Saturday, 4 May 2013

What the road brings…

We are writing from SerQu (ShiQu), a town of a reasonable size right up in
the northwest corner of Sichuan Province. Finally I think the route we have
covered has progressed from appearing simply a dot in the immensity of the
map of China, to having some lineal quality! Two days ago our odometer would
have rolled over the 1000km mark; would of except that this anticipated event
coincided with a snowy morning when the cycle computer, possibly from the
cold, stopped working. This also coincided with one of our lowest times so far. So
this writing is about both these aspects: the journey we have made across China
so far, and some of the challenges we have faced in the most recent section.

Food has been interesting, a challenge and a joy! Yesterday we ate instant
noodles for our three main meals of the day, only rectified by an immense second
dinner at 9.30pm of beautiful pork dishes, rice and loads of tea when we reached
SerQu! With our wonderful Tibetan family in QiWu we ate tsampa, a traditional
Tibetan staple consisting of roast barley flour, sugar and maybe tea, rolled into
balls with rancid butter. On our first night camping we ate one off-tasting boiled
egg and some packet pickled vegetables, with rice that just wouldn’t soften!
While it is getting harder to buy good food as the towns get more scarce, and we
eat a lot of light, cakey packaged snacks, we still enjoy great rice, egg, meat and
vege dishes when we hit towns, or are invited into a home.

We are coming to the realization that we’re a bit early season for the sunny green
pastureland riding I had envisioned! Weather is becoming more and more of a
challenge as our route takes us higher and higher. We haven’t been below 4000m
for the last three days, and won’t from here on into the Qinghai Province. While
we are feeling reasonably prepared with our warm kit, it is incredibly bleak out
here, and quite intimidating. The snowstorms seem to be increasing in ferocity
and frequency, coming most days now.

While there has been some more wonderful warm hospitality, and many friendly
meetings with locals on the roads, the challenges: joys ratio has been a little
precarious in the last three days riding, leading us to reconsider our plans from
here. We have been told that the roads in Qinghai, on which we had been pinning
our hopes, are also under reconstruction. Joking about the Chinese roading
strategy of digging up entire roads at one time, is now more often a frustration
expressed in curses, depression and tears (from me!), as again our five km of seal
disappears into tens of kilometres of broken rock, sludge, and bouncy gravel,
all with a backdrop of rumbling trucks, diggers and roading camps, where we
had expected remote quietness. A success though, is in our (so far) dominating
the dog problem! They have stepped up exponentially in number, fierceness
and massivity in the last few days, and we have looked down (across!) into their
gaping, snapping and slobbering jaws as they run beside us on our bikes, and
have intimidated all with our calm, slow riding, our strong raised arms, the odd
thrown rock and fierce yells of a good Kiwi phrase, “Git out of here you filthy

Expectations are a strange thing. We planned a route across Tibetan China
hoping for remote ‘lonely roads’, and quiet mountain culture, and in the constant
construction and general carnage we have found ourselves at times disappointed
and frustrated. We are being challenged by the toughness of the terrain, weather
and riding. “Expect the unexpected” is a wonderful dogma of cycle-tourers,
travellers and maybe for life in general, and we are being challenged very much
to consider how we deal with the unexpected in this corner of the world! China
has amazed us, our curiosity has been both satisfied and heightened at the
same time, by what we have seen and shared. There is so much of interest and
wonderment here, and precious encounters as we go. As we consider plans from
here, we are thinking also of our approach to our travels. One thing we are sure
of, we will grow and learn a lot through this year!


A perfect morning departure from GanZi

Riding beneath the QueEr mountain range

Mt QueEr standing tall at 6168m

China’s Lake Louise! A worthy side trip to XinLu Lake

ManiGanGa township

1 comment:

  1. wow Anna - beaut writing - sounds very demanding but character building ay haha!! Dogs sound pretty scary but glad to hear you've taken control! love seeing the photos at the end!
    take care xx