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Last Days in Yunnan

Having lived happily in Jinghong, China (ref: the "A" in Burma on the map) for a year it's now time to move on. Where to is a little hazy but first major stop is to be Hong Kong to meet the folks - (mum & dad). That's nearly 3000km from here and some serious work.
Back on the bike soon but before that some more on my adventures in the land of Xishuangbanna.

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 02 August 2005

Location: Hangzhou, China

Just arrived this morning in my new home - an apartment on campus at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. I'd hopped on a train at Shenzhen at 6:30 yesterday morning and enjoyed the trip up here.

I was struck by one thing as I stepped off the train at 9:15 - THE HEAT! Bloody hot, even for an Aussie. Haven't seen much of the city yet but it's obviously very big - about 7 million people! Eeeek!

Certainly didn't look particularly nice but I'll reserve judgment until after tomorrows explorations to the famous West lake. The job will be straight forward enough and the conditions are fine.

However Hong Kong makes one feel very inadequate in the Finance department - especially those of us on Chinese salaries. My money simply evaporated when I crossed the border at Shenzhen. Shenzhen isn't pretty at all - much worse than the low expectations I'd held.

Hong Kong is a great city but you need money, unsurprisingly. Went for a beer the last night, having found the nightlife hub on Hong Kong Islang. (Near Central) Ordered a Becks beer which looked lovely (nearly US$10 for a glass!!!). This left HK$12 in my pocket. The subway ticket back cost HK$9 but if I missed the last train...... Need I add that it was pouring rain? Sortta funny.

Stay tuned for "Courtney's trip to Hangzhou's famous lake", "Will that putrid smell come out of my socks" and "The night os two beers".

Wa an. (Goodnight!)

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Location: Dulong River Valley, China

Incredibly beautiful place up there. After riding as far as Bingzhonglou at the top of the Nujiang in China I went across to the Northwest, close to Tibet and reached the Dulong Valley.

It was an incredible drive there, a mountain road that is crumbling as your jeep goes along. I was lucky enough to meet a group of American researchers who invited me to join them - gave me an amazing insight into the unique local culture up there.

Hopefully the pics will be good as it's hard to explain. It's the last significant area of old-growth forest in China and it's stunning. There're ice tunnels, glaciers and the bizarre wild dulong cows with a brown body white head and brown eyes - weird things!

The villagers in the Dulong are incredibly poor and are very isolated. The road I took was completed last year but it doesn't look it. Probably the worst road I've seen - worse than the road to Tibet, mum! Helluva lot of fun though.

At one point we were stuck in an ice tunnel trying to dig a path for the jeep as part of the roof had collapsed. A bit scary and cold and wet - it rained everyday.

Just what this boy needed before a dose of big city madness in Hong Kong and then return to work. By the way I just took a job at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. Quite happy about that and Hangzhou sounds like a great place to live. Also doubled my salary!

Hard to imagine how I'll react to HK - so long since I've been in a big, westernized city. Nearly 2 years since I left Ol' Sydney Town. Just a few days though to see ma and ma and then back to the mainland. I do know I'm going to sample some cold draught Guiness with dad!!!!! (Dad's shout I'm afraid)

Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Location: Gongshan - top Nujiang valley, China

I've made it from Dali to the top of the fabled Nujiang valley. Trip has been hard in parts but roads have been pretty smooth compared to what I had to suffer in southern Yunnan. Some tough climbs and an incredible 30km+ downhill to Luiku in the Nujiang Valley.

The valley is lovely and pretty quiet but like most parts of China there are still small settlements. I guess those 1.4 billion gotta live somewhere...more like everywhere.

Just finishing Paul Theroux's "Riding the Iron Rooster" about his rail travels in China and it's a good read - especially if you live here and can relate to some of his poignant observations. It's an amazing country and the Chinese are truly bizarre - so different from westerners in general. Terrified about finishing my book - just 47 pages in fact! No way to get books here - unless I crash course reading Chinese. No that keen!

Anyway my leg is giving me trouble, has been since the climb up to Luiku. Not sure what it is. Left shin very sore when I ride or walk. Shin splints? I can't really ride at the moment and I'm surrounded by mountains. Need time up here though - one of last wilderness areas of China - fascinating local people - Tibetans, Nu, Dulong and more.

Hadn't met any foreigners for a while and no Aussies since Jinghong and guess what? Just ran into 2 in this tiny little town! One is here to do research and the other is wandering about a bit like me - looking for weird places and wild roads less trodden.

Terrible about bombs in London but relieved my folks and sis are okay but more news of bombs and death in Iraq again. So bloody sad and it
's hard to imagine this abating now. We're fast becoming used to the news. No bombs needed here - the land just gives way, the roads fall down or the cliffs fall on you. It's wet too, making it worse. I get slightly nervous riding around here but the risk is slim - I think.

Resting for a few days and might try to head out in the back of a truck to see some more scenery. Pretty wild north of here.

Just spent 4 days holed up in this little Inn in a remote village called Bingzhonglou ("Bingo" to locals). Mountain biked it to a village further north - Chulaotong? Tiny, beautiful place. treacherous exciting ride! Bike and boy very filthy but a wonderful 32km trip into the mountains.

A world record?
Ate 21 eggs in 3 days! Place I stayed didn't seem to have much food variety and the granny - a Nu woman - served me 5 eggs with rice for dinner. Hold on! Eggs are for brekky - I'm a firm believer. Sure enough 6 deepest fried eggs for breakfast the next morning. Lucky the Tibetan bread is so bloody thick (and tasteless) to absorb some grease. WOW! Call me "Cool Hand Cook" (for Bill Collins)

I'm back in a town now and they have some different food. Also have pool tables and beer. Guess what I'm doing tonight?

Thursday, 07 July 2005

Location: Yongping, Yunnan, China

Sitting in an internet cafe one day away from reaching the Nu JIang Valley. It's become something of a holy grail for me since I changed my plans.

Thus I won't ride to Hong Kong - a bit boring and too much trouble with landslides. Besides, chances are that I'll be living on the east coast which is largely devoid of any nature. That's precisely why the west of China is so special, particularly Yunnan. So I thought this could be like a last hurrah.

Had a beer last night and didn't really want to go to bed but the days are hot and sunny up here and it's at some altitude so exposure is a problem. The alarm always goes off at 5:30AM. Some of you out there couldn't cop that I know! (No names...)

Unforunately the Tour de France was on when I wandered back to the Hostel in Dali and I met a nice bunch of Chinese students from the East. SO I got to bed a little late 2am and had to get up shortly after. Slight temptation to relax another day but here I am in another Chinese town (which are largely much the same)

For days I'd been catching glimpses of the new Expressway that runs from Kunming to Ruili in the west of Yunnan. Unfortunately bicycles are forbidden on it as I found out each time I tried to run the toll gates!

SO..I'm always on the old highway which can be pretty bad in places. Today I started out on the old road but was getting annoyed with the rough cobblestone effect and energetic dogs. Anyways, saw this little old road that appeared to butt up to the expressway. Indeed it did and just had to jump across a culvert, a bit dangerous mother, carrying ones loaded bike!). Did so and spent the next 3-4 hours and 90km on the wonderful new road. Mind you going up, up and up. Shorter though, of course.

I was paranoid about being caught and sent back, or fined (or shot by firing squad) so if I had to stop for a call of nature or anything I'd wait for some bushes and hide in there. Guess that's what a good boy always does anyway? It was enjoyable being more sneaky than Chinese authority.

Eventually it was time to exit and I knew this might be dodgy. Saw the gate, put the head down and sprinted through, hearing a woman's shocked and panicked cries. Funny.

Tuesday, 05 July 2005

Location: Dali, China

Well...sorry it's taken a while for me to actually write something on here but plenty has happened!

I reached Dali in time for giant lunchtime pizza and a bottle of delicious beer, which near knocked me out. Pretty tired after covering more than 400km in 3 days.

I rode from Jinghong to Menghai and then onto a little town called Mengman where I stayed for the night in a hotel. The roads just got progressively worse over the next few days and it rained every day. Got depressing, and slow...

Cut both tyres in fact and this was a problem. If the tyres split I'd have a serious crash. I rode a while once the road improved but then had to get a bus to Kunming to get tyres.

Sorted out the bike thing and set out three days ago for lovely Dali. First day was epic - Kunming to Chuxiong = 190km. my touring record!

Yesterday another 134km and today a hilly 97. Doing pretty well I reckon. Starting to enjoy the travelling again, too. Bike is fine now and the roads are much better in this part of Yunnan.

Plan is to relax for a day or two and then ride to the Nu Jiang valley a few days from here, and a pretty remote and little-visited part of China.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Location: Jinghong (1 more week!), China

So...should be outta here in a week. Taught the last class today, next week exams and then on yer bike! Getting a little nervous about the prospect of lots of heat and rain but reckon i'll just have to try it nad otherwise take photos of it. Besides, my deepest sympathy goes to Evelyn in Amsterdam and Freddo in Newfoundland suffering Arctic conditions. HA-HA! I'd sooner this.

I'd really like to ride off to Kashgar in Xinjiang province. That's in the future. Just jumped out of the pool and wonder what the chance will be of finding a decent swimming hole in a lot of these little towns I'll pass.

Another thing I'll miss is this 5 months holiday a year thing! Just not enough money or people though....

Stay tuned...

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Location: Jinghong, China

Just 12 days before I set off on another little adventure riding across southern China on the trusty blue wife. I've been doing some long rides around this area and it's really making me appreciate just how cool and unique Xishuangbanna is.

Thus it'll be mixed feelings when I relocate to the east. I'll miss the laidback life, the Dai people, the forest (though a lot of rubber now) and some of the great firends I've made here. I'll really miss my lovely apartment. No chance of affording anything like it alsewhere in China!

I'll miss all my students with whom I've had soem really fun times and I feel I've helped them quite a lot.

But i won't miss these bloody mozzies biting the hell outta my ankles as I type! TBC.....

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Location: Xishuangbanna Tea Trails, China

(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!

Photos - Click Below

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Recent Messages

From Stephanie
Sunday mornig again,I'm glad to hear that you have arrived Zhejiang University, Hangzhou.( have fun!)
Response: thanks steph, are you ready for the next semester. please say hi to the whole gang. tell them i'll miss them. it's lovely here though. lake is beautiful!
From fred
whaddyaat---so settlin in ol man...alright...just got back from set `hatching, matching, dispatching` is the name of the show...anyhow...I'll be finished end of the month and then need to drum up a bit mre work....then maybe by to your postcard today...rice wine huh??????

HK is expensice but I was only there a short let me know when ya are really situated...I'd come over if I can get a bit of cash in my pocket ater airfare--where to fly to?? How much cash required...where to stay and what would the possibility be of work teaching efl or the would have to give me pointers!!!

see ya have fun...fred
Response: yeah settlin' in. i sent you an email about this stuff.
From Stephanie
Hi courtney!I have just watched your beatifuil photoes and read your passage of 20 July,you said you meet some America reaserchers,hope you will happy together.And one thing is,are you really took a job at Zhejing University?That's sounds good,this school is much better than ours.Hangzhou is one of a beatiful place in China ,also a lot of pretty girls there,lucky man.But you said you'll work in Dalian or Qingdao beafore,so you won't go there,right?
Response: lovely up there and i hope you can see it all one day. now i ride to hangzhou and my new job. i'll miss you all but you understand.
From jane
hello from taiwan, wowo, such amazing trip. seeing the blog you worte, feel that you are so free and fresh. take care, jane
Response: thanks ms jane - how ya doin? i'm not very fresh any more but enjoying myself at least
From fred
So a new job while on the bike no less!!!..

Sunday here..raining..been workin on the catering for the film set of a local Tv show..until the end of was hong kong and the parents?? Good I hope....fred
Response: it's great but hk is incredibly expensive so i must flee - back to the PRC
From Stephanie
wow....... lots of words,your trip is hard in yunnan,right?It's naturally,rainy season.I hope everything is OK.My dear teacher ,It's a long time I hadn't cntact with you.we are having our summer vocation now,many classmates have backed home already,and I'm stuying Thailand language at shool now.By the way,have you received my email?
Awaitting your good news!
Response: hi stephanie! i received your email thanks. i was very far away near tibet at the top of the dulong and nujiang valley. beautiful place!
From roger
keep the posts coming! The cramps didn't sound much fun! I can empathise - I had a hangnail the other day...Where do you think you will be at around October?? I may be travelling then.
Response: hi mate. are you in oz or mehico? no idea really where i'll be. lots of job offers - have to decide where i want to live. considering BC.
From fred
whaddayaat ol cock??!! Thought I'd lost ya..well i see that ya are havin a grand time..good on ya...I'm still here and tryin to keep it together....I am getting repairs to the house and they should be done by fall...

Strugglin through adulted courses and have a one done 3 to fial..i mean pass...and hopefully work will pick up soon...a one day movie part on tuesday and they may want we to teach some new culinary things in the fall..other than that keep on bikin..and when ya are settled after hong kong (too bad that restaurant I went too on the hill is gone now)...let me know cause I 'm a comin........freddo as ya say!!! beer..hmmmmmmm
Response: yeah! we gotta meet for some soon you salty old seadog, i want good grades though!
From Damien
Hello, Mr. Cook. Where are you now. How is about your trek with your lovely bicycle. I want to know your story of this trip.
Response: Hi Damien
I reached Dali at lunchtime today and had a huge pizza. Now a beer. Life is good after some hard riding.
From jenny & ed
Hi Courtney! Glad to hear you're safe. We salute you on this great adventure. Just got back from Philippines for a month of vacation and had fantastic time. Cheers from my family and all of us here in Sony Canada. take care..jenny
Response: hi guys! nice to know you're all well too. i'll leave here in about 4 weeks. hope the weather's warming up in toronto. how's work? say hi to all.
From bryanmoylan
sounds like your a bit of a masochist Courtney, take it easy over there mate. Safe travels, all the best Bryan
Response: g'day bryan! where are you at? back on the green isle still? yeah, it'll test me out i'm sure. see you for a beer some time somewhere.
From Theo
Just checking up on you and also checking to see if I can find your proper email address. Help!
Response: HI Theo - still
stay tuned