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.
We had a nice breakfast in the hotel with cook your own eggs, cereal and toast; all very wester although all of us still had some noodles and rice. We left the hotel pretty sharply, with a nice ride out of the city across a big lake andthen into the never-ending suburbs.
Finally we hit some open roads after about 15 miles; it’s unbelievable how big these cities are and it was good to hit a few hills early on with rolling roads over small inclines and then down hill again. It really breaks the riding up especially when the country side is so green and lush.
We carried on through these rolling roads and it was so nice we forgot to have our little soft drink halfway through the morning section. We just carried on through the really pretty countryside riding up down the little valleys.
Eventually we came to the town of Mingguang and with the young lads starving by this point we pulled over just as we entered the town. Nothing wes doing at the first side street so we rode up and carried on and found a place on the corner. It was a bit like a Chinese fast food place but we went in opened the first fridge and had our drinks but I’m not sure we paid for these!
We’ll probably have a bill when we leave Shanghai. We queued up and ordered our food. Rylan said it must be good because the locals kept pushing in front of him,. To be fair the food was good and we did not get too much like we normally do.
After an early lunch we still had around 40 miles to go so we hit the road again carrying on where we left off,through the rolling countryside. It was very pleasant riding with the temperature just over 30c; really pleasant and we were just enjoying the ambience by waving and smiling to all the people on the way through.
We stopped at a little village about 14 miles from Chuzhou for a drink just before we rolled into the town. All in all it was a pleasant days riding even through the building site about a mile away from the hotel. All of us got caked in mud and sand again.
It was Rylan’s choice for a restaurant to night; not sure if he researched it or just took pot luck but we ended up in a pizza place. I think he just wanted the knife and forks. It was a good meal though with the usual photo shot included.
Same hotel different city! All these different hotels in different cities/towns are playing mind-games with us; not sure what floor or room number we are in. They all look the same.
We are getting very close to Shanghai now and it looks like it will be mainly urban sprawl from now on.
We left Chuzhou around 08:45, with an hours riding in the busy town before we hit any sign of country-side. We went past many small towns and villages and we were all finding it a little bit difficult to get into the swing today. Maybe it’s because we are so close.
We were just ambling through the ride with nobody taking the lead. We stopped at a busy little market place called Yongningzhen for some fruit and cold drinks knowing we had the big city of Nanjing ahead of us. Once we hit the city on a busy freeway it was a little chaotic like most bustling cities. With the plan to try and keep to the outskirts of the city going quite well until we came across the tunnel under the Yangtze river. The sign said ‘No Bicycles Allowed’. So we all got in formation again and just went for it.
The tunnel is about 3 miles long and as we hit the entrance I heard the guy shout at us as we pedalled past. Nothing could go wrong! The first mile seemed ok and the tunnel was well lit and the traffic kept a safe distance from us. Then it all got a bit more congested though we were still keeping a decent line it was just so noisy!
It was the police sirens trying to hunt us down and finally they rounded us up. They were all a bit confused as I don’t think they have had anyone silly enough to cycle through the tunnel before. It was like trying to cycle through the Dartford tunnel. Fair play we caused chaos. First they tried to get us to load the bikes onto a small pick-up then they realised how big and heavy they were so they left the bikes in the tunnel and gave us a lift out of the tunnel and then sent a bigger van in to pick the bikes up.
We’ve been here before so we sat on the wall laughing and joking once the bikes arrived although they had to go back for Keiths. Then the inspector arrived full of importance and ended up giving us a telling-off and fining us 50 yen each for violation of traffic laws (£6 each). It was all paid on the spot with a receipt. At least that was efficient and then they let us on our way.
We carried on through the city and came to another tunnel. We all looked at each other and said maybe not this time sp we rerouted and came to a big park. The guards would not let us through the park even if we walked the cycles. One guard started to shout at us louder and louder but we just smiled. Luckily a lady came over and explained to the guard that we could not understand him and she gave us directions around the park; very nice lady.
Linney & Rylan had a little look in the park while Keith and I looked after the bikes but they were only in there for half an hour.
All in all though it put another couple of hours onto the ride until finally we managed to get out of Nanjing and get some sort of rhythm going in the ride as we pushed on through the rolling hills trying to make up some time. The youngsters were fretting because we had not stopped for lunch so we had a bit of a compromise with a soft drink and some chocolate and a promise to eat as soon as we hit Zhenjiang.
Good lads they really hit the pace in the afternoon and dragged us along with them. Keith had probably one of the best falls ever as he got stuck in a rut on the road and achieved a full somersault with a twist, pike and the best landing in living memory. Definitely a front-runner for fall of the tour. Linney made the quip ‘that’s how to fall Dale’.
As we closed in on Zhenjiang we made another change of plan; book a hotel first then eat as it was getting dark. The “young uns” guided us in to the hotel with ease through the dwindling light. We all booked in and got the bikes stowed away then it was a quick shower, catch up on the rugby and eat.
I had a little go at matching Keith’s fall as I slipped in the marble hall. I went flying straight on my back with all the elegance of a sack of potatoes. Artistic impression: Nil points, but screaming like a girl: 10 points. Nothing, but feelings, were hurt though.
Today was a National Holiday in China celebrating the 70 years of the Peoples Republic of China formed in 1949. It was very big news out here and all the towns and cities were decorated with flags and Chinese lanterns. All the staff in the hotel had “We love China “ tee shirts on and were waving flags. Keith and I had a picture taken with them before the young ones left the breakfast table, under the celebration banner, then we had a full team picture just before we left.
The roads where reasonably quite as we left Zhenjiang making the route out of the city very easy though we did not hit any open roads. The towns and villages just merged into one. We made really good time in the morning on the empty roads but may be also because the lads did not want to miss lunch again. Before we knew it we had done over 50 odd miles so the call went out for a lunch stop as we entered Changzhou.
Unluckily at this point Keith had a puncture with the lads in front. I soon caught them up and told then to ease up and when Keith re-joined us we took a little detour into the town and found small café. We had a very nice meal with ice cream after although Keith did have another flat just as we left.
Soon we are on our way again with the rain holding off and with the head-wind not too bad it was just a matter of riding in the last 30 miles. We had a little break about 12 miles out as then some local lads went by on road bikes. It was like red rags to a bull; off the young went chasing them down with Keith & I in tow. We soon caught them and passed them but they did try and stick with us for a while but then tailed off. Then we joined two other local lads who stayed with us all the way into Wuxi. We left them with a wave and smile just as we found our hotel.
Well it’s the last days cycling in China after over 100 days on the road. It seems a bit surreal to be coming to end of this part of the tour, but we have still got loads of cycling in Japan to look forward too.
Went through the normal mornings preparations; breakfast, get the bikes ready, then pedal – all pretty simple stuff. We all had our Bike Rugby Japan cycling tops on, Linney & I also had the shorts but Keith had mislaid his and Rylan never had shorts ordered. We did look smart outside the hotel for a photo shoot and think the lads were pleased I had finally binned my shorts that I have worn for the whole trip. [Club fine for not wearing the fully prescribed kit on a match day: Ed]. A Chinese guy took the picture on Linney’s camera and he kept getting stuck in the automatic doors trying to get the angle right. Linney was not too impressed and thought he was going to drop the camera or run off with it.
We left Wuxi in light drizzle but it was very warm and we were straight out onto the secondary road into Shanghai,. Just over 80 miles planned for toda, all of it in built up industrial or suburban communities with next to no open spaces at all.
None of us were really enthused about the ride into Shanghai. I for one was very apprehensive as I’m not keen on riding in the big cities although the cycle paths in all the Chinese cities have been very good. You just have to be aware of the electric scooters zooming all over the place beeping their horns to pass.
With open fast cycling paths running adjacent to the road we made really good progress skirting around the edge of Suzho City. We saw a massive statue of a Buddha in the distance so we had to have a look. It turned out to be a theme park so nothing to special. We had a drink stop next to a shop selling crabs. The guy invited us in but it wasn’t for me. Keith had a look at 100s of crabs in tanks waiting to be sold for dinner.
The road into the city of Shanghai followed the river, for the final 20 miles with the cycle path following up and over all sorts of concrete flyovers. It just seemed madness that we were so close.
After lunch we stopped at a little place for a beer and to take stock of where we were going to stay. With around 7 miles to the centre we picked a hotel close to the train station and set off to find it.
To be honest the ride into the centre of the city was not too bad; great cycle paths, then weaving in and out of the rush hour traffic was all good fun. We found the hotel and booked in with ease.
It did seem strange taking all the panniers off the bikes as we stored them in the hotel’s garage.
Thoughts from Dale
1: Now you’ve completed the ride what are your first thoughts?
We have only gone and done it and then wow Shanghai is massive but has no bars! Dale
2: Of those 100 days, which was the most exhilarating and which the most despairing?
The most exhilarating was seeing the Himalay mountains on the right hand side. The snow covered peaks were breathtaking.
The most despairing was not getting through the Ukraine/Russia border and riding 100 miles in a circle and to cap it off I got a bee sting in the eye. Dale
3: With different cultures and languages their was plenty of scope for embarrassment. Got a funny story?
Very embarrassing and funny for those watching (and it was being filmed) was standing up in front of all the trainee school teachers in a remote place in Kazakhstan and trying to explain where we had been and where we were going. I made a complete mess; getting all the countries mixed up; Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and all the other Stans. Dale.
4: Did you ever think you may not make it? Why or why not?
Not once did I think we would not make it. It was not an option. Sometimes I thought it just may have taken a bit longer than planned. Dale.
5: Before you started you said you’d probably throw your bike in the China Sea if you made it. Had enough of cycling yet?
We are carrying on as we intend to cycle in Japan too. But I’m definitely going to do another trip another time. Dale.
Bonus Question (from Dave)
You’ve surveyed beer from the North Sea to the East China Sea. Most memorable? And the worst?
Definitely the worst is when no beer is available! After that it was the warm beer in West China where they did not seem to have fridges.
The best beer was a freezer full of ice cold beer in a little shack miles away from any town in the Chinese desert. Dale.
Thoughts from Keith
1: First thoughts on finishing the ride
Never crossed my mind we wouldn’t finish. Great to be on time and all good. Keith.
2: Did you ever feel like throwing your bike in a ditch? Why?
Never felt like throwing the bike in a ditch, but Dale, yes! Keith.
Thoughts from Linford
1: First thoughts on finishing the ride?
Relief & excitement for Japan (which will include more riding)! Linford.
2: Funniest thing that happened
The funniest thing has to be Dale’s bee sting and the few days after where he looked like Quasimodo and then dad injecting his arse. Linford.
3: Best day and worst day
The best day would be the home stay with the family in Kazakhstan. After meeting a drunk down the shop and him taking us back to meet his family who welcomed us, fed us and then let us sleep at their place. Also another highlight would be the last day in Kyrgyzstan after we climbed all day up a load of switch backs and then rode along side the snow capped Himalaya.
The worst day would probably be when we tried to go through the conflict zone in Donetsk but got turned away which meant going back to the same town we started in having done 101 miles. Also knowing that meant we had a massive 700 mile detour. Very disheartening and this was near the beginning so it wasn’t a good start.
Also one of the worst days was riding in the 48°c heat of the Kazakhstan desert against a big head wind. We were struggling to do 8 mph and drinking over 10 litres of water a day without going for a pee. Linford.
4: Weirdest food experience?
We had a lot of mystery meat soups in the Stans but they actually tasted pretty good. So it was probably ordering some random dishes on our first day in China. It turned out to be three huge plates; one intestine type dish, a dish with a load of little boney fish and then a really spicy and boney chicken dish. We all struggled to eat much of any of them which is very rare because I usually eat anything and everything put in front of me! Linford.
5: Were you ever worried about your safety?
I was worried a few times. For example riding through the ghost towns in Ukraine with bullet holes and blown up buildings around after we were told by the UN people not to step off the road as there are a lot of land mines everywhere.
And then our first night in China sleeping rough in a park trying to sleep with one eye open as there was a lot of people walking around and I thought we might get robbed.
Also being woke up by a load of old bill whilst trying to camp behind a petrol station wasn’t nice as we didn’t know who they were and what they wanted. Linford.
With a decent breakfast inside us we left the hotel around 08:30 and got back on the busy A310. We’ll probably be on this road all day as we go in and out of the hectic towns and as we follow the Yellow River.
We have a steady ride planned for the day and we just cruised through the miles laughing and joking as we went along. We were mainly telling Rylan about his duties for the day; first job of the day – order the lunch. He did a grand job as went for our staple diet with a few twists, by adding couple items we had not tried. It’s always good to mix it up a little.
We enjoyed the company in the café, and they all came over for the obligatory photographs. It took us an age to leave but it was all good fun. We even took the Sterling currency out for them to take photos of; very weird. As we left the café Keith had a little play in the river and pulled out a soft shell turtle possibly a (Rafetus swinhoei: [unlikely – this is the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, which is almost extict – only 3 known specimens. More likely to be Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis): Ed]) or one the café had lined up for their guests.
After lunch we carried on with the steady pace as Linney had changed the route slightly so we could get to the hotel in good time for the rugby! So we came off the 310 and hit the back roads where the fun began. The first part was no problem but then the road got a little bit bumpy. I dropped behind as I had a puncture and then I lost sight of them. I carried on going and came to a bit of junction where I turned east as I thought that was the best option. Then I had another puncture on the rocky road and still had no sign of the others.
I took stock and decided to head for the 310 road again. It was a bit difficult but finally I managed to locate the super highway. Nothing for it but to push the fully laden bike up the incline then over the barrier and onto the super highway. First I checked that I am heading the correct way (East); result yes. So just hit the highway.
Unknown to me Keith had gone back to look for me and as I have no Chinese SIM card I can only message with a WIFI connection. As we are all capable of looking after ourselves Keith had a look around and then got back onto the 310 road. Unfortunately he was going in the wrong direction and ended up doing 15 miles before realising.
I knew the city we were heading for, but not the hotel so just rode to the city and with the light fading and no WIFI signal my plan was to get to the park that we bookmarked this morning then find the first hotel and have a beer. As I got close to the park I found a hotel, booked in and raided the fridge and took all their beers. I touched base with Linney and Rylan to let them know where I was and arranged to meet them in the morning.
Though Keith was still not in he was in contact with the boys. It was not a great finish to the day but a good lesson learnt; keep together! All in all Linney and Rylan did 85 miles, I did 90 miles and Keith did a massive 125 miles.
Although the team split across two hotels we got ourselves sorted with the faithful social media sites. I sat in my hotel foyer and watched last nights rugby on my phone while the rest got ready and cycled the 1.5 miles to meet me.
With a few pleasantries and nods of the head we then the exchange of route details so everyone has the details of the intended hotel. Though this is pretty difficult as the route does change throughout the day. As we left the city of Sannemxia we had the choice of the toll road (we are not allowed on it but sometimes they let us or the 310 which is being worked on and so is very bumpy.
We went for the toll road option and rode all in formation as we passed the barrier. The guy shouted at us but we just waved and pedalled through. It was all ok – even though a police car passed us almost immediately it just drove straight past. On the smooth road we started to get a decent pace going which changed when we hit a steady climb. It was nothing too serious just a long drag that went on for about 9 miles.
Just as we reached the summit there was trouble ahead. The traffic marshals pulled us over and we acted all innocent although it was fairly obvious they would not let us continue on the road. It did seem that all they wanted to do was take pictures of us. We just sat on the Armco barrier laughing and joking. Then the police turned up; same procedure – pictures of us all and then the flat bed truck turned up. We put the bikes on the back with us sitting against them. Nothing was tied on and with loads of shouting and pointing (not aggressive – as always because we do not understand, they tend to shout lounder and gesticulate like mad). We had no idea where they were taking us but it ended up about a 10 mile trip to the next toll station. They say it was dangerous to ride on the road but in my humble opinion if was far more dangerous to ride on the flat bed truck at 60/70 mph. It was a pretty good experience though and a bit of a laugh.
We said our goodbyes to the police and flatbed truck driver and then started our ride again. It was a shame we did not gain any time after all the fussing around. Rylan was a bit disappointed as he thought they were taking us to our hotel at Luoyang.
The road was not in the best condition as they were building a new road adjacent to the old road which made for difficult technical riding at some points. We stopped for lunch at a small place called Chang cun zhen and met a Chinese guy who was cycling from Xi’an to Beijing. Wetried to have a little chat but his English was like my Chinese. We ended up just smiling and riding together for a few miles.
The ride into Luoyang was difficult to say the least. It was like riding through a building site with trucks and buses trying to sneak past you as cranes lifted sections of the new road in to place; it was chaos.
As always Linney guided us to the hotel and booked in with consummate ease and with the added bonus of cold beers from the shop inside the hotel. Rylan is getting the hang of it now.
We had a nice breakfast at the hotel before we left; a mixture of both East and West cultures. It’s nice to mix them up a bit and especially nice to have a hot coffee as we have not seen that very often these last few weeks.
We hit the road around 08:30 and were straight into the same road-works we had last night. The road system in Luoyang will be amazing when it is finished however it is terrible now. It took us at least 1 ½ hours to get out of the city; we were going around in circles, up un-paved road, into dead-ends and all sorts of crap roads. To cap it all Rylan had his first fall on his new bike and then blamed me for being slow too crossing the busy intersection. No damage to the bike just a bit of scuffed bar tape (how will I sell this on e-bay now was his only concern?).
Eventually we got onto the new road and then had a couple of hours of good riding which put us back on track to complete the 90 odd mile ride we had planned for today.
We stopped for lunch just before the town of He luo zhen in a tiny café just at the top of a little climb. We all had a massive bowl of noodle soup. Rylan takes an age to eat his with the chop sticks though he is getting better and not spreading the noddles around so much.
After lunch we carried on the new road for about 5 miles but then came to a big barrier across the road; closed! Linney was onto the maps like a hawk. I think we have an option; take this little road over the mountain and we should be able to re-join the road later.
We all nodded in agreement and started the climb. About half way up we stopped at a junction to check the maps. Rylan mad a little quip, “i’s like we don’t have a clue where we are”. Yep he is right, but nothing can go wrong. We ended up above the closed road but separated by a steep ravine that had partially collapsed,. That’s why the road was closed!
We all surveyed the options and none of them looking promising. Finally we settled on getting the bikes over an Armco barrier riding down a dirt track onto the road. We all dgot own with no dramas, just two punctures for Rylan and I. We fixed them and set of past the collapsed bank and after a few miles came to another barrier; the workmen just opened it for us with a smile.
Though these adventures had delayed us a little, we all treated it as a bit of a joke, riding on the closed road was fun. We even went through a mile long tunnel – all good fun – before we joined onto the rest of the traffic.
The ride into Zhengzhou was an absolute pleasure from stopping to have a bag of grapes about 15 miles out of the city centre we rode through immaculate parks past massive sports stadiums and busy street-life culture; very impressed. The city did get really busy in the centre but it was nothing we could not handle. We booked into the hotel with no problems and I think we are now out of the tourist hotel madness, as they are all keen to take us now.
It was a nice early breakfast this morning although that did not make any difference to our starting time. Rylan had a flat back tyre as we rolled the bikes out but they were both still doing their hair, so Keith and I sorted the flat out and mended a few inner tubes while we watched the world go by. Eventually they come out looking very smart after the laundry run last night.
We left the hotel around 08:30 through the busy streets of Zhengzhou. We had rode about 15 miles yesterday into the city and did at least the same again to get out of the city though the road was very good with plenty of room for cyclist and the electric scooters.
No sooner where we out of the city when we hit the next town. We were just rolling from town to town on busy streets. This is how it going to be now.
With flat busy roads we kept up a good pace hitting the next big city of Kaifeng just in time for lunc. We rode through the suburban area then into the heart of the city and stopped in a busy local café for lunch. As it was so busy we chose the best option; pick what the locals are eating. But it was not a great strategy Rylan ended up with a fish soup and he hates sea food! Linney had local soup; not great, Keith had chicken bones, while I had a salad and Rylan’s fish soup (I quite liked it). It was all finished off with an ice-cream from the shop over the road.
With just over 30 miles to go it was a breeze getting into Lankao. We went straight into the hotel. It was not the best but certainly good enough for the night. We booked in and then did some essential bike maintenance. I replaced the chain I had changed in Xi’an!
Many Happy Returns to Mum/Nana on her 83rd Birthday. We hope she has a great day. We did send a card from Xi’an but not sure when it will arrive. [Not yet arrived, but she did love the presents you ordered: Ed]
With England playing rugby today we had planned (loosely) to have a relatively short day and leave early so we can get the streaming sorted on the PC. It’s all about the planning.
The first bit of the plan worked a treat as we were on the road around 08:15. Once we are out of the city is was a straight forward road to Shangqiu around 65 miles away. Very soon we were out of Lankao keeping up a good pace as always happens when there is rugby on. We were flying through the villages and towns with nothing very exciting to report; just eating up the miles. We did stop at a little fruit-sellers stall for an Asian pear; the guy was really good and gave us a little seat to sit as we watched the traffic pass by.
Soon we are on are way again and still keeping up a good pace. Before we knew it we had less than 20 miles to go so we stopped in a small village for some lunch. Rylan is still having problems with the chop sticks but said he was starving so he was going to eat his noodles (it looked like spaghetti bolognaise) even if it took him all day. To be fair he is riding really well, so we need to slow him up a bit.
With the city limits clearly visible we rolled into Shangqiu through a park that will be nice when its finished with boating lakes and gardens spread across a wide area. It looks like it’s a couple of months away before it fully opens. It’s a shame but the same can be said for the hotel we had pin-dropped; still under construction – nothing like a good plan! I think Linney and Rylan knew because they soon had an alternative hotel about a mile away. If Carlsberg made hotels it would be up there with the best; no arguments from Keith & I as we watched the wedding party have their photo shoot. It made a change for us not to be invited in but it was probably something to do with the cycling shorts I am wearing same pair for over a 100 days! They are a bit worn to say the least!
Keith is currently doing his IT stuff and trying to get the rugby on a live-stream; work in progress [I don’t think they are having any luck with live-streams or VPNs: Ed]
Well Keith failed his IT test as he could not connect to the UK VPN so we could not watch the rugby on the big screen. Plan B was to watch it on Rylans phone while we had our buffet dinner in probably the 2nd poshest hotel we had stayed in. As we sat down for the buffet dinner the poor lady came over and said we had to pay the equivalent of about £20 for the dinner. It was all paid so then the flood gates opened. I know Linney had enough for all of us though we all had are fair share, especially as the beers were also included. We spent 2 ½ hours there all told and it was 80 quid well spent.
With breakfast at 06:30, I for one was still full up from last night but managed to eat quite a lo. Once again it was difficult to get Linney out of the place and Rylan was in heaven using the knife and forks. We all left the breakfast area with our pockets bulging with fruit and sweets.
It was very easy to get out of Shangqiu being a new city it was all designed in grids similar to US citie although there must have been at least forty high rise buildings in various stages as we left the city behind us. It is unbelievable how much construction is taking place all over China.
With all of us all feeling good, the road clear and with long flat stretches we pushed the pace a little. It was nothing too difficult and we met two Chinese guys on mountain bike with panniers. It looked like they were doing a bit of touring but we could not understand them at all. We cycled with them for a while then pulled off the road for a soft drink at a small village (Zhongfeng). We sat on four chairs in the middle of a service station much to the amusement of the staff.
Then we pushed on again through miles and miles of sweetcorn drying off on the side of the road. We rode for over 30 miles with the stuff spread out on every available space. As we entered the small town of Yongcheng we decided to stop for lunch; not much choice, but chose a little place on the high street between the tyre shops and market stalls. We only lasted 2 minutes as Keith could not put up with the blokes shouting so we rode on a few miles then stopped at a small road-side café.
The owner and his wife were really pleased to serve us taking pictures and laughing at our attempts to order the food. The food was very basic but filling and the bread was the best we have had in China. They laughed at Rylan making a sandwich; you never know it may catch on! Even the resident mouse made an appearance running across the floor and under our table while we were eating.
The last 20 miles were through industrial areas with coal mines and power stations every couple of miles. Then it was a simple run into the city of Huaibei. The first hotel was fully booked so we rode ¼ mile down the road to the next cheapest one and it was all sorted in ½ hour.
It’s Debbie’s Birthday so I wished her happy birthday this morning and got an instant reply from Texas; it was a couple of hours early in her time-zone. It’st the thought that counts.
The youngsters getting a bit used to the early starts (not that early). Now we are getting further East it is light at 7 now, whereas in Kashgar it did not get light till after 8, although it get dark really around 7 at night.
So we got away around 08:15 with 90 odd miles planned (but not routed) today. We all decided to break the back of the ride in the early section through the industrial landscape littered with power stations, coalmines and heavy engineering works. It kept Keith and I occupied while riding, but not sure if the “young uns” enjoyed the scenery much.
Then it all changed back to agriculture land and we were riding up tree lined roads with plenty of shade. It was very nice riding and we were eating up the miles on long flat roads. Just after Suzhou we stopped for the obligatory soft drink. We were sitting outside a local shop with the lady secretly taking pictures of us. Linney and Rylan are smiling at them. We are all very used to it now.
We carried on to the lunch stop still through the agriculture landscape though the roads had go a bit wider. With nearly 60 miles done we stopped at a small family run café; like a pick and mix with the vegetables. I’m not sure what Linney and I picked, but plate after plate kept coming and a big bowl of soup. We manged to eat all of it, much to the surprise of the owners, they even let us off some of the bill. They probably feeling sorry for the starving English guys.
As we left to carry on out came the phones again for a quick picture. With less than 30 miles to go it was a bit of a straight run into Bengbu though we said we may stop for a drink about half-way as it was quite warm – around 34 degrees and quite humid. Very nice conditions to ride in really.
With 10 miles to go we pulled into a little village shop. Well we thought it was little. Once they set eyes on Linney and Rylan the whole village turned out, from Grandmother (for Keith and I) to their teenage nieces and daughters. The phones were going wild with the pictures. We had a couple of beers and a bit of a laugh with the villagers and then said our goodbye with a smile and a wave.
We carried on to Bengbu, a big bustling city, to our hotel. We did get an offer of a local stay with a Chinese cyclist on the run in but it was pretty difficult with four of us so we smiled said thank you but we had a hotel booked. Fair play he guided to the hotel – nice guy.
It was another overcast day and quite cold but no rain is forecast; good news. Either we are getting used to the Chinese breakfast or they are getting better, either way we enjoyed the breakfast athough the boiled egg police were on duty. Keith and I managed to steal an extra boiled egg on the way out but were probably caught on camera!
We are heading to Pingliang which is a city on the other side of a small autonomous region we will pass through today. We have had a few problems staying in the autonomous regions so the camping gear is on standby. Both Linney & I have ditched our emergency pot noodles; hopefully we will not need them!
We got going just before 09:00 knowing we had another big climb this morning at about 30 miles. Some parts are at 18%, but no big deal, it just means we will be riding for a bit longer. The good news is it is all down hill after the climb. We’ve heard that before though.
As we reached the first part of one of the steep parts a guy tried to sell Linney a bag of marijuana but he just smiled and said I will need more than that to get up here no handed. We soon passed the first steep bit and then got into a rhythm, enjoying the landscape and the good roads. We had our first garage stop for a while as we were all craving a bit of chocolate so had a short break a soft drink and awhite chocolate wafer. Not the best but the only thing they had.
We decided to have lunch at the small town of Liupanshan around 14 miles away, all up hill, with the added bonus that that was the end of the climbing for today. With lunch on the agenda Linney sped off, Keith & I followed, only to be flagged down by a car full of Chinese tourists, for the normal photo-shoot (the first time without Linney). We left them waving and cheering us, which was all very weird. With the Garmin showing the last steep bit, the road ramped up, but all was ok. As we came around the corner there was a tunnel through the mountain; result! it meant we missed the final 18% climb, but had to endure 1.5 mile dark tunnel. I thought the tunnel was worse as I could not see a thing.
Linney met us just as we came out of the tunnel as we rolled down to Liupanshan. For lunch we had the pick and mix soup; just pick what vegetables you want, then they add them to the soup. Really nice and filling.
After lunch it was a nice ride into Pingliang, with the Ibis hotel pin-dropped we went straight to the hotel and got booked in, within the hour; believe me that is good. Another bonus as they had washing machines there, so we all had are laundry done as well; good stuff.
We had a great meal around the corner from the hotel in a small café/restaurant. It seated about ten. Everyone was taking pictures and the owner was playing his guitar and singing with all the guests having a chat with us via google translate or their version of it.
A good night had by all. We finished off with an ice cream from a local shop, with another photo shoot.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – well the Ibis hotel in Pingliang. I spotted the cereal last night so had a nice bowl of bran flakes and warm almond milk – very good. Then an omelette; a fully western breakfast for me but Keith and Linney stayed with the oriental breakfast.
As we got the bikes ready it was the same old banter; all down hill today, and 74 miles to Changqingqiao. We have heard it all before. It was nice and easy out of the city through one straight road onto the 318 minor road. As we thought it was slightly down hill, with a nice wide hard shoulder to ride on. However this soon changed as we were heading for the rural soft fruit area. The road did get worse but nothing too bad; just a few pot holes and bumps and a bit like riding in East Kent.
Not only the roads but also the fruit growing in the fields and poly-tunnels. It was mile after miles of strawberries, grapes and melons as we rode through the small villages. We had a little stop at a derelict footbridge across the river, just looking to see if we could cross it. It was a bit too dangerous even for Keith, but did bring back memories of crossing a similar bridge in Germany on a previous tour (nowhere near as bad condition though).
We rode onto the town of Jingchuan for lunch and just as we entered the town, we came across the temple museum. Very ornate buildings but unfortunately it was under refurbishment so we could not go in. An impressive complex though.
After lunch we rode out of town still in the belief that it was downhill all the way to Changqingqiao, with a few road works. We soon hit a new section of road that was not open yet but as before we just rode on, the workers taking our pictures and videoing us as we started climbing. It was just a quick 4 mile climb as they had re-routed the road; it was all good though with no traffic but it did seem to go on forever.
After the climb that should not have been there the rural landscape reappeared this time with miles and miles of apple orchards, again like Kent. I’ve never seen so many orchards. Keith & I got caught scrumping but we only took a few apples as we did not have dessert. I’m not sure what the Chinese guy said but he did not sound too pleased. We just smiled and rode on with the apples.
We soon hit the what must be the capital of the apple growing world in this part of China “Changqingqiao”. Linney had actually found a place on booking.com, so we all thought it would be a breeze getting into the hotel/hostel but it still a bit of a palaver; first with the owner and then with the police turning up with the tourist documents. It was all sorted in the end.
With no breakfast at the luxurious hotel Linney had booked, or for that matter hot water, in the taps and bloody freezing, we had our oat flakes with almond milk and coffee in the room. His strategy was save a pound on this one then go up market in Xi’an. The hotel was also overlooking the main road with lovely vista (with overcast skies and the trucks thundering along).
By the time we were ready to leave the overcast skies had turned to pouring rain. With the normal good-byes to the owner, it was just a matter of getting out there. Without a faint heart we hit the road.
With the rain getting heavier I had to stop and take my glasses off as I could not see with them on and certainly could not see when I took them off, but hey ho all I have to do is pedal; Keith and Linney tell me where to go.
With the rain not easing but the banter increasing it’s just sexy rain said Keith as he guided me through the puddles.
With the fruit farms slowly disappearing and being replaced first by light industry andthen by heavy industry – including a massive coal mine and with us splattered by road dirt, we were now covered in coal dust as we cycled past the mining complex for around 15 miles. At this point Linney was in front by a country mile mainly due to the numerous nature stops the old men have to take; not a problem in front, as we all have the gear for emergency repairs. Also we knew Linney would stop when he got hungry, usually on the hour or at the most two hours.
We were making good progress even as we started the only climb of the day a 12 mile steady climb with the odd steep bit. As we came up to one of the last steep bits my chain came off causing a little tumble. I was not not hurt and nothing a few choice words could not sort out. I was more concerned with falling into the traffic than anything else
With a few rest days in Xi’an we will be able to undertake a few minor tweaks to the bikes. Basically a good clean, tighten up the cables, replace the brake blocks and possibly replace the chain at least. Suitably recovered from my fall and with my Tourettes back under control we started to look for Linney, as it is getting close to feeding time.
With no signal Keith and I pulled into a service station to see if we could get a signal. The station was closed so we moved on to the next one. Here the guys were really helpful and let us log on to their WIFI. Within minutes we were in contact with Linney. He had been waiting for us down the road – no problem as it was only 9 miles between us. So Keith and I had a blast from the past; a Pot Noodle and then a coffee from the same container while we waited for Linney.
Within ½ an hour we were all back together with a nice 10 mile roll into the posh hotel Linney had promised us. To be honest he did himself proud as the Tongkung International Hotel was excellent with the booking in process very smooth. I hope this is a sign of things to come. We have a little 40 mile ride tomorrow and then a few rest days, while we set up Rylan for the final stage into Shanghai.
Breakfast at the hotel was a mixture of Eastern and Western styles with both chopsticks and knife & forks, with coffee thrown in as well. All very good; spoiling ourselve’s a little now.
Even though we only had around 45 miles to do today we wanted to get to Xi’an as early as possible, get the hotel sorted, bikes cleaned and maintained and sort out how we are going to get up to the airport to meet Rylan. We left just before 9, joined our friend the 312 road, and rode on.
We hit the outskirts of Xi’an just after 11 and then joined the traffic for the final 15 miles to the hotel right in the centre. To be fair, for a massive city of 12 million people, it was not that bad. We had a bit of luck at the hotel as it had an English manager. He managed to get us sorted very quickly. He was a very down to earth guy and let us take our filthy bikes up to the room and then suggested we get them in the shower and said do not worry about the mess. He then advised us where to go what to visit and the best places to eat.
After we settled down we took the bikes minus the panniers for a quick ride around the city and located a bike shop. Keith and I left our bikes there,for a minor service; tightened cables, replace chain, new brake blocks etc; nothing too serious.
With that Linney rode back to the hotel and Keith and I got a taxi to the cycle shops that Rylan had been looking at online. We managed to find a couple of suitable bikes for him, and said we would return the next day and try a few of them out. As normal we managed to find a bar to rest up in before we made are way to the airport.
We were at Terminal 2 arrivals at the airport thinking ‘nothing can go wrong’, with WIFI connections and 4G we should be able to find him, though we did not know if Rylans phone would work. He came through the domestic terminal 2, but then went to Terminal 3 to a get SIM card. After a bit of flapping about he managed to get his phone working, all the messages came through and we met up in terminal 3 only 500m away. Then it was a taxi back to city followed by a celebration meal and a few beers in the bar by the hotel.
Now there are four!
Day 98: Thursday September 19th:
It was a rest day in Xa’in. Rylan got his bike in the morning and we went to see the Terracotta Army in the afternoon.
Day 99: Friday September 20th:
Another rest day in Xi’an. We our serviced bikes and picked up Rylans bike. We then researched where we could watch the opening game of the Rugby World Cup. No luck. It’s not looking good rugby-wise at the moment.
Day 100: Saturday September 21st:
Now there are Four of us! We had breakfast in the hotel before we started the final leg of our epic travels. It seems a bit surreal to be this close to our destination. We will, however, be cycling in Japan; we just have not planned anything yet. A bit like this trip! We are not even sure of the route we will be taking to Shanghai; essentially just head east.
Getting out of Xi’an,w as a little bit easier than anticipated although it still took nearly two hours to get out of the built up area. We did ride the expressway until the first toll, then we were politely told we had to leave it. It stayed pretty built up all day; out of one town into the next. Rylan settled in easily and just got on with pedalling; easy concept, We went through Lintong (home of the terracotta army), very early on and only stopped to tighten up Linney’s saddle.
We rode on to Weinan for lunch and introduced Rylan to the delights of the small roadside café. The food was really good again; a big bowl of noodle soup with tomatoes and eggs – very filling. We could not make out if Rylan was trying to extend the lunch break or if he was having trouble with the chopsticks. It’s quite difficult to eat the soup with chopsticks but with a months practise we are pretty good now; otherwise we would have starved.
Even though we were going through town after town the mountains adjacent to the road were impressive rising up very steeply. We stopped again with just under twenty miles to go for an ice cream and trying to lure Rylan into a false sense of security, with all the nice things; sun shining, nice roads, ice creams what more could you want.
Linney had different plans though and thought we would take a short cut around a power station – all good fun, roads/tracks like Ukraine. It only lasted a couple of miles, but it did bring us back to normality. When the track was finished we just had a roll into the Huazhou. We booked into the hotel quite quickly, although it was a bit expensive; again showing Rylan all the nice stuff. We’ll probably camp tomorrow!
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.