Dale has been looping around Honshu Island and this week returns to Osaka from Yokohama via Mt Fuji. He then takes a train to Yokohama to rendezvous with everyone else for the Rugby World Cup Final: England vs South Africa.
Japan totals: 792 miles, 48019 ft climbing and 68:07 hours riding
Dale Day 8: Sunday October 27th:
Dale didn’t ride today but stayed in Yokohama to watch the Rugby World Cup semi-final between Wales and South Africa: the Boks won 19-16.
Yesterday Dale watched England vs New Zealand in the other semi-final. England stuffed the All Blacks 19-7.
Dale also saw the Wales vs South Africa semi-final, but its wasn’t such a great game.
Dale Day 9: Monday October 28th:
I’m back on the road again after two days watching the Rugby semi-finals. I went to both games: Saturday’s was excellent, a great game from an England perspective but unfortunately the Sunday game was a bit of a damp squid and never really got going with South Africa running out the eventual winners,
My plan is to now cycle back to Osaka taking the eastern route this time. Starting with todays ride with a potential view of Mount Fuji if the weather is favourable. In the morning we had clear blue skies so it’s looking good, though it can change in the mountains very quickly.
I was climbing all morning up to around 2000m on really good roads with very little traffic. It was quite pleasant with nice views of Lake Yamanakao, the Doshi river and the mountains Yakiyama Omuro, Komotsurushi and Mikuni. It was a stunning section of road across the top of the mountains athough the cloud came down on the western side making it impossible to see Mt Fuji; fate and all that but still a really nice ride with a lovely descent before the final climb of the day.
A good day in the saddle and I needed it after two heavy days watching the rugby!
Dale Day 10: Tuesday October 29th:
Here we go again woke up to the sound of rain pelting against the windows; happy days! At least it is not cold and I only planned to do 70 odd miles. Still it’s really not nice going out in the pouring rain. It’s a bit different when you get caught up in the rain as you have very little choice but to carry on. However I have to move on to get back to Oaska and sort out getting my bike home [Steve’s frame though: Ed], then build myself up for the final; surely nothing can go wrong.
So I hit the road with a steady downpour. I just keep smiling as it’ll all be worth it when England bring home the Webb Ellis trophy (so I kept saying to myself).
All I can say is the rain never stopped all day, in fact it got worse, so I did not stop for lunch and just powered through. I arrived at the hotel around 13:30 but the girl on the front desk said my room would not be ready until 15:00 but I soon sorted that out and gave her my best sad face whilst dripping water all over the place. I think they were well please when they got me a room straight away.
No pictures today as everything was to wet and you could not see anything anyway. The good news is that it is meant to be a little brighter tomorrow. I hope so.
Dale Day 11: Wednesday October 30th:
I woke to a lovely sunny morning so different from yesterday. Once I got out the road my Garmin started to play up. I think it was operator error last night when I downloaded the ma. It was sending me all over the place for the first 10 or so miles as think I had set it on Mountain bike trails by mistake.
So I kept the Garmin running but reverted to MapsMe. This does eat up the battery on my phone but I had a couple of battery packs with me so it should be OK.
This route took me along the shores of Lake Hamana, a very tourist place with hotels doted along the shore and all sorts of trails to follow. I was glad I was not following my Garmin now as I would have been in forest for sure. I had a lovely 20 or so miles along the lake, quite flat and really sunny.
Then it was a nice steady climb up into the forest where I stopped for a little bite to eat at the top of third climb where I prepared some stuff for a radio interview later in the evening.
Dale Day 12: Thursday October 31st:
It’s my penultimate riding day in Japan and another sunny day. I hope it’s the same for Keith & Linford who are visiting Mt Fuji today.
I knew my ride today was going to be through busy towns and cities so I had a few different plans for the day just to see how it plans out. The first part of the ride along national road 23 was not too bad but it ran adjacent to E1A which was really busy and anyway cyclists are not allowed on them. I stayed on the 23 for around 35 miles on pretty good cycle paths across loads of bridges and heavy engineering works.
I’d had enough of stopping and starting now so plan B came into operation. So just after the city of Yokkaichi I turned off onto the minor roads using downloaded google map. It was so much better getting away from all the traffic and before I knew it I was out in the countryside where I belong past forest campsites and warning notices about the monkeys which I didn’t this time.
I then took a single line paved track up to the top which was really good riding. I only met one other car coming down and he looked like a forestry guy. I had a bite to eat at the top and a drink in a picnic site. Then it was back on the bike for the down-hill ride into Otacho. Well as in the UK it’s never all downhill in Japan with their rolling roads, but nevertheless it was a really nice ride today the first part in typical Japanese cities and town and the second part in their fabulous unspoiled country-side. Quite a contrast between the two.
Dale Day 13: Friday November 1st: Last Day on the Road
It’s my last days cycling in Japan; it has been a wonderful experience they are really nice people and their manners are amazing. The food’s not really to my taste but vegetable ramin is pretty good, when it’s available,
I woke up to a really foggy morning but the girl on reception assured me it would all clear shortly so sat and had an extra coffee and cake with her and sure enough the fog cleared. Just as I was about to leave Keith contacted me about ticket prices for the final. I said do it mate from our joint account so I left with a spring in my pedals thinking, “we have only gone and done it! cycled here and get to watch the final, nothing can go wrong”.
But my navigation was wayward for bit as at 2 miles I got a bit confused but managed to get back on track in the end,. Then it all went a bit pear shaped at 15 miles in; there was a massive mudslide so I could not pass the road but the guy sent me down this little track. Mate is was rough, good old planning, bhut even that was un-passable at the end so I backed up and went on the road. It was really nice scenery and the guys working on the mudslide offered to give me a lift, I just smiled and told them I had World Cup final tickets so no problem. I’m not sure they understood a word.
After that it was a surprisingly pleasant ride into the outskirts of Osaka and then I hit highway number 1, which you are not allowed to cycle on, but as I stopped and tried to look intelligent looking at electronic maps, a really nice guy said there is a cycle path adjacent to the highway, he drove his car up to show me, nice guy, so a relatively easy ride into the city.
I booked into the hotel had a quick shower then went out to sort the bike packaging. Then I had tickets to Yokohama for tomorrow to sort out.
It was a great tour of Honshu Island, with really pleasant people and all a credit to the nation.
Keith & Charlee
These two did some travelling around. Sadly the hike up Mt Fuji was called off – bad visibility. But they did have a great days rafting on the Yoshino river.
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River in Kochi Prefecture, Japan with Happy Raft!
Dale Day 14: Saturday November 2nd: World Cup Final
[Dale, Keith, Linford, Charlee and Camilla are all going to the Rugby World Cup final: England vs South Africa. Hopefully we’ll get some photos: Ed]
We were up early for breakfast and then had short ride of 14 miles to Beppu ferry terminal. Three hour crossing to Yawatahama went pretty slowly. Feeling rough from yesterday 👍
We came straight off the boat and pushed on to Ozu which was only 20 miles away and mainly through built up areas.
We arrive at our hotel in enough time to set up laptop/tv and settled down to watch the second set of 1/4 final games. Both good games👍, but both results not what I wanted ☹️. [Wales beat France and South Africa beat Japan: Ed]
We have 75 miles planned for today but the weather outlook is not looking very good. We were out sorting the bikes at 7:30; bit of oil here and there, air in the tyres and adjusting a front wheel bearing. Ready to roll.
It was a steady climb for the first fifteen miles and slightly chilly and damp. Unfortunately as we climb up the valley the views are ruined by low cloud and mist. It does’nt change all day. After a hour or so we pull over into a Co-op looking for fruit. Seems Seven-Eleven and the other convenience stores don’t sell fruit. Pick up a couple of apples and a bag of tangerines.
The day just gets duller and duller as we follow the course of the river. Traffic’s busy and the roads are not great. Lunch is a microwave meal in a “Family Mart” with coffee and chocolate eclairs to finish.
The final climb of the day and Linney’s on a mission. Not sure if he’s upset because I ate most of the eclairs or he wants to finish before it rains. No worries we’re soon making enquiries for a room in another dodgy hotel.
We leave that behind and find the delightful “Love max Hotel”. It’s not lovely at all.
It was Coronation Day yesterday. A holiday we knew nothing about until the parades started in the evening. There were plenty of drums and the same float as the autumn festival.
We were up and ready to go at 7:45; pumped up Linney’s tyre, oil my chain and off we go. A lap of the car-park to discover I sheared a bolt on my rear pannier yesterday. 5 minutes and rolling. Amazing things Ty-wraps.
The first 10 miles is up hill this morning, then all down hill pretty much. It was a steady climb in the muggy atmostphere. Sun was threatning to break out as we passed some lovely small holdings along the river. Not long before we reach the top, marked by a small tunnel. We descended following the Yoshino river which is pretty sizeable given it was close to its source. We stop for photos on the IKEDA dam.
We picked up some bits for our picnic at the “Lawsons Store”. and pulled over at a mini golf course on the side of the river to enjoy our lunch. Followed by fresh strawberries and banana chips.
The rest of the day was very enjoyable, downhill, along the tow path ( a cycle route).
We arrived out our shabby hotel at 15:00.
Later we went out for dinner at “Buddy Buddy” – the craft ale sign outside was the decider. The chef guy was lovely and chatty; Linney had the set Oyster dinner and I stuck to the chicken. The craft ale was on tap and we tried a few; all very good but the pale ale was exceptional. Pity we won’t be back.
Day 12: Wednesday October 23rd: OUR LAST DAY OF CYCLING
Fly-through Map of Japan Day 12.
We were up and out at 07:00.
The ferry leaves at 8. We were relieved to find our bikes haven’t been touched as we’d left them in the hotel open carpark. It was a warm bright morning as we pull into 7/11 to buy breakfast.
On arrival at the ferry terminal we purchased tickets and joined the queue to board. It was still only 07:25 but no boat was in sight.
Three lorries, six cars, three motorbikes and our two bikes to load. Doesn’t take five minutes. We go on board looking for a quiet corner were we can have our breakfast and a snooze. No worries, there are only a handful of passengers. You do well to meet people as you walk around the decks. Smooth sunny crossing, but nothing to look at.
We disembark dead on time after a 2 hour crossing. 50 miles today give or take. The first twelve are uphill out of the port then a couple of miles of flat countryside and then 35 miles of urbanisation. We take a break straight away. Linney wants to change his shorts. I take a look at my bike rear deraileur playing up. Shit iv’e broken the gear cable. What to do?
1, Change cable. (probably an hour, bar tape removed, gears may not be perfect)
2, Shorten chain (single speed)
3, Adjust deraileur to run on a higher gear (Use front deraileur, 3 gears)
I adjust deraileur in a couple of minutes and off we go. Linney leading (as always ) up the hill. I think he’s forgotten I don’t have all my gears. It’s only an hour, so press on up. Just happens to be a bright sunshiny day. Over the top then a nice descent into the town (past a petrochemical works).
Soon it’s time to eat again, “picnic” Linney says “there’s a park and lake ahead”. So we pull into Lawson’s Store for food. Out the store and into the park. Think reservoir with grass band around it. Not to worry it’s clean and quiet.
We spend the rest of the day riding through town but it’s not bad we keep rolling using both the roads and cycle-paths.
We book into our hotel at 15:00.
That’s our cycling over, I for one will miss it. Seems sad that we are done, but Charlee and Camilla arrive tomorrow. That’s exciting.
We have pizza for dinner as I fancied something more like home. Will be full on Japanese again tomorrow with the girls.
Day 13: Thursday October 24th:
[I’m guessing they hung out in Osaka all day and then went to the airport to pick up Charlee & Camilla: Ed]
Day 14: Friday October 25th:
Day 15: Saturday October 26th:
[No news or photos from today. I expect they enjoyed the England vs NZ game though!: Ed]
Week 19 Summary: Dale’s Tour
After spending time with Sandra and Rylan travelling around Japan Dale is now cycling North on his own. [He’ll be looping back to Yokahama for the Rugby semi-final and final w/ends and will rendezvous with the others there: Ed]
This week: 458.2 miles, 27376 ft climbing and 38:01 hours riding
Dale Day 1: Sunday October 20th:
It was a great result last night as England stuffed the Aussies [Rugby World Cup 1/4 final 40-16: Ed], Sandra & I watched it in an English bar in Oaska but Keith & Linney had tickets. Fair play we could have had tickets, but Sandra is flying home very early in the morning, so we could not take them up on the very generous offer of tickets; another bonus point for me, the doting husband that I am!
It was a very early start and we were up at 05:15 to walk Sandra to the station sort the tickets out and say our farewells agai. It’s only for 3 weeks this time as I have booked a flight home on the 6th November.
Then I went back to the hotel had breakfast and then get the bike ready. To be honest I was pretty nervous, not about riding on my own, but just getting out of Oaska, then riding through all the busy towns and cities. It’s really not my forte, especially without the expert map reading skills of Linney being there to guide me. Hence I had picked a relatively easy route out of Oaska; down to the river then follow the river to the outskirts of Otsu and then follow Lake Biwa around to Takashima; nothing could go wrong.
To be perfectly honest I was quite pleased with myself as it all went pretty smoothly to the river bank. Though the cycle track was very good with loads of road bikes on it every few miles they did put in some serious barriers to stop vehicles which were ok for road bikes but a pain with all the panniers on. I soon got the hang of it though. So enjoyed traffic free cycling for the first 25 miles and it was excellent following the river and watching all the sports going on; rugby, football, baseball, tennis, golf, with a bit of rowing and kayaking thrown in, all in all a good mornings ride.
Then I hit a busy road into Otsu had lunch on the very nice promenade of Lake Biwa, and then carried on a minor road hugging the lake. I knew the rugby was on at 16:15 so I really wanted to be done around 15:30. Just as I was coming up to that time I overtook a guy on a shopping bike with a massive backpack on and said the normal “hello” he replied the same with a massive Manc accent. We ended up watching the first game with him and his mate from Guernsey and they sorted a place for me to stay at a friends of theirs place about 8 miles down the road.
I sat watched the rugby with them but went careful on the beers and then moved onto the Japanese style lodge and natural hot spring (Onsen) they had arranged for me. Well the place was superb, but unfortunately no WIFI so I went to the local bar and caught the 2nd half of the game. The hot spring Onsen was really good; where were they when we needed them a couple of months ago? I felt brand new when I came out; a bit pink but nevertheless very relaxed.
Dale Day 2: Monday October 21st:
My bed in the traditional Japanese Inn was surprising comfortable; just a thin mattress laid out on the wooden floor and a weird pillow. With no breakfast supplied I had a croissant, coffee and bananas bought from the local store the previous night. I said my thanks to the owners and made an early start.
My plan was to head to Fukui through a couple of ski resorts via the Port of Tsurga though nothing was booked; just pedal and see how it goes.
The road was not that busy thankfully as it was not that wide. The first part was just a bit bumpy before a steady climb past the ski slopes of Kunizaki snow park. Quite a nice climb just steady nothing too serious, though it did get the legs burning after a couple of weeks out of the saddle.
Before I knew it I was coming into the Port of Tsuga. It was nice to see the sea but I kept to the outskirts of the town rather than going through the middle. As the road got steeper I hit the first of a series of 7 tunnels all about 1000m long. They were very well lit but not much room and really noisy. I stopped for lunch at a shrine over-looking the bay, really nice spot and a nice bowl of noodle soup; the guy took the meat out of it for me!
After lunch I stayed on the coast for a while and met a group of Chinese cyclists touring in Japan. We had a nice chat and exchanged our details hopefully they will get in touch again. Then I headed inland where it started to get very built up again through the city of Echizen and stayed like that all the way to Fukui.
I stopped at a 7-11 just before Fukui as they have a good WIFI and sorted out a hotel before I rolled into town, ready for another Onsen, then some food, before sorting out tomorrows ride.
Dale Day 3: Tuesday October 22nd:
I’m still getting used to this cycling alone thing. I enjoy the time on the road but it’s a bit weird at meal-times. Nevertheless I had a really good fill this morning; a cheese pasta dish. Strange for breakfast but very nice.
I had a pretty steady day planned for today up to Kanazawa but through the busy industrial area of Komatsu. All being well I should be able to keep to the outside of it.
With my plan in place I set off to get out of Fukui, all pretty straight forward,. Book a place near to your exit point; experience counts, all good. It was quite a pleasant morning sun breaking through the clouds with mist over the mountains I will be climbing tomorrow. I was feeling good so got a good pace on. Stopped for a drink at a little picnic spot and a nice lady gave me a free cup of coffee and a little cake; she used to live in Cambridge and was selling stuff for a local charity. She was very impressed with our charity thing too.
Then before I knew it I was in the outskirts of the industrial area; very stop and start for the last 20 miles just through industrial sprawl. It was a very easy day on the bike but it will all change tomorrow when I start to head for Yokohama across the mountain ranges. Looking forward to the adventure; nothing can go wrong.
[No photos from the 22nd: Ed]
Dale Day 4: Wednesday October 23rd:
I woke up to a lovely sunny morning which always makes you feel better. As does a massive breakfast. I knew I had a big day of climbing ahead of me. I set off early to get out of the city Kanazawa before the rush hour started in earnest. Actually it was not that bad as once again i had stayed on the right side (the exit side) of the city. I was soon out of the city and hitting a steady climb up to the mountains. It was nothing too serious with the climbing and the road was very quiet. This made for a lovely start to the morning, happy days.
I was just enjoying the clear roads and the lovely scenery as I meandered up the steady climb through the small villages and towns and had a bite to eat and a nice chat to a lady who ran a small shop in Inotan when she warned me that the road would get a bit steeper very soon.
She was correct but it was still ok as I followed the river (not sure of the name [Jinzu and then the Takahara: Ed]), past a series of dams and hydro-electric plants. I reached a peak just before the town of Hida and did my usual thing; stopped in a convenience store for a coffee and more importantly WIFI and booked a place to stay. It all seemed good.
So then set off again for the final 12 or so miles on nice traffic free roads. As I got closer to Takayama I had to make a little detour as no cyclists were allowed through the tunnel. It’s a bit weird as I had been through many tunnels earlier in the ride but it’s not a big deal; just a smaller road over the river.
I had made the same mistake as Keith and Linford with the hotel as it was an adults only one booked by the hour! Not for me! So I pressed on until I found another convenience store, re-jigged the booking and ended up with an Onsen again. I think I am getting used to the hot bath after a hard day in the saddle.
Later I had a lovely meal in the restaurant down the road; vegetable raman and rice, accompanied by a couple from Israel and another couple from Norwich, which capped off a fine day on the road.
Dale Day 5: Thursday October 24th:
I had another good breakfast; left over spaghetti! It’s a massive treat so I had a few bowls as well as the cornflakes and fruit.
I left Takayama and headed straight for the mountains with a pretty steep climb to start off with. You could see the snow-capped mountains in the distance which always gives me a bit of a buzz. I carried on the small road 381 with very little traffic which was nice and signs saying watch out for the bears and monkeys.
It was the same as yesterday as I was climbing all you could see was hydro-plants and dams through pine forests; but it was really pleasant riding. I had to contend with the occasional tunnel but I’m getting used to them now. I keep my back light on and then just ride like Mr Magoo as I can’t see a thing!
I came out of one tunnel and saw a pack of monkeys sitting in the road; amazing! I tried to get my camera out but just took a picture of the trees! I could hear them all around me and I think they could smell the peanuts that keep me going all the time.
Then I went through the biggest tunnel yet about 3 miles long just as my Garmin gave up the ghost. It just froze so I resorted to my phone with a downloaded ridewithgps map; nothing could go wrong!
I’d had a few little mishaps early on but it seemed to be going good and I could even see the screen better. I also had a few battery back ups as well, so all was good.
I just kept riding through the amazing scenery with next to no-one on the road but I did meet a load of New Zealand guys out on the road with hired bikes and a guide. I met them just outside a tunnel. Their guide was a bit worried but I just said “follow me I can’t see a thing!” A few of them did but the rest held back.
As we came out there was a bit of a rest-area with an old steam engine. I took a few pics with them and exchanged details and then got on my way.
It nearly went pear-shaped just after that as I missed a little turn but I managed to go back and find it. Naturally it made me smile that I can still get off-road. It was just a really steep section on an unmade road but pretty good fun and then a really nice downhill to the hotel.
Dale Day 6: Friday October 25th:
A big day is planned for today; will ride to Sagamihara a town just on the outskirts of Yokohamma and then get the train in tomorrow to watch the rugby.
I had an early breakfast and hit the road just after 7:00 in light drizzle hoping it would dry up later. After less than ½ an hour I had part of the answer as it started to rain pretty heavily. I pulled over and put on the full rain jacket, gloves and hat. It was not that cold but with the damp clothes it felt like it and it was coupled with a heavy mist in air. It was a shame as you could not see the stunning scenery, just a murky silent morning.
Thankfully not too much traffic on the roads for the first 20 odd miles but after that it got quite busy through a lot of small towns. Traffic lights at loads of junctions slowed my progress a little and I got some strange looks. “Why is that mad bloke out on his bike in this weather?”; the rain was coming down like stair-rods now.
I was that wet now it just was not worth stopping for anything to eat. I had nuts a bit of fruit, chocolate and plenty of drinks, so just I rode on through. It was good to get out of the built up area and I enjoyed the climbing rather than the descents, as I got a bit cold coming down.
It was a pity because if the weather was clear, I would have been able to see Mt Fuji, from around the town of Kofu to Otsuki. But nothing doing, I could only just see my front wheel. It was the same for Lake Sagami but my consolation is that after the rugby I will be coming back out this way. Hopefully the weather will be better.
I stopped just after Lake Sagami and adjusted both brakes as it was getting difficult to stop in the wet weather. I then did the final descent into Sagamihara. At about 8 miles out they had closed the road as there had been a landslide and then as I started the diversion I met a guy from Hastings on a touring bike, (Graham). He had been on the road for over a year and had cycled from the UK taking the southern route. I had a really nice chat with him. He was on his way to Tokyo and then flying back to Europe next week. We said our good-byes and wished each other luck. He was not into his rugby. Then we went our separate ways.
[Filthy weather meant no photos from today: Ed]
Dale Day 7: Saturday October 26th:
[Dale has tickets for the England vs New Zealand World Cup Rugby semi-final, but heard no word or received any photos! He’s probably in a ditch somewhere: Ed]
[Apparently not! these came in late so apologies to the email versions which missed these: Ed]
We woke up this morning and it was teeming with rain so we decided to have breakfast and discuss our plan for the day.
Rylan delivered the tent pegs and poles just after 10am. So that meant we had everything we needed to ride; apart from the weather.
We left the hotel at eleven in pouring rain and high winds; it’s Typhoon Hagibis, as you’re probably all aware.
It felt diffent riding on the left hand side of the road and using the cycle paths you share with pedestrians. Off we went, Linney and I happily cycling along in the rain. It wasn’t cold, above 20° but after about an hour the wind seemed to be getting stronger.
We stop and start all the time,; the Japanese are very strict on waiting for the lights to change. Even on pedestrian crossings they were waiting in the pouring rain.
Debris from the trees, spilt bins and bikes fallen over seemed to be everywhere. Broken umbrellas and potted plants were strewn across the pavements. Linney hit a patch of steel and lost his front wheel. Luckily he managed to step of the bike and he stayed upright. Only his dignity was hurt as he picked up his bike. I was thinking “should we be doing this?”.
After a couple of hours and very little progress due to the stopping and starting we found a fast food joint to eat in. Teriyaki seafood for Linney and burger and 10 chips for me. 😦
We get back on the cycle-path and it’s turned colder, so we decide to ride on the road. Now we can ride faster and warm up. Linney spots a hotel after a while, “what about this place?” he says. “Fine by me” I say; It’s ¥3900 for three hours? Whats that all about?
I found out when we tried to book in. One old man (me) and a young boy (Linney). I think I went slightly red as it dawned on me what sort of establishment it was. We rode away fast!
We found a nice hotel a little later, but they only had smoking rooms. Ours smelt like a 70’s cinema.
Later we had a great night in Murphy’s bar with owner Dave Coffey and his locals watching the Ireland v Samoa game. It was the best bar I’ve been in for four months. Cheers Dave!
Not great. Very wet and windy. Didn’t get very far as the cycle paths aren’t great, very stop and start. At least we made a start tho and further away from the storm. Yeah we wanted to get a bit further really but didn’t wanna get in late. Nice early start tomorrow and see where we end up. Linford.
Just when you think you’ve rode through all the worst possible conditions/days, the hot, the cold, the high, the long, the shit roads, the no roads. Just added typhoon to the the list. What’s next? 😅 Linford.
It was a late start today; Linney has had to many late nights and we were finally away about 9:00. It was a fine dry day but still a bit blustery at times.
We had a nice ride out of town through some rice fields into the next town. Here we stumbled across an Autumn festival. Not a big event just a group of guys carrying a large Mikoshi shrine.
They took great delight in our interest and stopped and banged out a tune. I hade failed to notice that this thing had a 4 boys and a drum inside.
We left them to celibrate and cracked on. Shortly after Linneys back brake was making a funny noise. so we pulled over dismantled it and put it back together; all good.
In the next town we come across another massive Autumn festival. The guys were all in their Sumo outfits and the ladies in traditional dress. TRhey were all doing traditional dances and consuming alcohol. (tomorrow’s a holiday). We spent some time here talking to the locals and taking photos.
Onward we went out into the countryside proper. What a lovely place. Beaches, coves, fishing villages and lovely roads. It had been a pretty slow day in all so we cracked on down the main road. Low and behold after about 15 minutes the Police are onto us.
After the initial, ‘who are you?’ and ‘where are you going?’ they were very nice. They took all our details and asked us to follow them back the way we had come 400 metres.
Then they ensured we knew where we were going and checked our route, kindly shock our hands and let us go.
Linney says no worries only 6 or 7miles to go. Off we set still laughing at our experience with the Police.
Then we rounded the corner to see the steepest section of road I had seen in a long time. “No worries” says Linney “you’ll work up an appetite!”.
We went over the hill and down into the lovely fishing village. A small homestay is our shelter for the night.
We meet our hosts and expain that we want to shower eat and watch the rugby (Japan v Scotland). They were fine with the first three but slightly puzzled with the fourth.
After a lovely traditional chicken noodle stir fry I opened the laptop up to watch the rugby. After their innitial apprehension and with Japan winning and many Sakis
they got right into the spirit of things.
Excellent evening, the nicest saki ever and new followers of Rugby. Can’t be bad.
Cornflakes and coffee for breakfast; could be at home! It was a cool overcast morning as our host Yumi waves us off.
It was not great riding this morning as it was very built up and we are not allowed on the major roads (as we found out yesterday!). No traffic to talk of as it’s a bank holiday. The roads are tarmaced but not great. Along with the poor maps we have from various sources everything becomes a little harder. Oh for those long straight roads in Kazakhstan!
We pulled over at a bakery around midday and purchased a few items. Curried doughnuts! These sound horrible but taste great; no sugar in the dough? Also a pork slice sandwich, excellent as expected and a noodle bagette, also very good. All topped off with a chestnut loaf, my new personal favourite.
We found a quiet spot next to a lake and sat down for our picnic. Within minutes we discovered crickets, large ladybirds and turtles. Linney also spotted a Kingfisher but I didn’t see it ?
It was a busy ride today with very little open roads or countryside. Linney saved the best till last again. The map says it’s 5 miles this way but if I go this way it’s only 2? After a mile and a half we spotted the quayside so we popped down to take a look. Nice views and a ferry across to a Island. We could use that tomorrow maybe!
As we were leaving we meet a guy from Ireland in his cycling kit. Turns out their are eight of them and they’re cycling on the days off between games having flown their bikes out and hired a van. Nice idea (Dale).
He was in a rush to catch up with his mates so we gave him a card and wished them well. Off we go only half a mile to the View Hotel. (Clue in the name I think). We rode up the road crossed the railway then a took a left turn up the hill. Well I managed the first 400 metres up a very steep alleyway and then came to a set of steps. Linford had made a turn and managed another 60 metres. We looked at each other and said ‘we can go back a couple of miles or drag the bikes up the forty or so steps we could see’. No going back. So we dragged the bikes up forty steps, then another forty around the bend, then fifty with a concrete slope to one side to make things easier (not). Then finally around the last bend and 30 metres of hell.
We arrive outside the hotel pouring with sweat to the worried faces of our fellow guests. After 10 minutes and I’m still dripping the receptionist comes out with an iced glass of water and a smile on her face. She explained that whenever they get a booking they email back and advise against this route. I wonder why!
However it was a lovely hotel owned by a Thai kickboxing champion.
We started the day with an excellent Thai breakfastat the Sea view Onomichi Hotel Seizan. It’s owned by former kick boxing champion Klahan Prapun. Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, soup and a mixture of cold vegetables. Far better than it sounds.
No rush this morning; we were to go back down the hill (the correct way today) onto the ferry then six islands and six bridges in 50 miles.
As we got off the ferry we studied the map along with a couple of local cyclists. We followed them for the first mile then over-took and made our own way. The route was shown with a thick blue line along the gutter. Easy, what could go wrong? Approaching the first bridge there were many view points and food outlets. We decide to carry on.
Linney for once letting me lead the way. Not long later I had missed the fact the the blue line had changed colour and I’d missed a turning. That was my day at the front over. No worries we backtracked the 100 metres and carried on.
We had lovely scenery all around us; dark green shrubs and trees inland and lovely blue waters out to sea.
Later we stopped off after the fourth bridge for a spot of lunch at a 7 Eleven. Not the best but cheap and convenient.
It didn’t take long before we were climbing up to the last and biggest bridge (Kurushima) at 6Km. As we rounded the final bends to the bridge we heard a friendly hello. It was from a guy called Max from Brighton; he had been chatting to a couple of Dutch lads in their hostel and they had mentioned us. So he’d set off to find us. Nice chap chatted along for the whole 6k of the bridge. Then we made our way into town to find a hotel.
We had nice simple breakfast of rice, pickles and coffee. It was a bright day with dark clouds over the mountains.
It was a nice but hilly ride for the first 20 mile with lots of small orchards and rice fields dotted around the hillsides. Lemons, limes, kiwi fruit and green tangerines abundant in the trees. Some were already bagged?
On one of the descents Linney’s back brake was play up again so we pulled over and changed his brake pads and adjusted my own. 15 minutes and we were away again.
We saw lots of wildlife about from huge spiders, to birds of prey. Missed this sort of stuff throughout China.
At lunchtime we pulled over at a local bakery; the array of cakes and biscuits is quite amazing. We made our choices and set out somewhere to enjoy our lunch. After a short time we settled on the quayside. We unwrapped our precious lunch. Linney with his curried doughnuts and me with butterscotch muffin and to top it all a loaf of chestnut bread. All wonderful sweet stuff.
Only 30 miles to go this afternoon with sun still shining and the wind behind us. As we dawdled along a fellow touring cyclist sped past. I looked up to see Linney drop his gears and set of in pursuit. That’s that then and off I went. Wasn’t long before Linney was reeling him in and I would be there shortly.
Turns out the guy was German, traveling very light, and in a hurry to catch a ferry. We rode as a group for 5 or 6 miles before he went his own way. Turns out he had arrived in Japan to take part in a particular race that was shortened due to the tornado.
Only 10miles to go now and my garmin says 3000ft+ of climbing. That can’t be right? ‘Three tunnels’ Linney says. I say ‘we are not allowed through tunnels son’. ‘I hope we are because the alternative is not very good Dad’. What should we do? Crack on and see what happens we agree. Pleasently surprised to find the cycle paths following the roads although the lighting in them was very poor in places.
Soon we were out the last tunnel and following a steep 4 mile descent to the hotel.
Lovely, booked in smoothly and soon in the shower.
We left the hotel heading for Misaki port along the peninsular. It was only 21 miles but bumpy and via the dreaded tunnels; 18 in total and a couple of bridges thrown in. After about 8 miles we came across a roadside cafe with a veiwing tower. It was 8:54 and the place didn’t open till 9 but the lady inside saw me try the door and so came over and let us in. Nice. Once inside we were hit with offers for coffee and local produce – all we wanted was to get to the viewing platform. So disappointed, no great veiws at all. Over looked what seemed to be a nuclear power station [Ikata Nuclear Power Station: Ed].
Back down into the cafe they greet us with the now familiar “Kon’nichiwa” chorus. (Good day). There was a huge aquarium and two kids feeding the fish through a clever contraption on the glass of the tank. Linford and I were looking at the free samples of manderins. I never knew there was so many different types. Over 20 on display and tasters for all of them.
Back on the road it was tunnel after tunnel with the cars sharing the same space. Luckily they are such very polite drivers. Never feel at risk. Down we roll into the port which was heavy commercial place. Not very pleasant. We went straight into the booking hall got our tickets and up the ramp to the ferry. Arrival and departure from Misaki in 15 minutes flat.
It was not a very large ferry; maybe thirty cars and a hundred passengers. We sat on the deck planning our route to Oita from the port. We had not much to look at as it was a fairly miserable day now. Overcast and threatening rain.
The hour soon past and we’re on our way; 17 miles to our hotel. As we approached the city Linney suggested lunch before we reach the hotel. So we went into Lawsons (think 7 eleven) picked up some fruit, savoury pastries and coffee. Sat inside as it was raining outside.
Oita is a large industrial city slightly grubby and rundown in places. Not a holiday destination. But a lovely stadium on the outskirts of town. Looks vaguely like a clam, with it’s retractable roof. We soon found our hotel a large rectangular yellow building with uniform square windows. Must have saved a Yen or two on this one.
Day 7: Friday October 18th:
[No cycling today. I believe the plan was to go fishing but the day was overcast so they went to the zoo instead: Ed]
Day 8: Saturday October 19th:
[Match Day! Keith and Linford had tickets for the Rugby World Cup 1/4 final match between England and Australia, which England won 40-16: Ed]
Dale, Sandra and Rylan
[Not a lot of news on this front. Rylan had to fly back home to work and meanwhile Dale & Sandra travelled about Japan seeing the sights: Ed]
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.
I’m not exactly sure where they are right now! Perhaps resting in Bishkek or perhaps they have already flown to India.
After last nights feast I’m sure the waitresses could not believe how much we ordered. For the first course we managed to eat the lot but then came the puddings. We did make a mistake here. We ordered from the picture menu. First came Linney’s 8 slices of pizza stuff (to be honest it was the best of a bad bunch), then came mine; 8 deep fried pastry things, really sickly, closely followed by Keith’s 8 tarts. We were not sure what was in them but they tasted ok, just could not eat them all. To save face we got a take-away bag and put 90% of the stuff in it. The next morning we accidently left the bag in the room!
It was nice getting up in the morning with no rush as we just had a short 50 mile hop to the next town with a view to getting there fairly early and sorting out the routes to Xi’an as Rylan arrives a week on Wednesday. Breakfast was the traditional Chinese OK but I do like my cereal/porridge in the morning and it’s not the same with noodles, pumpkin and celery; all very nice but not for me at breakfast. Linney loves it though.
We set off just before 10 with the first section a pretty big climb. We had around two hours of steady climbing, but nothing too steep; it just kept going. We were in no rush and were just taking our time up the mountain. We came across a traditional Muslim village perched on the side of the mountain, all very colorful. The scenery was now like the Brecon Beacons with sheep and cattle on the fields beneath the mountains, with badger like animals crossing the road in front of us possible Hyrax? [Wiki says Hyrax are restricted to Africa and the Middle-East – China does have a Ferret-Badger (Melogale moschata): Ed] Keith & Linney all so saw a wild-cat have a go at a bird. I just heard the noise. Most of the time I am in a different world.
Once again the scenery changed. This time industrial with coal and other processing plants all down the valley, modeled on the Rhondda! We stopped for a bite to eat in this area and had a nice noodle, tomato and egg special; our favorite at the moment. We then rode on taking it easy for the next 18 mile into Chaka. I must admit it was down-hill most of the way.
Here we go again; the saga of getting a hotel. However the first place, which looked very nice, told us exactly where to go to find a tourist hotel; up the road on the left, we where booked in straight away. Nice result.
Keith and Linney put their stuff in the room and went down to the salt lake, I brought a couple of beers from the shop next door (well it is a Sunday) and caught up with the blog and researched the route to Xi’an.
We had a coffee in the room before breakfast as we know what to expect; spicy vegetables and dumplings. Linney loves it but Keith & I tend to settle for the boiled eggs. We had another coffee in the room and discussed our options for the day; it came down to Hotels at 65 miles, 84 miles or 95 miles and the outcome was the same as always, just ride and see how we go.
We set off around 08:30 knowing we had a big 23 mile climb early on then rolling roads for the rest of the day. The first part was just a steady climb and we started off on the non-toll road, but after 5 mins we crossed over to the toll road carrying the bikes over armco barriers and fences. It was well worth the effort as it was far less busier. It was good to see the green pastures and grass covered mountains very similar to Scotland, but a lot higher.
As the road started to ramp up we stopped in a small village for soft drinks and sweets. It’s the little things that keep us going. Back on the bikes again we were pushing up the mountain with traditional yurts on the pastures with long horned sheep and yaks. Up we went. It took around 2 hours climbing to reach the summit at an altitude of 3817 meters (12,522 ft), not the highest we have been, but up there. At the top there was the usual signs and a few Nomad (Tibetans) on horse-back. They were all over Linney and we ended up having a few pictures with them and had a go on their horses. I think they had not seen a women for a while,as they tried to touch us. All very weird and Keith would have none of it! He even crossed the road to get away but one of the guys followed him!
We put our jackets on for the descent (I even put gloves on) and off we went. Within 5 minutes it started to rain, the first we have had since Ukraine,. It made the descent very difficult and really cold so about half way down we stopped to try and warm up a bit. We had a chat with a Chinese motorcyclist and then starteddown again,. We were soaking when we reached the bottom, but thankfully all of us stayed upright.
We all thought a lunch stop was in order and stopped at Heinahe for lunch at 45 miles and warmed up. Just as we were leaving we spotted a tiny bike shop and managed to get two spare inner tubes from him.
With the valley filled with green pastures it was really good to see the nomads tending their yaks, cattle and sheep, with the yurts up on the hillside. They think nothing of letting a herd of yaks cross the road and some of the tourist and bus drivers get a bit cross and beep their horns. The nomads take it all in their stride with it seems not a care in the world, it was a real pleasure witnessing their way of life even for a brief period.
As we rode through we came to the first potential stop, but it was never going to be, so we push on to the next one, around 16 miles away, with yurts on the side of the road selling honey and yaks milk. It was very tempting try, but after trying camels milk earlier in the tour we decided not to. We then came to Jiangxigou our next potential stop and sat outside a pleasant shop with a bag of peanuts and soft drinks (I had a beer) and chatted with the locals, well one who could speak good English. He told us all about the nomads and their way of life. After we gave him one of our biscuits he returned the favour with a free ice cream.
So as we all knew it was onto the 95 mile place (a resort on the edge of the lake) and we were there in less than an hour. We went straight down to the waters edge,. All three of us had a ride into the lake on a Yak!. Then up to book into a hotel. At the first one we could not get past the security guard. I thought here we go again the place is full of hotels and they will not let us in! But all good as the second one we tried we had no problem. As it was late we just dropped the bags into the room and went straight out to eat.
We went out for a meal when we finally got a hotel last night even before we had had a shower; we just needed to eat. It was a little restaurant around the corner from the hotel, and felt a lot better when we had some food inside us. Then it was back to the hotel to shower and clean up.
We woke up in the morning to rain. We are certainly not used to it. We had breakfast in the hotel from the menu so went for the old favorite scrambled eggs and tomato with rice. Keith then ventured out to get some coffee. It was raining really hard now; not good.
We were like caged animals wanting to get on the bikes but not keen on the weather so we decided to give it an hour to see if dies down a little. During this time Keith had a Whats App conversation with Kristian; turns out he has raced around around the lake and the adjoining mountains so we are not the first “House” in this part of China. Well the rain seemed to be easing up so we made the effort to go but only after I had checked out the taxi fare to the next town!
We finally left the hotel around 10:30 with the rain still coming down but easing up. The first part of the day was a steady climb followed by a 8 miles of steeper climb and finally finishing with a massive descent.
With puddles all over the road and the visibility not great it was quite difficult to get going. But then a cycle path appeared on the other side of the road. This was a lot better. We only had to deal with the Nomad’s animals grazing on the verge; horses, sheep and yaks, and we just had to be a little bit careful passing them.
We stayed on the cycle path until it finished, and pulled into a closed service station to adjust Linneys gears. All of the bikes need a good clean and a bit of maintenance and we will need to sort out a short day soon.
With the road starting to ramp up we stopped for lunch at the small townof Daotanghe, but before we eat we managed to get a hose pipe working at a service station and gave the bikes a bit of clean. The rain had stopped now,
With lunch over we started the 8 mile climb but Keith had done a bit of research and said we would be better on the toll road; not only do they have a really wide shoulder to ride on they also tend to be less busy. We reached the summit fairly easily and it helped that the road was being upgraded and we had one side of the carriage way all to ourselves. The workers quite happily waved us through.
I put on an extra layer and gloves for the descent and I was really glad I did as it was cold. The road was an amazing feat of engineering cutting around the mountains with stunning scenery. After around an hour of descending the road was not complete with both directions using one side of the carriageway so with our normal swagger we elected to use the other carriage way. What a result we had; at least 40 minutes descending on our own, riding three abreast, occasionally passing a few workmen who waved at us.
Then came the tunnels the main one was at least two miles long with lights and electronic signage and we just rode through. I did manage to get a puncture after the last tunnel. All repaired in the fast lane!
When we finally had to get off the road it was a bit of an epic as the slip road had not been built yet but we took the road through the building site with no problems with the workers just waving us through.
The saga of finding a hotel in Huangyuan then begins. It is very frustrating knowing there are loads of hotels, but only certain ones take foreigners. Some have signs outside, though we have tried some with these signs and still been refused. After about 5 attempts we finally managed to book into a hotel. We quickly got in there before they could change their minds.
After we finally managed to book into a small hotel (very clean and nice), we went straight out for a meal but ended up cooking our own. We had this Mongolian hot-pot which was basically a charcoal burner heating water then you put in what you like. In fact it was very nice and once the first layer of meat had gone I think we had seconds and thirds. Once again the waiter just looked and said something like ‘are you sure?’. We demolished the lot.
We then had a walk up by a floodlit temple in the old area of Huangyuan,. It was very good with a reference to the old wool industry from the 1800s with two UK companies and one each from Belgium and USA.
With no breakfast available at the hotel we had breakfast in the cafe across the road; aa big bowl of noodle soup, which will set us up for the day.
Getting out of Huangyuan and onto the correct road was very difficult and they must have known we were in town as the fireworks were going off as we tried to get out of the City. Linney actually got hit by a women opening up a taxi door in front of him and how he managed to stay on his bike was a result of his riding talent. I would of been over the handle bars, crying and swearing at everyone. Linney just smiled!
We started off on the closed road from yesterday but unfortunately they did not get my instructions until very late; this section was still being worked on so we ended on the minor road for a while. It was still very good but not much space for cyclists. We then managed to get back on the toll road and rolled into Xining just in time for lunch. The city took my breath away as I have never seen so many high rise buildings. The infrastructure around the city was astounding. China never fails to surprise me; one minute we are struggling to get a hotel room the next we go through a city of over 2 million people with all the trappings of any major city in the world.
After lunch we still had at least another 10 miles until we were out of the city. Once again we were on the toll road and with a slight down-hill we were flying and heading for the town of Haidong around 30 miles away. All of us were thinking it will be a small provincial town but in fact it was massive again with tower blocks nearly as far as you could see. It all seemed very new. We now have a hotel strategy; find a cafe with WIFI, do the research, and then send Linney in with Keith & I lurking outside. The first place was a no go as it was an old peoples home. As we left I see then nodding and pointing at me, saying ‘he can come in!’ Fair play as they did point us in the right direction for a hotel.
The strategy worked athough it did take a while; I’m sure Linney has another helping of food when he is in there as he comes out with a big smile and says all OK and I’ve been up to the room. But the main thing is we are in.
All of us had a nice shower, did our washing and hung it from our 10th floor window. Then it was out to find some food.
We had a really nice meal in a restaurant next to to the vegetable market, a family run place. Us usual everyone took photographs all over the place and the children practiced their English with us. All good fun. Then we walked home with an ice cream; living the dream.
We woke up to a dull grey morning. Never mind said Keith it will brighten up after breakfast but Linney & I were not convinced and rightly so the rain was coming down like stair-rods after breakfast. It was another coffee in the room then, before we said come on “lets go”. We all got ready but first Keith had a puncture and then so did Linney before we even left the hotel. We fixed them in the foyer then off we set off! Well nearly! When we got around the corner to join the express way the girl at the barrier said ‘No bikes’, so we turned around. Then Linney said his tyre had gone down again. So we went back to the hotel foyer again for another repair.
Let’s go again in the pouring rain we said as 1/2 mile up the road we went through the biggest puddle in living memory. Linney tried to get through it without pedalling but no such luck; we were soaking now, but we’ll carry on. A bit further up the road we check the GPS, well Linney does, if we go left we can join the express-way maybe. Well we could if we were prepared to slide down the embankment in the pouring rain! We turned back and stayed on the minor road.
The minor road was ok but it does not have a very wide hard shoulder to ride on or for that matter to mend punctures on. The weather was getting worse as we rode on, though we were still in a pretty good frame of mind as we followed a river down-stream, thinking there is more water on the road than in the river. As we ate up the miles Keith had another flat in his rear tyre which was not surprising really with the amount of debris on the road. Then he had another and another. Everytime we took the tyre off and checked it thoroughly but we could not find anything protruding through the tyre. We were now getting very short on inner tubes.
Finally we put the last one in and it lasted a fair while then the shout went up, ‘puncture again’. Luckily we were in a very small village with one café so in we went soaking wet with our hands full of inner tubes waiting to be repaired. First things first we ordered a large bowl of noodle soup. I think it was the only thing on the menu and it was very hot and filling,. Then we started on the repairs. A few of the locals were very intrigued about where we going.
Linney showed them on the map Lanzhou, about 23 miles away, then, using google translate said ‘if we can fix the bikes’. One of the older guys said my son could give you a lift. At first we said ‘no thanks’, then Keith checked his tyre and it was again flat and I said I had a flat front tyre as well,. So we took up the offer of the lift to Lanzhou. We had done over 70 miles in the pouring rain.
I’m not sure the son was so pleased to give us a lift in what looked like a very new people carrier. He would not let Keith anywhere near the car and it was a work of art getting three bikes (one on the roof) and all the baggage in the car. Then just as we were ready to go he said take off your dirty cycle jackets before you get in, but thankfully he got us to Lanzhou, a very busy bustling city.
He dropped us off just by the railway station and we rebuilt the bikes, and replaced and fixed the flats in me and Keith’s tyres. Linney searched for a hotel and found an Ibis just down the road. We headed for that but found another one on the way and managed to book in first time. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. We took the bags up and then went out to locate the cycle shops. We had one a mile in one direction or two more a mile and a half in the other. We chose the latter.
We marched towards the area but could not find the cycle shops but finally after using google translate we found the shop just closing up. The really nice guy stayed open for us and we ended up buying two replacement tyres and six inner tubes and he chucked in a puncture repair kit and two bottles of lubricating oil. Then we had a photo-shoot with him, before finding a place to eat.
All in all it was a pretty crap day, but all’s well that ends well. Linney finally marched the two old soldiers home through the winding backstreets of Lanzhou.
We woke up early to give the bikes a good wash and a bit of an oil up. Keith replaced his rear tyre and I replaced the spare I had carried for over 5000 miles. With the bikes all relatively clean and oiled up we went for breakfast. It was a really good spread, best we have had since Kascher [probably Kashgar about a month ago: Ed].
With the weather still overcast but not raining we hit the road just after 09:00. With Linney guiding us out of Lanzhou our first plan was to ride the express-way. Avoiding a few closed roads along the way we managed to find the slip road up to the express-way the plan being to ride through and ignore all the toll operators. All in formation we went for it, there was a bit of shouting but nothing serious so we just rode on, joining the express way and the climb out of the city. Easy nothing could go wrong.
We stayed on the express-way for about ten miles before the patrol car stopped us. It was not the police and we had a little arm waving discussion with the guy. He did not know what to do with us so we made his mind up and back-tracked less than 1/4 mile then joined the minor road. In the end we were both happy, he got us off the expressway and we got out of the city far quicker.
Even though we were out of the city it was still built up with small towns virtually joining onto each other. It was like this for at least 30 miles out of the city. The towns were then gradually replaced with green fields filled with market garden produce and with stalls and vehicles selling the vegetables. It looked like lemon-grass or salsify. As we started climbing you could see the fields in terraces up the mountain just as I imagined China to be. It did look spectacular.
With Linney getting hungry he asked if we would like to stop for lunch but both Keith & I said we are ok for now about in an hour. One massive climb and two hours later we finally stop for lunch in a small cafe. With around 10 miles to go after lunch it was just a gentle roll into Dingxi. With our hotel strategy in place we breezed into the first hotel we tried. All in all a good day in the saddle.
Had an earlier breakfast this morning 07:00 instead of 7:30 much to Linney’S disgust. It was not a bad breakfast; at least we had some hot stir-fried vegetables and the egg police were not around.
We started to ride just after 08:00. It was quite cold and overcast with spots of rain but luckily the rain did not materialise. As soon as we left the hotel we started to climb and we had this for almost all day. We were climbing up the terraced mountains with great views. It was not too steep so we could all admire the views and enjoy the ride.
We stopped for lunch in the small village of Dijasuo. The girls in the only cafe gave us a menu but when we tried to order just said the only thing available was the meat and noodle soup and soft bread. So that’s what we had.
With still more climbing to be done it was just a matter of getting in the right frame of mind, or, if you’re like me, just daydream most of the time and pedal. It seems to get me up the hills ok. We concentrate on overtaking the laboring trucks on the ascent and then keeping out of the way on the descents.
As we started one of the descents we came across a museum or monument built in the traditional Chinese style in the small town of Gaobu. We pulled over and had a look around; as far as I could make out it was all about remembering the good deeds of the “Red Army”. It was nicely laid out and kept immaculate but when we came out everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us; the adults making their children stand with us. All very bizarre and it must have taken us at least half an hour to leave the place.
When we finally left we hit an area of apple and pear orchards and were cycling through small villages with their fruit for sale outside their house. We stopped at one and asked for three asian pears (not sure what they are called, but they are very nice) the girl thought we meant three kg, when we said no only three, she just gave them to us!
It was a nice ride into the city of Jingning but Linney’s magic did not work at the first hotel though we got the next best thing as the manager jumped on his bike and showed us where the tourist hotel was. A good guy and a nice touch.
It was another good day in the saddle. We are getting very close to Xi’an now; we are meeting Rylan there on the 18th September.
This week 459 miles, 11,260ft climbing and 40:29 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 5949 miles, 125,573ft climbing and 467:15 hours riding
Day 73: Sunday August 25th:
After a great meal last night and lashings of ice cold beer we all had a good nights sleep, well I did.
We broke camp early as the mosquitoes were still rampant, though for some reason I did not notice them last night. We knew we had a small town in 20 or so miles so breakfast was not an issue. We came to the small town very quickly and found a place that had just opened, with the owner very pleased to welcome us in, some friendly local also joined in and made sure we did not order too much. Once again really good local food. We have all been very impressed with the food so far in China.
As we were eating the police made their appearance on an electric scooter. They took our passports and said they would be back in a few minutes, which they duly did. What they did not say was that they would be following us all day!
As we set off we had a few road works to navigate (just like Ukraine), it was only for a few hundred meters so no big problem. Then the police stopped us again, needing clarification on where we were going. We said the same again and carried on, though once we were on the open road it was fairly obvious that we had a tail. Keith reckons the number plates finished with 008. This is non-confirmed as I can barely see the car never mind the number plate. We just rode on knowing that we had at least another 50 miles to the next stop.
As we rode on every summit or corner we hoped for a little oasis, but to no avail. We came across a brick building, but unfortunately uit was not a cafe, though they did let us in. We filled up our bottles from a tank (not very good so wekept them for emergencies). Then because we are happy souls some locals on a picnic stop in the desert offered us some melons, apples and water (we ditched the other water!). We had a great 10 minutes with them, with the normal photo shoot.
Once we started up again the tail soon found us. We came to a small police check but they just let us through but did not fill our water bottles up,
So we pushed on looking for a place to camp. We pulled over at a workers camp and watched our tail go back and forth, but did not engage with us. Eventually we could not wait any longer so we put the tents up to see what happened. We crossed the road found a site and did just that. Keith went in the tent, Linney and I had a snooze on the sand, dreaming of Barbados and the tail just watched us.
When we came around it was pot noodle time (definitely not Barbados). With our water supply not good I decided to go over to the workers compound and fill up our 5 litre water container for cooking.. It was a bit surreal; the women shouting at me and the tail looking on. She then took the bottle and filled it up for us and smiled as she gave it back to me, with my normal charm I bowed and said chee chee (thank you in Chinese).
All good. We had our pot noodles, coffee and biscuits and then went to bed, although it was a bit disconcerting when the night shift turned up as we thought we may be moved on; but all was good.
Day 74: Monday August 26th:
We had a reasonable nights sleep when the workers finally dispersed and we were left alone.
In the morning we packed up smartly and all agreed the best time on the road is early morning, when the wind is lighter and a lot cooler. We rode the first 24 miles before stopping for breakfast, our tail 008 was also there. With another town in eight miles and another one in 24 miles we did not have a problem today. Although we completely missed the first town we made sure we hit the next for our two night grocery shop.
The bikes were fully laden then. I said I could not carry anymore, then Linney found a freezer with ice cold beers and I manged to fit a few in. Keith had 17L of fluid on board!
On we went went to find a place to camp. We ended up in a construction site, we found some shade under a partially built bridge for the new road. We all went into camp mode with Keith putting up his tent, Linney checking the WIFI, and me having a beer and finding out we had won the cricket after being all out for 67 in the 1st innings; good day.
Day 75: Tuesday August 27th:
We did get up a bit earlier, but not enough to make a huge difference. We left the construction site just after 8am after a coffee and biscuit breakfast.
With the sun just breaking through and the wind very light it made for great conditions. Linney had a flat from another piece of wire in his tyre. As we got around to fixing it I got the patch sorted but it was not to Keith’s liking so said f**** sort one out yourself. I must be tired. We were soon back on the road. We then stopped for a picture in the shade of an Acacia tree had a bit of a snack and a drink of cream soda (forgot to mention yesterday; we brought 12L of cream soda yesterday thinking it water). It’s ok but horrible in coffee.
With the wind getting up it was getting tougher and tougher but it was just a matter of getting through it. With sand blowing in our faces and the head-wind getting stronger it was good to find a little place open serving cold drinks and food. After a good fill and plenty of fluids we knew we could achieve the next 30 miles. Around about the half way mark Linney stopped at the top a hill, adjacent to the only property in miles, obviously with his rugged good looks they invited him in, but he was not so keen when the ugly brothers turned up!
With the normal photo shoots and handshakes we ended up up having another meal with them; another big plate of egg fried rice and noodles, followed by melon . They wished us luck as they waved us goodbye. Once back on the road Linneys gears played up; one of the guys had had a little ride on his bike! We played around with them a little and they soon sorted themselves out; good news.
Then we hit a police check. They are getting quicker and we just sat and waited and were back on the road after 20 mins. Just as we got going the other side of the police check, we met two English girls on touring bikes. The were Georgia and Christina from Yorkshire and Essex respectively; great girls and true adventurers. It was really good swapping stories and giving advice. After a couple of pics and all the social media swaps, we wished each other all the best on our travels. It brought a smile to all our faces to chat with them and it was great to meet them,
After that it was just a matter of finding a place to camp again, after we had got some more water water (not cream soda). We pulled off the road to find a place up a track, relaxed a little had a pot noodle with a can of baked beans, and a cup of coffee, then set up camp. We did notice a few people watching us, but hey ho.
Sure enough as soon as we had tried to get our heads down the police turned up. Keith was out in his underpants (enough to scare most people off) and soon had it all sorted. They just wanted to know when we were moving on.
Day 76: Wednesday August 28th:
After getting over the police and farmer invasion last night we all had agood nights sleep We packed up camp with me even making a cup of coffee; I do not have a tent to pack (only the poles and pegs).
Off we set and with a town in the next 12miles we knew we could get some nice breakfast. We had a plate full of freshly cooked rice and eggs with tea, what more could anyone want?
With less than 50 mile to go we all relaxed a bit although we smashed the first 30 miles. I think we all just wanted a shower and clean up. Then the wind hit us again and we just needed to buckle down and ride it out.
After a brief stop under a sign post (the only shade we could find) we had a few snacks and dreamed of our forthcoming shower. On we went with less
than 20 miles to go, just getting through the wind. As we came up to the police check the road still seemed to be under construction. The police waved us through onto an unpaved road and this went on for about a mile. When we stopped we checked the “Garmin, MapMe & Google maps” and decided to take a back road into the city? Nothing could go wrong. We rode into the back way of the city and came across a police check and a closed bridge. We did the police check ok, but the police said follow us to the hotel as they gave our passports back (!) all in bit of a rush. Well we had a 5 mile backtrack but it was all good as the road we joined was only just finished so we would have had 5 miles on an unpaved road.
Well they took us to the hotel, then I could not find my passport; the police were so good and told me not to worry: let’s back track back to the station and when we got there Keith had texted to say it was in my bag. What a relief! Finding the passport was worth all the piss taking from Linney about being old etc etc.
Well our hotel was not really 5 stars, but it has a shower and a bed. It was so good to have a shave and shower felt brand new again. Then we went out to eat. Sure the poor Chinese guy thought we were mad as we ordered plates of this and that. Honestly we eat the lot bar the soup – the soup was for four people, our mistake!
We did a bit of shopping, had a few more beers then went to bed.
Day 77: Thursday August 29th:
It was nice to wake up in a hotel, definitely not 5 star, but better than a tent. Keith fixed his flat tyre and then we had breakfast in a cafe next to the hotel.
We knew we had two nights camping ahead, with next to nothing on the road. We go through a small town at 45 miles. The plan was to have lunch there then stock up ready for 2 nights under canvas or the stars. We left the place just after 9 on a wide flat road, it did not last too long, and with road works every 2 or so miles it was difficult to get any rythym going, especially as Keith had a couple of punctures.
As the road works finished, we got going, enjoying a tail-wind, we soon arrived at the small town. We had lunch in a tiny cafe, stocked up on two days worth of food and water, and then had a bit of a siesta as it was so hot. Keith and I on two loungers, Linney underneath an umbrella. It sounds good but in fact it was a dusty work area; but we had a good rest.
When we finally made the effort to move on after all the thank-yous done, photos and a pocket full of free sweets. With nothing on the road for at least 100 miles, it was just a matter of seeing how far we could get, before setting up camp.
The road was pretty boring with a gentle climb and a bit of a tail wind. We managed to keep a good pace. The trucks mainly gave us plenty of room as there was no hard shoulder to ride in. One scary moment though as a truck had a blow out as it was overtaking us; big bang, and pieces of the tyre going everywhere. No-one hurt so no problem.
Just as we were deciding where to camp Keith had another puncture; his tyre was completely worn out, with the rim reinforcing wire breaking up. He replaced the tyre with our last spare.
We ended pulling off the road just after 7, found some shade behind some construction material, set up camp, had coffee and snacks, and were ready for an early night. It was too far to carry any beers.
Day 78: Friday August 30th:
It was a nice spot for camping last night; Linney saw some sort of mountain deer, possible Orik [I’ll check this later: Ed]. I slept under the stars, on a nice sandy spot, with a clear night and with no light pollution the night sky was brilliant.
We had our final coffee for breakfast as the quartermaster had not brought any more; fair play to Linney, not only is he the quartermaster but also the chef, map reader, and translator. He does have a lot to think about. Though he will be able to delegate some of these duties when Rylan joins us in under three weeks. Due to age Keith & I only have to pedal.
We were on the road just after 8, against a fierce head-wind, with the knowledge we will be climbing all day. Just a mindset; switch on to climbing mode and pedal! Better than working. The head-wind was making it tough going and with no stops on route (No possible stops indicated on Garmin, Maps Me or Goggle). Though they do some times appear out of nowhere, which is good for us. As we passed a construction compound we asked the gatekeeper if we could fill up with water, which they did. The water is ok for washing, though we put it through a “life straw for drinking and cooking”, with all the bikes full laded with water, all of us carrying around eight or more litres.
After just over 20 miles we reached our first oasis. The cafe was open and we had a big fill up. The local food has been excellent; really impressed. The we set off again the climbing getting steeper all the time. Personally I preferred the climbing rather than the desert; but both are tough though. Up we went, but thanks for small mercies the wind had died down. Then the second oasis arrived which was a weird little shack for the Jade quarry men. But they are happy to serve us, with more food. With the road getting very steep now and not so wide, it was pretty dangerous with the trucks passing so close to our bikes. Possibly the most dangerous road I have ever ridden, especially as our bikes had all the extra water on.
As we passed the 3000 meters point there was a third oasis just selling warm drinks. Although we did get some peaches in syrup from there, it was more to load on the bikes. We had a rest in the shade and discussed our options, and decided to ride on for another hour and find a place to camp. As we left it seemed the road was even busier, probably as most of the trucks had stopped as well, pushing through the climb, we passed some massive constructions, where they are building a new super highway and railway line.
Finally we pulled over to camp. It was off the road and seemed pretty good,
We sat in the shade and waited for the sun to go down before having supper, pot noodles and peaches in syrup for pudding; nice.
Day 79: Saturday August 31st:
[Photos for this day as and when they arrive – to be added later: Ed]
We camped at 3250 meters last night, on a flat piece of ground off the road with heather gorse covering the ground. It did make Keith & I sneeze a little, but no problem. Once again I choose to sleep under the stars,. It was considerably cooler than last night, but inside the sleeping bag and liner I was fine.
We woke up to a cold morning and had breakfast of cereal and peanut milk (very nice) and coffee as we brought a couple of tins of cold coffee and warmed them up – all very nice.
We set off just after 08:15, straight onto the steep climb we left yesterday, only for around 10 miles, then a short descent, finishing with another steep climb. Though we only had 40 odd miles to do today so no big problem. With the road just as busy as yesterday it was good to get the climbing done. It was one tough climb, but we all know there is more to come. Just enjoy the descent (which we did), then we came to a gradual climb at the summit. Linney said thats it for the day as it’s all down hill from her. I’ve heard it all before; my Garmin had a big climb at the end. Which proved to be correct. Finally we reached the summit before passing through the final police check in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region China; all through no problem. We were staying in the small town of Ytimbulak. we had a meal in the first restaurant over the crossing and then located the tourist hotel with the help of the local police.
Everyday and ALL the Details
[Map and Tables to be added later: Ed]
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.
They have now crossed the Caspian Sea and are crossing the desert in Kazakhstan.
We are staying in the poshest hotel in town and will enjoy another rest-day.
Naturally we wake up late and leisurely make our way down to breakfast. We ate like kings and it was really difficult to get Linney away from the noodle station. Finally we managed to prise him away.
The plan was to set all three of us up with a Chinese SIM card today, as Dave said “good luck with Dale’s phone he can never even get a signal in Kent”. So off we tramped down to the city centre ably led by Linney and his map reading skills. For a Sunday morning the city was quite lively especially as we went through the municipal park. There were people dancing in organised sessions, yoga sessions, lads playing basketball and table-tennis. It was a really vibrant park. No time for that though; we were on a mission. I noticed though that Keith was eyeing up the talent on the dance floors.
Like a lot of things in China getting a SIM card is not that easy; first we had to get a certificate of translation from a hotel. We went to the first hotel we could find and a really nice receptionist got one of the guards to take us to the tourist information centre to get the certificate. Yes they did it, but in took about 2 hours of waiting. We finally had it and we then took a taxi ride to the phone shop. It was only another 1 ½ later and we all had the SIMs. However my phone is still locked so mine did not work after all that. [wouldn’t it be easier to buy a phone? Ed]
Keith & Linney went sightseeing around the old town. I went back to the hotel to do some bike maintenance and try and download the routes for the next couple of weeks.
Then it was a restful late afternoon and evening with a few beers and nice food.
With breakfast not until 08:00, we were up and raring to and get back on the bikes again. Unfortunately Linney’s back tyre was flat again; even though he repaired it yesterday. Even now we could not find the hole in the inner tube. It was all repaired before breakfast and then the feast began. As usual we had to drag Linney away with pockets overflowing with all sorts of food.
We were on the road just after 09:00, Linney leading us out of the City. Before long we were on the open road or so we thought. Then we hit the first police check. They pulled over and asked ‘where are you going?’. ‘Shanghai’ we said, which was probably not the best answer. In truth the police were so polite they just seemed to want to double check every last detail. Eventually a translator turned up and after that, no problem, we were back on the road.
The roads were pretty good so we made decent progress until the next town where we had the same procedure again; ‘where you from?’, ‘where are you going?’, ‘why are you here? etc.’. It was the same at the next town and with all these delays we were struggling to get the miles in that we had planned. But on we went.
After the next police stop we stopped for lunch. We just pulled into the next shop and Linney bought almost everything they had! Then we set off again.
As we rode on we noticed a white Honda following us. Every time we stopped for a comfort break he just rolled by and then started followed us again. He was looking at us through a newspaper with a hole cut in it [you are joking right? Ed]. I think Linney then waved at him so the his cover was blown. Before we knew the white car was replaced by a lime green one: we had Cato behind us, following our every move [Cato is the oriental valet character in the Pink Panther films: Ed]. When we stopped in a little village for drinks he had to back-track to get back behind us. It seemed he did not like us interacting with the locals. Then we rode on, knowing we were being followed.
We were now looking for a suitable place to camp. We spotted a place but knew we had Cato behind us; ‘just go for it’ we said bravely as we veered off the road. We sat and had a little chat knowing that Cato and friends would be around soon. Sure enough they came. Once again it was all very pleasant, ‘but we cannot camp here’. With a bit of mobile translation we managed to work out that there was a police check point in 12miles (20km) then a hotel. So with smiles and handshakes we said we would ride to the hotel .
We set off with Cato following us but after we had covered more than the 12 miles there was still no sign of the police checkpoint or for that matter the hotel. Cato was nowhere to be seen so we decided to set up camp. We picked a spot away from the road. This time we were not disturbed and so managed to get tents up and get to bed.
We got up just as it was getting light with no sign of Inspector Clouseau or Cato. We had a bit of breakfast then set off. We never did go pass the police check point or hotel. We think they just wanted us out of their jurisdiction.
After a while we came to a small town of Yarkant and found a little cafe and managed to order a late breakfast/early lunch. We met some young students in the café and had a good bit of banter with them. They even bought us a preserved egg each; they are a bit like pickled eggs but not as strong [surprised Keith didn’t drink the juice they came in: Ed].
When we came to pay the bill they had even paid for our meal, so with the customary photos, we were about to leave, when the police turned up again. It was the usual palaver; passports and visas. Then they said it was too dangerous to go into the town. We showed where were heading to, they then said they would give us a police escort to the highway. This ended being an escort for about 12 miles. I even had a puncture while they were escorting us and they waited as we fixed it.
Finally they left us alone on a brand new road with very little traffic. Though the road was pretty boring at least we could get some miles under are belts. The road had no police checks as it bypassed all the small villages and towns along the way. They really do not want us going through these places.
As we were now getting a bit paranoid it suited us to stay on this road. The landscape becoming more and more into desert and with snow-capped mountains in front of us. [this section of road is heading almost directly due south so they would be looking at the Himalayas of Jammu, Kashmir and Tibet: Ed]
We had a lunch pot noodles and coffee along the edge of the road and then carried on. Soon we came to a service station which was guarded like Fort Knox. Here we stocked up on water and then pushed on.
We finally decided to come off the highway and go through the town of Kargilik so we could get our camping provisions sorted. At the first check point it was the same again; ‘where are you going?’, ‘where are you staying?’. Just the same old boring routine.
We told them we were planning on staying in a town about 50 miles away and needed to go to a supermarket to pick up some supplies. Once again we had a police escort to another police check outside the town and then another one to the supermarket. We managed to get all our supplies including some imported beer
(it was 16% proof, not a good idea really), then back with the police escort to the other side of town.
Once we were on our own again we started to look for a place to camp. We soon found a suitable place behind a coppice of trees in a maize field. Keith and Linney set up camp, while I tucked into the strong beers. They tasted like Port, but did the job, and I slept like a log.
We woke up to a bright sunny day without a hangover! It does not get light until around 08:00 and we decided to have breakfast in a garage just up the road. We turned up just as the garage was opening and with the normal passport checks they let us in.
We went for canned noodle things and a tube of Pringles. As soon as we got out the garage we had the first police check of the day. Once again they were very polite and friendly. They just don’t seem to know what to do with us. The officer wanted to know where we stayed last night and we explained that we had camped. He did not seem too impressed. Linney had to show him pictures of where we camped. We all thought he was going to take us back there and make us show him the place.
Luckily he then changed tack as he was more interested in Linney’s photos,. He then asked to see mine. Fortunate we had nothing incriminating on our phones. Keith just denied he had a phone so the officer just said ‘you can go’.
We stayed on the same road all day. It was a great road with lots of space and very little traffic but the down-side was there were very few potential stops. After about 10 miles on this road the familiar shout went up; Keith had a flat rear tyre. As we got the wheel off he said to me give the tyre a bit of a check over because it was strange how it went down. Well not surprisingly as there was a 2” nail through the tread and side wall! We managed to get it out, swapped the inner tube, and pressed on.
As we had bought enough food in the garage earlier the plan was to have lunch on the side of the road around the 30 mile mark, then stop again at a service station at 66 miles. We had baked beans, bread and coffee on the side of the road; living the dream again.
The desert was really barren, with next to nothing growing, though we did see our first Chinese camels.
We soon came to our next stop and we cruised into the brand new place. It was that new that it was not even open! Not good for us as we were running low on water. As we were discussing our options a tourist bus pulled and luckily they had some spare water for us. At least we got our bottles filled up.
We decided to pull off the main road and go for the minor road, even if it meant more police checks. It was a good choice. We found a little shop almost immediately and filled up on water. I even had an ice cold beer because it was so dusty. Before we left the owner gave us a corn on the cob which was a nice touch.
We then stopped for a meal in a small local restaurant. We had what the locals were having; green beans and noodles, and it was quite tasty. As we were camping again tonight we decided to roll on for another 20 or so miles then find a place to camp. As the two roads merged we came across the police check. It was all very nice and gave us some water and let Linney wash his hair with the hose pipe (no photos, not the place to take them). We selected a dusty site behind a petrol station (another theme going on), and also managed to get some beers and breakfast stuff from the local shop. All sorted “Nothing can go Wrong”
Well it did! We had just done the Waltons thing “good night Jon Boy” when the blue and twos sounded with headlights on full beam into the tent. Nothing for it. Keith went out to sort it out and I just rolled over thinking they will be gone in 5 mins. No such luck, we had to move on. All this was done via Goggle translate, though they did send for a translator as well. They said they would load us and our bikes into a van and take us to a hotel in Hotan around 80 miles away.
All this took over 5 hours to complete going through every checkpoint, with passport and visa checks at every one. We were all getting very tired now, trying to make a laugh and joke about it, but it was all wearing thin. Especially when we had been at a police check point for over an hour, before Linney pointed out to the head officer that he was looking at the wrong visa, the Russian one , not the Chinese one and that’s why he could not understand it.
We finally booked into a hotel at 04:00 in the morning, and this was after they had taken us to two other fully-booked hotels. We even unloaded the bikes and baggage at the first one.
After the debacle of last night we had a lay in until 09:00 and had breakfast in the hotel,
Keith and Linney went to find a bike shop and I caught up with the blog. We had a view to get on the bikes around mid-day and with a 62 mile ride it should not be that bad (or so we thought). We set off just after 12 going out through the city of Hotan when we soon reached the first check-point. We are all resigned to the fact that they will ask the same questions, photocopy and take pictures of passports and visa, then usually let you go. This one was just like the rest. We made the mistake of having a selfie with one of the other guys in the queue; the police were not very impressed, but we got through evcentually. Unsurprisingly we had a police car tail us for the next 20 miles.
Then we hit the desert again and the road just got tougher and tougher. As always it was a steady incline with a head-wind getting stronger as the day wore on. We stopped for a little bit of respite in the only shade we could find, underneath the plinth of a crashed car put on show to deter speeding.
We had a little snack each all of us looking at the road ahead as it turned even more into the wind. We all checked our water and then set off for the last 20 mile push. It was hard going with sand blowing all over the place and always climbing. To be honest it was a relief when the police check finally arrived. Same procedure, albeit with a free ice lolly and a slice of melon, then the officer said no hotels in the town of Quira. We showed him the list we had but he said that was an old list; they are all closed. He said there was an international hotel 15 km away. When we tried to show him on the map it was around 50 miles away and we said we ca not cycle to there tonight. At first he said OK carry on, then just as we were leaving he said wait 5 minutes. We ended up boarding a bus to take us to the hotel 50 miles away. Their was not much room for negotiating, so we all unloaded the baggage off the bikes and onto the bus.
The bus went through two more police checks and we were held it up both times as they did the passport / visa checks and asked the same old questions. Finally we arrived at the town of Keriya with the international hotel. After ajnother police check we got the bikes and baggage off the bus. It was all in a bit of a hurry and I left one of my front pannier bags on the bus. Linney with his Google App managed to persuade the police to go and track the bag. I ended up in the police 4×4 chasing the bus down with the blues and twos going. In the end he spoke with the police at the next check-point and they turned the bus around and dropped off the bag. Good lads.
With a police escort to the hotel we managed to book in and it was straight up to the room for a quick change and then out next door for some food. We had the police hot on our tail again, asking us where we were going next; ‘to bed’ we all said.
After a really nice meal and a few beers and a chat about tomorrows ride which is around 70 miles to a place called Niya (with an international hotel of course).
With breakfast scheduled at 09:00 we had a bit of a lazy morning and I tried to catch up on the blog but the WIFI connection was not very good.
We all had a Chinese breakfast of rice, noodles and eggs, and then loaded up and set off just before 10. We stocked up just outside the hotel with water, nuts, cakes and sweets. It was quite easy riding through the town and we went straight through the final police checkpoint and onto the main express way to Niya and beyond.
Once again as soon as we left the town the desert appeared and the head-wind but it was not quite as bad as yesterday, but still pretty strong. We also still had a steady climb. After a couple of hours, with all of us looking for a bit of shade to have a rest in, we came across a Uzbekistan style road-stop; our little oasis. We replenished our drinks, had some cakes and fruit, and basically enjoyed the rest.
Then we set off again into the strong head-wind. With less than 35 miles to go, we knew we had broken the back of the ride and it was just a matter of ploughing through with it. On we went. Keith had a flat front tyre (a slow puncture, though he tried to blame the guy last night who touched his front wheel). We stopped again at a weird pull-over place, but not for long; just to get our bearings and go for the last big effort of the day. Before long we came to the final police check before Niya. It was the same procedure; Linney showed the guy the hotel. The policeman thought we had a booking, but we had not booked it. He was a really nice guy though and was pretty interested in what we were doing, and even typed on his translator app, “see you again” as we left.
With a really nice descent into the town we had 10 miles of luxury and the police even let us straight through a check with a wave and smile. When we arrived at the hotel, the police were there to greet us but this made the checking in process a bit easier. We were soon all sorted and ready to eat.
Day 72: Saturday August 24th:
[Dale’s diary notes have not yet been uploaded as they are camping and out of wifi reach. I’ll update when it comes in: Ed]
After camping in some rough ground behind a petrol station we were woken around 5ish with freight trains rattling along, incessant dog barking and the call to morning prayers.
So it was an early start, with a bowl of museli and yoghurt, and on the road just after 6. We were heading for Kokand around 105 miles away athough this may have to be amended as there is a lot of climbing today.
The first part was just a steady climb going through little villages and towns. We stopped at the small town of Angren for a coffee and water. Once again we were short of Uzbekistan Soms. We located a bank but it was closed (Sunday). Fortunately, this time, we did have US dollars.
As we went further the road ramped up a little but nothing too serious. We stopped for a photo-shoot with some Chinese students by a dam on a lake. We exchanged contact details which may come in handy when we enter China next week.
As we got closer to the major climb we stopped at a tiny shop and sat in the shade. We chatted with the owner and managed to exchange some US dollars for Som. At least we could eat! The owner wanted to take us fishing in the river below, but we had no time so we said our thanks, done the selfie, and moved on to the infamous hairpins.
As we started climbing the signs just repeated themselves; ‘12% for the next 2km’, then again and again. We just got into the rhythm and rode. We stopped for water and ice cream when we were about a third of the way up. After the normal photo-shoot on we went, up and up through some terrific scenery and horrendous hairpins [Switch backs!: Ed], everyone waving and tooting their horns and cars and lorries breaking down as we carried on climbing. On we went Keith leading the way with me and Linney at the back. Linney of course was only lagging because of the photographs; both taking and being taken of!
As we waited at the top there was a tunnel with an army patrol guy who made a cross with his arms. Keith went over to see the guy while I was busy taking photographs. Keith was thinking were not allowed through the tunnel, but it transpired we were not allowed to take photographs in the tunnel. No problem.
We went through this tunnel and the next one before starting the decent. However we stopped for lunch before the descent really got going and discussed our options.
We decided to go for Kokand and book a hotel. I said ‘no problem we will be there before 7’. It was already 4 :30 with over 40 miles to go!
We started the descent and it was worth all the climbing with a wide road and a fairly good surface. Linney did hit a pot-hole which made his handle bars drop a little. After less than 45 minutes we had covered half the distance to Kokand. The shout went up ‘do we want to stop’. ‘Carry on’ was the reply. The road flattened out after the descent but we still kept up the pace, riding hard.
As we enter the busy city Linney switched into overdrive trying to skip lights and jump the queues as normal I tend to hang back then which nearly caused a pile up between me and Keith, but with good skills he managed to avert the danger.
As we pulled up to the Silk Road Hotel, it was 6:59. We’d done it easily. I went through the booking-in process as they assured us we could pay by MasterCard in the morning. They also gave us a complementary beer.
It was a really nice hotel so after a good shower it was down to the restaurant for another well earned beer and some good food.
We had a really good meal last night and a great nights sleep. It’s amazing how much you like a bed after camping. I don’t think I’m designed to sleep on the floor.
Breakfast was at 7 and we were all ready to attack the big spread. We were not disappointed, though the waiters were fussing around Keith a bit more than he liked. I left Linney and Keith as they were on their 3rd sitting to go and start the palaver of paying the bill. We thought the card machine was out of action but the hotel manager phoned me and said no problem he would take us to the bank! Well in Uzbekistan it’s never that easy but eventually we found an ATM that had US dollars not Som. The deal was done!
Then we a big photo-shoot outside the hotel before we could get going around 08:30. With a plan to ride about 80 miles to Andijan. From the profile it looked like up-hill after the first 20 miles but with no major climbs.
We got out of the city pretty quickly and soon hit a good pace; it must have been the good breakfast. We kept the pace up for a couple of hours on surprisingly good roads. Keith gave a shout to say he had a problem with his back wheel so we pulled over adjacent to some melon sellers. Keith had his back wheel off and tightened a few spokes and got the wheel as true as he could. Linney really helped out and got a free melon from the guys and bought two extra ones for later.
Around the 40 mile mark we stopped for a cup of tea, like all English gentlemen should. It was green tea of course but we are getting to like it. We discussed what we could do about Keith’s wheel. The plan was to nurse it through to Osh tomorrow and then see if we could purchase a new one there.
As we moved on with a planned lunch stop in a town called Shankhrikhan. We soon arrived and passed two bike shops. We had no luck in them, but one of the guys took us to a bike repair place around the corner (just like Dad’s back garden back in the day). Sure enough the guy managed to repair the wheel; the rim has split, so he reamed the spoke-hole out with a file, put a washer on the spoke nut and trued the wheel up all for the princely sum 10,000 Som! We gave him 15,000 Som, which is about £1.50. We will still need to replace the wheel ASAP, but least it will get us through the next few days, we hope.
After the customary photo-shoot, and an extra one with Linney’s new Mum [Dale is determined to get Keith married off: Ed], we moved around the corner for some peace and quiet and to have a bowl of Yak soup and bread.
We then just rolled into the surprisingly big city of Andijan located a hotel (which was not as nice as yesterdays – we do have a budget!). We showered then went to the ATM again and found a restaurant for a few beers and a meal.
For the first time on the Tour we slept untill 08:00. Not intentionally; we forgot to set the alarm. We still made time for breakfast as it’s going to be a long day, with a border crossing and some serious climbing.
We got going just after 9 through the busy city of Andijan. It was a relief to get out.
The border was around the 30 mile mark just before the City of Osh. Keith’s front pannier completely broke off just before the border and he ended up strapping it to the back of the bike as we all rolled into the border crossing.
The Uzbekistan side was the normal chaotic queues and hustle and bustle, but we got through pretty quick. Then came the Kyrgyzstan side; it was the worst border crossing ever as fighting broke out in the queues with children crying, shouting and screaming. As we were tourists we go to the front, but that really makes you feel guilty, with all the others pushing and shoving. It was horrible to see.
We finally got through and rolled into Osh, first to the market, as Linney had located some bike repair places. Once again it was chaotic, one guy seemed to understand what we wanted and took the pannier around a couple of repair places. They ended up fixing it with torx self tapping screwsso we’ll see how long this lasts. We also managed to stock up nuts, bolts, jubilee clips and tie wraps – just in case.
We had lunch and managed to find some Kyrgyzstan currency, before we made our way out of the busy hilly city. Keith and I had a run in with a driver at a roundabout, and then Linney nearly got wiped out by a taxi driver. After that we met a couple from Estonia who were cycling the other way; had a nice chat with them before we set off again.
We then started the climbing. With over 50 miles to the town of Sary Tash we had decided to camp after getting as far as we can. Linney had identified a potential site. It looked like a lovely spot for camping and the 50 miles seemed do-able.
With the road steadily getting steeper we just kept going through little villages. It was very rural with young guys on horse-back herding cattle, all the children waving etc. We stocked up on provisions where we could and carried on. The campsite Linney had chosen was up a track going steeply up the bank; it looked good, but not worth the extra work! Just down the road we found a shop selling beer, so bought a few each and decided to settle for a nice spot in a cow field overlooking the mountains.
We didn’t cook but just had a tea and a few snacks with the beers and then early to bed.
It was a good nights sleep considering we camped. We got up just after 6 and had a breakfast of jam, Nutella and bread washed down with coffee; not bad at all.
We were on the road just after 7 knowing we had a big days climbing. The first part was just a steady climb for 10 or so miles, then it ramped up with switch-backs every so often, it took us around 2 1/2 hours to reach the summit at about 2340 metres. We stopped for photos and admired the view, with the knowledge that we had another massive ascent either later today or early tomorrow depending on progress.
The plan was to enjoy the descent and take as many photos as possible then have lunch in the town of Gulcha. We all enjoyed the ride down. Many touring motorcycles passed us with a cheery wave and before we knew it we were outside a cafe with WIFI in Gulcha. Just outside we met 3 German cycle-tourists going the other way; once again we swapped stories and chatted about the forthcoming climbs etc.
After a nice lunch we discussed the options for the rest of today; we decided it would be best to go about 70 miles, camp out again, and then do the final push to the Kyrgyzstan border town tomorrow.
We carried on following the Gurda River, going through the strange sensation when it looks like you are going downhill when it fact you are climbing.
Just before we thought about stopping, we met a guy walking pulling a trolley (Forrest Gump!) [His name is Ben Viatte and he styles himself the Global Pilgrim: Ed], he seemed pretty happy. We stopped in a shop about 200m away and Forrest came bounding in, said hi and wanted to know what we were up to, he turned out to be a really nice guy, from the Czech Republic but with Swiss parents. He had been on the road for 3 years picking up the languages and dress-code as he went. [I added some pictures below: Ed]. We left him in his own little world. Really nice guy; a bit bonkers, but everyone to their own.
With around 20 miles to go it was just a matter of riding it out and choosing a decent campsite and getting an evening meal. We sorted the meal out and had the standard lagman (noodle broth) with melon for afters. Sadly though no beers. We found a shop and my eyes lit up when they came out, but to no avail; it will be a dry night tonight.
With the sun setting and the wind getting up it was time to find the site. Within 5 mins we were setting up camp. I was dispatched to find some rocks to knock the pegs in. Keith had forgot to pack a mallet.
Looks like being a windy night and cold nightand I’m actually in the sleeping bag for the first time . Early night; if you can’t have a beer go to bed.
As we camped again last night we were up early though as we had gone through another time-zone it does not get light until 6am. Breakfast was the same as yesterday; coffee, bread and jam except without the Nutella; we finished that yesterday.
We were on the road just after 7 and rode through the first village as the sun was coming over the mountains. Very nice but then some dogs chased us and a stroppy teenager threw a stone at Keith; brave lad! We just smiled and gave him the normal “hello” and rode on.
Within 10 miles we started the ascent of the Taldyk Pass which rising to a height of 3600 metres or so. This was really tough going and it took us nearly three hours to reach the summit. Very ,very tough riding. Of course we had a little bit of a photo-shoot at the top, then a little descent, then another climb to the summit on the other side of the mountain, another photo-shoot with some locals and then, finally, a well earned descent.
Very early into the descent Linney noticed a lone cyclist coming up the other way. It only the guy from “Staple” [a village about 3 miles from Aylesham, Kent, UK: Ed] whose name was Ted. Gavin had mentioned him earlier [probably a week ago: Ed]. We stopped and had a chat and a few photos. We all promise to meet up in the Black Pig in November, then we are on are way again.
We stopped in Sary Tash for a bowl of soup, and fill up with water and chocolate bars: these are our replacements for melons and ice-creams.
We then started the next steady climb. The first 15 miles were all very good,with the sun shining and the snow-capped Himalayas to the right of us. [directly south they can probably see the mountains of Kashmir: Ed] Then the second climb of the day started and with weary legs it was difficult to get the muscles going but we soon got into the swing of it.
This climb was a lot more exposed than the last but luckily we did have a bit of a tail-wind. As the road got steeper up our Garmins sent us down a track (marked yellow on the map and probably the old road). It was a bit of a no-brainer with the state of our bikes, so we took the high road!. This was tough but the scenery was unbelievable. Now it is behind us it seems well worth it – half-way up you may have got a different answer! This was actually higher than the Taldyk Pass by a couple of hundred metres.
Then it was the descent accompanied by a massive cross-wind; I was sure I would have been blown off my road bike! We all enjoyed it tough and we stopped often for great photos.
I noticed Keith’s back wheel was buckled again and he said his brakes were not working, so we stopped and changed the pads on his rear wheel. We then took it easy for the rest of the descent and we still had one little climb left as well.
We managed to get to the border town of Irkeshtam which apparently is built out of old railway carriages and lorry containers. We booked into the hostel; In retrospect our tents would probably have been better and cleaner. We were now ready for our border crossing into China tomorrow.
Keith put the temporary “Kevlar spoke” back on to his rear wheel and changed the pads in his and Linney’s brakes.