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mate’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Location: Xishuangbanna Tea Trails, China

Map(DAY 1) Jinghong - Jinuo Mountain - Kongming Mountain 75km UPHILL!

(DAY 2) Kongming - Mengluan 75km

(DAY 3) Mengluan - Jinghong 80km

Well hello all!

Back again after a lengthy break from the travels and much to write about. Set up the page again as soon I'll be on the road from Jinghong, where I've been living the past year, to Hong Kong. Stay tuned - I'll try to keep it interesting.

Trying to get fit for the trip - nearly 3000km in less than a month coming up, and the first bit will be tough. Plenty of hills and mountains on the way out of Yunnan Province (about 1000km). Pondering very early mornings on the bike and plenty of fluids and salt during the day.

Last weekend I went with a friend, a local Dai (the dominant ethnic minority group here) man, on one of the toughest cycling trips I've ever done, or seen, for that matter.

We took off on Thursday morning and as soon as we left Jinghong the climb starts. About 30km uphill, not too severe, to the town of Jinuoshan. We left the main road and immediately headed up a horrible slope up into the little villages that dot the Jinuo Mountain area.

Our goal was the very remote village of Kongming Shan (Mountain) where my mate's mate lives. We rode for about 20km on goat tracks, quite exciting riding though tough and reached the Black River. I' d been told we'd cross the river but hadn't imagined it to be a few hundred metres wide and waist deep! In the 3 days we must have crossed about 30 creeks and streams.(or parts of the same ones)

We made it across, struggling with the bikes and the gear and I treated myself to a swim. This was to prove a mistake along with eating hardly any food that morning - my body would have the last laugh. The road on the other side of the river is "rough as guts" and a true portent of what was to come.

After an hour at the river and a lunch of pear, melted chocolate and crushed biscuits we set off. Now was the fun part. It was steep and the road was made of smooth stones and dirt so my tires slipped a lot. It was bloody hot, too and the climb seemed endless. I became severely dehydrated and lay in the road cramping and vomitting - I literally could not stand up and was becoming slightly scared. I tried to sleep but was being eaten alive by bull ants and even stung by wasps.

Lying in the road here was not particularly dangerous as in 6 hours on this stretch of "road" I did not see 1 vehicle or even a person. I was starting to assume that I wouldn't make it to the village and I had no idea how far that was anyway. Just upward, ever upward...

Eventually I managed to stand up and push my bike a little to a less steep section and climbed on suffering cramps in every bit of my body and terrible dizziness. I managed to turn the cranks slowly and finally got riding. It still seemed a long way - no sound except the twilight insects that had come out in force to attack me.

I still had the energy to gaze up at the moon and countless stars and realise I was in a place few people will ever even see. I pushed on and at about 9 o'clock heard my friend Lee call my name. It was one of the greatest things I've heard as I knew then I would make it.

Luckily I was riding when he came into view and I threw my arms up with "Ah da lee ah, jai yo" (Chinese= Come on Australia!). I was so relieved as I'm sure he was. I made it to the tiny village in the night and lay down. The cramps were so bad that I couldn't find any position I could stay in and I had to try and eat - SALT!!!

They gave me some tea and I immediately started throwing up all over their dining room floor. Luckily this is dirt so no real drama. I was a very sick boy and between my heaves and garbled apologies in Chinese they gave me some traditional medicine. After about an hour of my head in my hands I finally ate some soup and started to revive.

Li and his friend were drinking rice wine and his big Aussie mate was sipping boiling water! But it was delicious, believe me!

Went to bed at 2am knowing the next day could not be as tough and had a wonderful nights sleep. The village has 3 homes, no electricity and not even water. Quite magical.

The next morning was beautiful riding across the tree-lined ridges of the Jinuo Mountain area. Lots of little streams to splash through, some bamboo bridges to negotiate and nothing much else.

It was really hot again and I tired in the late afternoon. The road was dreadfully rough and we didn't really know how far it was to the town of Mengluan. We finally reached the main road though and the sight of that smooth tarmac was like an apparition. We screamed with delight as we started speeding along the last 10km to the town.

Next morning was the regulation trip back up the highway (still a smallish road) to home sweet home in Jinghong. I was exhausted but pretty elated in some perverse way. Not many places in the world where you can ride your pushbike and have an adventure like that on the weekend! And besides...I lived to tell ya!