakhstan. I think they are headed towards Almaty.