We are officially back in the cold and aren’t happy about it 🙁 But it’s time to work hard and hustle and get shiz done this year!! I got my list of January goals and am inspired and ready to get started!
We are officially back in the cold and aren’t happy about it 🙁 But it’s time to work hard and hustle and get shiz done this year!! I got my list of January goals and am inspired and ready to get started!
Snowshoeing in the dark! At night the way the snow sparkles in the headlight is something magical! ❄️🌲Love our new MSR snowshoes! Photo cred: @walkinbird88 #PNW #pnwonderland #snowshoeing #wanderoften #rei #msr @msr @rei #exploremore #backpacking #campcollective
10/12/2018 Pakmong - Luang Prabang 🇱🇦 Laos It is always worth putting in a little extra effort when you know you have some days off ahead but today was a little tough. More smiles and cool landscape though. I had woken up with a stinking cold which wasn’t a great. A restless night reaching for tissues had left me tired. Despite this and the long day yesterday, the legs felt good so I set off in good spirits. Villages are small but numerous. One ends and a kilometre or two further along the road, another one starts. More people, mostly children smiling and shouting “Sabaidee” as I go by. I passed people dressed in traditional hill tribe clothing. I had learnt yesterday that this area is the home of the Hmong people, a hill tribe that span Laos and Thailand. Their 5-10 day new year celebrations were taking place which was why I had seen so many over the last couple of days. The outfits are really colourful; the women especially. Men wear darker outfits adorned with bright details and old coins passed down from generation to generation. The views of the valley I was riding though were uncommon due to thick forest but gaps would appear every now and again. It was wild out there. The Nam Nga river was glistening against the green. This joined the Ou river which I followed during late morning. I was feeling pretty rough. Not sick but a dripping nose and a hunger was pinging away from within. I reached a restaurant after a while and ordered some fried veg and sticky rice. The rice arrived in a cute basket and the whole meal was delicious. I felt much better after the food and a rest and made good ground over the next few hours. The road was heavily undulating all day; fun in the morning yet I was more tired than usual as I neared Luang Prabang. The river Ou joined the mighty Mekong yet a view of it was always tantalising out of reach behind buildings and palm trees. It’s amazing how low in altitude I am now. Down to under 300m asl. I stopped at a cafe to find WiFi and had an amazing passion fruit smoothie. The guy working there spoke good English.
09/12/2018 Namo - Pakmong 🇱🇦 Laos High on it all! That was AMAZING. 133km cycled, 2000m climbed, ate and drank some mad stuff, friendly locals on the roadside and a mix bag of weather. Life affirming. I was on the road for before 8am and was quickly donning my waterproof as the clouds that were covering the hills and sky around me started to deliver some morning rain. It got quite feisty for a few minutes and I decided to seek shelter. It subsided and my waterproof was packed away soon after. I could see massive columns of concrete that are the supporting structures of what would be part of the high speed rail that the Chinese are building. My Chinese SIM card was still working and I presumed that network coverage had been extended into northern Laos to accommodate the large amount of Chinese workers here. I wound my up the first three major peaks to my intended day and could see the dark green of the forest and the deep orange of the soil having been cleared for the construction of the road that snaked upwards. I was holding out for some decent food up the road in Muangxay so my on-the-go breakfast was some biscuits. They only get a mention here because simply, they were the worst biscuits I’ve had on the whole trip. Next level dryness with sub zero taste. The whole packet went down along with half a litre of water! It wasn’t too long until I did reach the decent sized town of Muangxay where I found chicken and sticky rice served on banana leaf. Some iced bubble tea to wash it down was just what I needed as the humidity was increasing quickly. Most things are written in Chinese as well as Laos in this area. In the next town along I saw a stall selling more things wrapped in banana leaves. Intrigued I went over and bought and random one and opened up. A big whiff of lemongrass amongst something that was curried. It was chicken but it wasn’t fish either... I ate it and it tasted like chicken and was tasty with a nice amount of spice. I went over to ask what it was... he said something I didn’t understand but moved his hand in a weird way along the counter... “lizard?” I tentatively asked... “yes!” Well... that’s a new one 😳
08/12/2018 Mengla - Namo 🇨🇳🇱🇦 China/Laos ZAI JIAN CHINA! Blimey. In the end there was a sense of relief about leaving China that was somewhat unwarranted but I felt it regardless. Partly due to the nature of my trip so far. The longest I’ve spent in one country is 6 weeks, Kyrgyzstan, where it was forced upon me and in hindsight I had a fairly relaxed time waiting around for my passport. 6 weeks in China however have been a whirlwind. I’ve been speeding through this country, in total skipping 2,000km of desert and mountains. I’ve had to spend more than I would have wanted to on hotels. In this scenario, 3000m+ in altitude with nighttime temperatures of -15 it was the sensible choice but it made me regret more, the hotels and Airbnb’s that were unnecessarily used in Europe. Lessons. China is an amazing place and I have been in continual awe of the landscape and it’s variety. The people’s kindness just when I needed it is something I will not forget either. Free meals, help with locating places in massive, bewildering cities, hitch hikes, beds for the night. The food has been great. I’ve travelled in some of the more obscure and poorer parts of the country so the food has been similar for days on end but on the whole it is a great improvement in Central Asia. However, the large cultural differences between China and Europe have meant some things have proved frustrating to say the least. The drivers here are awful and is a hint at the lack of courtesy that most Chinese have for each other despite their kindness to foreigners. The hotel ‘licence’ rules that bar foreigners staying in the majority of hotels are mad. Such a policy in any other part of the world would have been tweeted into non existence by now. Xinjiang is a humanitarian mess and is only a few levels of what happened in some countries in the 20th century. Families are split and people live under incredible levels of surveillance.
07/12/2018 Jinuoshan - Mengla 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province I had one of the biggest frights during my morning pee. I wondered over to the edge of the small field and did my thing before looking up and seeing an overly leggy spider inches away from my face. Orange fangs, yellow strips on its back, it did not look friendly at all. Once my heart rate calmed I went back for a photo. Bleughhh. Dumb drivers on the roads again this morning but lovely scenery as I cycled on the dreamy twists and turns towards Menglun for breakfast. Yellow Wagtails were up and about using the road as a fast corridor to travel down. They dipped up and down ahead of me, landing on a roadside branch before taking off again as I caught them. Pretty birds. Breakfast was initially beef noodles for the 15,000th time but when I found a bakery with legitimately decent cake, breakfast became quite extravagant. My penultimate day in China was another brutish day in the Yunnan mountains. Another 120km covered and 1,800m in elevation gain. Frankly though, the body has adapted well to daily punishment and I was able to savour more amazing views that would appear through gaps in the trees or at the top of the climbs. Tea plantations started to give way to banana trees that lined the road; their impressive flowers dropping down below the bunch of fruit. Rubber trees were also a common sight. A diagonal cut is made into the tree where half a coconut shell is positioned to collect the rubbery sap. Made it into Mengla fairly late but glad I did. A good full on eggplant, green peppers and rice before a final cheap hotel to wash some clothes. It’s another three days until Luang Prabang in Laos. Another bakery caught my eye in the evening, “The Queen’s Hug”. Highly improper etiquette for a Queen I’d say but the doughnut was pretty damn good. https://www.strava.com/activities/2004715583
06/12/2018 Puwenzhen - Jinuoshan 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Tough day on the legs with a lot of climbing. I absolutely loved it. Woke to a dry tent! Haaaaallelujah. The warm night had kept the condensation at bay and also negated any need for my sleeping bag. Nice! Still getting used to the rise in temperature. On to the road and I continued my progress on my favourite roads of the trip. There I said it. They’re amazing. Twisting roads make each amazing view a surprise and today there were a lot. Big flora in the forest around me this morning. Enormous waxy leaves on display. I had to stop to take a picture with one especially large example. Noodle brunch before clearing the morning mist and weaving through hillsides of endless tea plantations like topographical lines. I neared the town of Mengyang and saw my first sign warning me of the possibility of elephants crossing the road! I dipped into a shop just as the local school was finishing and was immediately surrounded by inquisitive children. I whipped out the map of my trip to gasps and took a well populated selfie with them. Smiles all round. A lot more climbing for the afternoon which was not helped by me taking a thankfully rare wrong turn. An extra few kilometres for the day. I’m starting to already see changes in the architecture as I near the border. Entrance gates to towns seem to be decorated with delicate looking details and the names are written in Mandarin but also a separate local script. I found camp just off the road again in a harvested field of corn. It was well populated with small ground level spiders webs but i unfolded my tarpaulin and forgot all about them. 104km done and 1800m climbed. Solid day in beautiful Yunnan. https://www.strava.com/activities/2002918870
We certainly aren't ready for winter to be over but a sunny day of climbing sounds pretty fun too.
05/12/2018 Pu’er - Puwenzhen 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Won-der-ful! Got up early and headed over to collect my clothes to be informed they wouldn’t ready until 3pm, wonderful! Well that’s that, time to chill in Pu’er. I checked out of the hotel and headed for breakfast. There was a Baozi shop over the road and the lady plonked a basket of ten little pillows in front of me. Yum. She asked to take a photo with me and the bike and explained that her husband rides a bicycle a lot. I told her what I was doing and then she said that breakfast would be free! Wonderful! 😍 She put a bowl of the rice porridge down next to my Baozi. I’m not actually a big fan of that stuff but it was free and given with a kind heart so I got through it. I’ll use that extra bit of energy on the road later. I then went to a bank to get some dollars for my Loas visa which I will receive upon arrival at the border in a few days. A long process that involved a lot of paperwork in typical Chinese fashion but I did get them in the end. And now to wait. I went to the square and wrote for a while. Some crazy shapes were being thrown by a guy doing ‘stretches’. Went for lunch, fetched my clothes and I was on the road. Eager because of the fine weather and with the knowledge that I had 50km of kind gradients ahead. I met a couple of mountain bikers on the way out of the city and rode with them for a couple of kilometres until they peeled off with a wave. Then, it was me and a glorious twisting road that snaked down the valley. Urgh, it was dreamy. The cambered tarmac meant that every corner could be taken without braking. Small rises that I could sprint over and carry momentum into the next. I was flowing, it was awesome. It was a reminder that the last few days on the bike have been some of the best cycling I’ve done on this trip. I met a very happy Chinese cycle tourer heading towards Pu’er. He was in the army and was cycling to a camp for training. He had all his gear on the back of a bike that had seen better days. But he was here, doing it and loving it! We swapped snacks and went on our way.
04/12/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - Pu’er 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Civilised day. Nice. Except for the first hour maybe... Awoken by builders. Yeah, not civilised at all. I knew it was coming when I set up camp last night so it’s all good. They were building a new segment leading off my road to a small village in the hills. Needless to say they were fairly intrigued with me and my tent in the middle of their site. They were friendly though and gave me a couple of oranges which I was very thankful of since I’d eaten all but one of the bagful that I had bought last night. And so with 20km to Pu’er, I pootled up the road and immediately began to see the rows of tea bushes that I’d been expecting. It all looked excellent in the morning sun. 5km saw me leave my small road after two days and rejoin the ‘A’ road. At the junction I stopped for dumplings; served nicely in a savoury broth with steamed Chinese cabbage. I also got given coffee... the first restaurant serving coffee since I arrived in China, near the home of tea! The cute girl there was fascinated with the map of my route that I showed her. She gave me an orange... I was doing well this morning. The softer gradients of the larger road made the significant amount of climbing to Pu’er bearable and I pretty quickly in the city. The ‘birthplace’ of Tea read the sign as I swooped into town. The southern hub of the Teahorse Road which I had roughly followed since Xining. I didn’t drink it before this trip but since Turkey it had become somewhat of a daily ritual. Found a place for lunch and the helpful lady there put me in the direction of a decent hotel. No hostels as such here and after six days, I could do with a roof over my head as the roof usually comes with washing facilities and power supply! In, things on charge, tent out to dry and into the shower! The colour of the water that disappeared down the drain... deary me. 😬
03/12/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - 🤷🏻♂️ 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province In the middle of the forest covered mountains south of Yunnan, that’s where I am. I can’t be more specific. Towns appear in front of me without appearing on maps and butterflies are my main company. The sunrise was immense. A roar of red and orange cloud on an already blue sky. I was still brimming with the smiles from Yongping the day before and this coupled with the amazing sweeping roads overlooking an incredible cloud conversion made it one of the best mornings ever. The lake of cloud was almost endless. It was breathtaking. I did eventually have to descend into and beneath the clouds which meant putting on another level as the temperature plummeted along with my elevation. The tarmac started to disintegrate on my small Chinese b-road which stifled progress but didn’t take too much from my enjoyment. Not initially anyway. As the day progressed through amazing scenery my legs did start to feel the pain of the gradient and the heat which had quickly built after the sun had burnt through the cloud. It was a sweat fest by late afternoon and I pulled over to buy some delicious oranges from a lady on the side of the road. I put in another hour of effort before settling for a fairly open camp spot. Not ideal but the cliffs and forest made sure there was little else available. A tough day but one that in hindsight, was amazing.
02/12/2018 Yongping - 🤷🏻♂️ 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province I woke up in time for school. James, the English teacher, met me at the training camp and took me for beef noodles. Afterwards, we went to the primary school around the corner and I met May, the English teacher there. James brilliantly encouraged me to go into the class and do some simple language activities. I opened the door and 20 pairs of eyes turned in my direction. Excitable murmurs and “Hellos” immediately followed whilst I immediately thought, “what have I got myself into...”. On the whiteboard I wrote my name in the Chinese symbols that roughly pronounce my name (埃利奥特, ah-li-oh-teh) which went down well. I then took a pile of cards which depicted various body parts, vegetables and weather types and asked the children to repeat. Out came a basketball and they passed it between them until I said stop at which point I’d ask the poor child stuck with the ball to come up and write English in the board. Pretty fun actually. After an hour, James appeared at the door and thanked me. I said goodbye to class and May. James then showed me around the market and showed me a stall selling massive pipes. I had seen them for sale in other places but didn’t know exactly what locals used them for. They were simply an alternative way of smoking cigarettes. We then met a few older students who were too shy to really practice their English which was a shame but they enjoyed taking turns attempting to lift my fully loaded bike. James then presented me with a small box of individually wrapped portions of Pu’er tea. So lovely, that can be a present for mum when I see her. I said goodbye and rolled out into the misty fields of sugar cane around Yongping. It was an eerie atmosphere but it didn’t last as I soon ascended out of the mist and into thickly forested hillsides. They were fairly steep and I was soon sweating buckets. I found an awesome hat in the middle of the road. It must have fallen off the head of a farmer as they travel in the back of their small pick up trucks.
Автор фото @echomountains В поисках таганайских закатов ⛰ In search of Taganay sunsets, mt.Kruglitsa 1178m. Taganay, Russia.
Throw back to a lovely summer night! We often get to trailheads late afternoon on Fridays which means we get some awesome views of sunset as we are headed out, but that also means we sometimes don’t make it all the way to our target camp location before it gets to dark. But them we just wake up early and keep going! #forest #backpacking #pnw #pnwonderland #campcollective
Lyrical and windy. My new visual in #IGTV and #YouTube . Coming soon! . . #taganay #mountains #adventure #mountainstop #landscape #landscapelovers #nature #naturelovers #trvl #explore #exploring #natgeo #gopro #slowmotion #timelapse #sunsetchaser #vsco #vscochelyabinsk #campcollective #patagonia #thenorthface #hills #forest #trees #sunset #winteradventure
💦Sea Spray 💦 Taken in beautiful Sabang, Phillippines - Prints available. .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #summergoals #travelphotog #femalephotographer #landscape_capture #printshop #dazedandexposed #ignantpicoftheday #artfeed #showyourwork #salty #islandlife #take_magazine #huntgram #vscogallery #featureart #justgoshoot #travelandlife #fineartprints #philippines #dreamermagazine #photozine #landscapelovers #2019time #originalprints ⠀⠀ #campcollective #wallart #saltyair #art_feature #pureparadise #fromwhereyoudratherbe
В поисках таганайских закатов ⛰ In search of Taganay sunsets, mt.Kruglitsa 1178m. Taganay, Russia. #mountains #exploring #explore #adventure #naturelovers #mountain_world #mountainslovers #thenorthface #picoftheday #gopro #sundown #sunset #nightscaper #sunsetchaser #winteradventure #campcollective #trees #mount #extreme #vsco #vscochelyabinsk #mountaintop
Mysterious adventures await... . . . . . #foggymornings #intheclouds #thegreatpnw #outdoorlife #getoutside #adventure #hiking #mountainviews #wanderlust #thegreatoutdoors #landscapes #theadventureproject #optoutside #earthfocus #natgeo #thatpnwlife #lostfam #discoverearth #visualscollective #campcollective #earthofficial #upperleftusa #backroads #canonusa
01/12/2018 Fuhe - Yongping 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province One of THOSE days! When a random name on the map becomes the home of some awesome memories. 😁 For the most part, the day was filled with the same old beautiful forests and more ridiculous gorges. Oh well! 😉 I stopped for noodles from a little lady in Boshang which had a lake next to it where men were fishing from their boats. I meandered through small villages with terraces of produce stepping down and away beside the road. Really, a charming sight. The impact from last night could be felt in my hand. Only when I rode out of the saddle but it was slightly irritating. Topped my main climb of the day and glided down the gorge on the other side into the sun. That fact reminded me to stop and dry out my camping gear again. Tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat all out and into the sun. I caught up on some calories whilst I waited; the climbing has made me ravenous. OH SHIT! A gust of wind had rolled my tent which I criminally hadn’t pegged whilst drying. Dumb dumb dumb! It was still rolling and heading for the steep drop down to the river far below. “**** ***”, I sprinted over, slammed my side against the rock to brace myself and reached out a hand... missed it. I looked down... bless you Chinese construction roads. There was a dirt track cut into the cliff only a few metres down and the tent was stuck there. I madly looked around for the way down, found it and sprinted down putting both hands firmly around the poles when I got to it. “Back you come”. Crisis narrowly escaped. Peg your tent down Elliot. Back to my bag of oranges. I packed up and rolled on like nothing had happened. My pelvis reminded me otherwise which was now the newest part of me to be in discomfort. The views soon took care of it. A few kilometres more I turned around the cliff and entered to a new and very deep gorge, this one was home to the Mekong. It looked mightier here than it had when I first crossed it. The long straight gorge with sun rays pouring along it gave the place an ethereal feel. A tiny fishing boat was chugging along.
30/11/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - Fuhe 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Another day enjoying the beauty of Yunnan. I must have looked rough because two women literally came to watch me eat my two Baozi in Aihua. Thankfully they did so with a smile. The descent into the town had been wet and my legs were now filthy. Another morning another lovely climb to tackle. This one took me passed a lot of sunny looking yellow flowers. The actual sun wasn’t looking too bad either and had me taking off a layer halfway up. Near the top, there was a great view of a small stream with bunches of bamboo growing along it. Their long trunks again leaning over. It’s a funny sight. There was a rest area at the top and as the sun was high enough, I took the opportunity to take out my tent and sleeping bag to dry them. Only took 20 minutes and then I was on my way again descending! Wooooooo Had lunch at a restaurant where they only served one thing. At least it was simple! A spiced papaya based soup with a whole chicken and spring onion. Interesting combination but pretty good. I’m a big fan of the buckets of rice you get with each meal. The afternoon was spent meandering my way along the Nanding river in the direction of Lincang. It was great riding again. Not too hard, great weather and great scenery. Big black butterflies took me by surprise along this stretch. I recognised them from visiting the butterfly farm in Devon with my grandparents. Lincang appeared quickly and with it my surprise at how big it was. These places don’t look like much in the map but here I was with 20 storey buildings, bike lanes and even a wal-mart! Dipped into the bakery... yep! 😛 got some sweet rose petal filled pastries. These things are divine. Also got some snacks and fruit for tomorrow before continuing up the valley. Today was mainly a repeat of the last two days and that is absolutely fine with me. I’ve got several more days of this before my next stopping point of Pu’er, the world home of tea and the end of teahorse road.
29/11/2019 Nan Jian Xian - 🤷🏻♂️ 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Now that was a good days cycling. Freewheeled down to Nan Xian Jian and found massive Baozi. They were tough to pick up with chopsticks much to the delight of the friendly women there. The sun was up and I was heading up as today I’d be tackling two mountain passes. The first climb was amazing. @grupetto_grieve knows just how much I enjoy an easy pitch and this 30km climb averaged out at 3%. Something to really hammer. My top layer came off without stopping as the temperature rose. I was having fun on this ascent, rolling passed ever thickening forested hill sides. It took me two hours and I arrived at the top at midday and was greeted by a smiling lady who was sat behind her till in a shop. She looked friendly so I stopped and topped up on snacks and a Chinese red bull. A tunnel formed the top and I happily rolled through, awaiting my reward on the other side. What a view I got. The valley opened to my right and rice terraces dominated the land. An amazing sight. I flew down the 25km descent and arrived at the banks of the Mekong River. The third of the big three rivers that I’ve crossed in China. I’ll cross it a couple more times yet which is lucky because I forgot my river selfie! I picked up some fruit next to the bridge. Delicious oranges and cute bananas. They’ll be eaten halfway up the next climb which started immediately after crossing the river. I also had to put some suncream on. It was mid-twenties and I could feel my arms burning up. This one was more of a brute. 20km at an average of 6%. Much more little ring action this time around but knowing this I relaxed into a pace and enjoyed the scenery. A couple of switchbacks gave me great new views of the river below. Amazing bamboo plants were growing next to the road, towering up and drooping over under the weight of the leaves. Such character. The trunks were so thick! No gardeners bamboo sticks here. This is building material worthy.
28/11/2018 Dali - Nan Jian Xian 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Roof terrace camping is great. I had really enjoyed my quick stop over in Dali with Heimat. The kitten was already clawing away at the sofa again as I packed up. Another kind delivery of red bean pasta Baozi from Heimat helped fuel me for the first 15km to Dali new town. It was more of a city, a big place with a Giant bike shop! 🙌 I parked up, unpacked and translated my problem through google although looking at it, it was pretty self explanatory. The bearing cover had come away to partially expose the ball bearings in the rear hub. This also meant the wheel could be slightly moved laterally. Not good. He took it away and I expected the worst. “Ohhh this hub is finished”... but 10 minutes later he came back with it all looking rather more tidy, still dirty, but tidy. New bearings and grease should get me to Bangkok where I will replace the whole hub. Xiexie sir! Ahh instant responsiveness and stability from the rear end. Always a good thing. Especially as I had a 10km hill to climb and descend. It was a nice climb and gave great views back towards the city and behind it. The descent however was better. It was longer than the climb!... that never happens. 17km of sweeping soft gradient through thick green forest. Rice paddies, spindly trees on the mountain ridges, banana palms, it was all rather exotic. I reached Dacang and had lunch. Common in this region are restaurants where you walk up to the refrigerator which stores lots of various ingredients and create your dish. Cool in principle but a menu with pictures is still king for a foreigner. Onwards to Weishan which I bounced through the centre of, over the cobbles. A small and old town, lots of nicely made wooden buildings that had aged well. Treated to some easy gradient for the rest of the day despite the surrounding mountains. I entered a narrow valley where the road gently ran along, ducking down to give me a burst of speed every few kilometres. The sun had set behind me but preciously it was still warm. It was a really great 15km of riding and my mind drifted further ahead to the next few weeks of riding through similar landscape.
27/11/2018 Dali 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province A comfortable start on Heitmat’s roof terrace. The kitten was squabbling with its mother as I woke. It’s cute but crazy. Washing and other quick chores done in the morning. I switched back to my SPD pedals as the temperatures are thankfully warm again to negate the need to cycle in hiking boots. They’ll be useful again so I packed them. Also patched a slow puncture that I had found two days ago. Number 8 I think? Me and Heimat then headed to the Buddhist restaurant in old town for lunch. We got there just in time for a bowl of rice and greens before they packed up at 1pm. We then agreed to meet later. He has some free time as he is in between jobs in Dali and so decided to go and read at a cafe. I headed off to take a relaxed roll around the town. I went into the McDonalds for curiosity sake to see how mad the menu was. Not that mad sadly but I got Taro Pie which was delicious! I then stumbled across another place Tyler had recommended yesterday. It was an American style diner... so mad so I went in. Got some cookies for tomorrow’s ride but as I went in, who did I meet bus Tyler’s dad, Bill. Absolute pleasure talking to him. A retired literature professor from Texas who had great stories from his time in the army. He’s been travelling with Tyler for eight months and they are writing a book as they go. I mentioned that I had never really written much after school but I had enjoyed writing down daily accounts of my trip to which he warmly responded with a twinkle in his eye, “well, you better be writing something!” We’d see each other later for Hot Pot. I headed back to Heimat’s place and put the washing out to dry and semi-packed for tomorrow. I chilled on the terrace as the sun neared the impressive ridge of mountains that dominate over the town. There are trails spread all over and martial art temples dotted around. We headed into town on Heimat’s scooter! It was great fun. Before we met Tyler and his Dad we had a quick walk around the east gate of the town. Stunning colours of the painted building on top of the stone structure. It was illuminated beautifully.
26/11/2018 Eryuan - Dali 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Cold in the tent this morning but warm in my sleeping bag! Two women woke me up as they climbed the hill I had camped. They came back down half an hour later, each carrying a bundle of fir tree branches. People burn it as a type of incense in Asia. Packed up and was immediately surprised by the road which nosedived and quickly gave me 10km. Sweet! I passed fish on the road which must have come off the back of a truck. Certainly the strangest “road kill” so far! Two oranges and an apple got me to 30km before giving into a pastry thing on the side of the road. It balanced intriguingly between sweet and savoury in typical Chinese style. I ducked off the main road onto a parallel smaller road and quickly got to Dali old town. Cycling done for the day, time to enjoy the extra half a day off that I’d earned. I sat a chilled out crossroads and heard a friendly, “hey there”. Tyler, from Texas, who has been here for a few weeks gave me a very useful low-down on Dali. Great guy, he invited me for hot pot tomorrow evening. First up, lunch! Tyler pointed me down the road to a restaurant and I was not disappointed. It was cooked in front of me. Flames roared up. Entertainment and satiation. Yum. Spent a couple of hours rolling around the busy old town. Tourists from seemingly all over China had engulfed the town and there was an electric atmosphere with many foods to taste, souvenirs to buy and more importantly posing for that WeChat profile picture. Dali old town is a walled city with imposing gate houses at each compass point. Pretty water ways flow along the streets. As a general point, the Chinese have mastered the control of water. From the big hydroelectric facilities that I’ve seen along many of the big rivers, to the irrigation channels in the most unlikely of hillsides. The Dujiangyan irrigation system is another example. Here in Dali, it makes a lovely feature in the town.
25/11/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - Eryuan 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Decent sleep on the floor! No one had found me but it was a little loud being so close to the road. Packed up and rolled up and away from the Yangtze. I got 8km up the road and found a small restaurant to have some noodles. It was all steady climbing for the first 20km. This effort combined with rising temperatures brought out my legs and arms for the first time in weeks! They had almost lost their tan completely! I passed through a few busy towns after my first climb. The area was agriculturally rich; lots of various crops growing in the fields. One of the towns was full of stonemasons busily going about their work. Lots of garden monuments and entrances. Lots of dragons and presumably inspirational Chinese quotes carved into them. Jianchuan for lunch before heading up my main climb of the day. 400m up but a low and steady gradient allowed me to rise comfortably. The view from the top was great. Layers of mountains lay in before me. All covered in trees. A brilliant sweeping descent took me into another fertile valley and I passed through more small towns. Very pleasant as the sun was on its way down. The amount of habitation meant that finding my camp spot took a longer than anticipated but eventually I did; further away from the road tonight and back in the tent. I went to sleep to the sound of insects whirring away.
24/11/2018 Shangri-La - 🤷🏻♂️ 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province Despite the promise of being my last sub-zero start for a while, it was still a struggle to get out of my heated mattress covered bed. But as usually happens motivation eventually followed consciousness and I was soon rolling down away from the hostel. Baozi ingested, I rolled out of town via the biggest Buddhist stupa I have seen so far. It must have 40-50m tall! The hillsides were soon covered in coniferous trees. It was a nice scene yet I was impatiently waiting for the suns warmth to bore down into my toes. Brrr. Stalls at the side of the road were selling Yaks Tails with a handle. I presumed initially that they are dusters?!... Massive drying stands were also to be seen covered in grass, roots of some kind. Anything that needed drying I guess! Yaks started becoming less numerous but I started to see more pigs. Quite Boar like, they were snorting around in the dirt. The piglets were cute. The 60km mark arrived and the road dived downwards. At the top, strange painted faces and large decorated discs were spread out all over. It wasn’t Tibetan, or at least, not Tibetan that I knew. Maybe this is something created by the Yi people of Yunnan. A ethnically distinct group of Chinese, different to Han Chinese. A nice ridge of mountains appeared in the distance as I started my descent. The ridge looked like the elevation profile for the next few weeks, constant gradient. The mountains quickly rose around me in relation to me descending through them. I overtook a few trucks before stopping for lunch of noodles. After lunch I managed to find some quiet space on the road and could enjoy the autumn colours being shown by some of the trees at this altitude. It was gorgeous! I thought I may miss this being here late autumn rather than early autumn but as I descended further down the valley, following the Shuoduogang River, the colours brightened. A lot more flowers now too. The temperature was rising. I was descending into my second summer.
23/11/2018 Shangri-La 🇨🇳 China, Yunnan Province A mystical and harmonious valley with a monastery, at the western end of the Kunlun Mountains... This is how James Hilton describes the fictional town of Shangri-La that he uses in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. A few towns in the far northwest of Yunnan province have reasonable geographic reasons to claim to be the inspiration of his fantasy town where people are happy and live forever; isolated from the rest of the world. Here I was in the actual Shangri-La! A utopia of souvenirs and relatively expensive restaurants. The Chinese changed the name of Shangri-La (as it is now known) from Zhangdian in 2001 to attract tourists... well, you got me! I was staying in a hostel close to the old town which is the prettiest area. It’s made up of several streets; corridors of chalet like buildings. These have nearly all been built in the last four years as sadly a fire ravaged the original old town where some of the buildings were 600 years old. The town is genuinely old, having been part of the Tea horse road in years gone by. It is still home to a monastery and China’s largest prayer wheel; it takes six people to make it move. I had a lie in to start. I felt more tired after two days of coach travel than I ever do after two days of cycling. I did get up and wondered into a Thangka gallery (the Buddhist art form). This was the best part of the day. I met Jigme, the artist who I presume had painted all the Thangka’s in the gallery. He took me through the process of how he creates one of these stunning pieces. He had 1x3 metre cotton canvas on display which was half complete. This was the largest in the gallery and would take a total of one year to make. It was cool to see the structural lines used for the proportions of the expression on the Buddhas face. He showed me a book that his student was using... the proportions of the whole body are predetermined by these Buddhist art books. This is to preserve the perfect aesthetic of the Buddha. The artist however has free reign on the decoration of the Buddha and surrounding features.
21/11/2018 - 22/11/2018 Chengdu - Panzhihua - Shangri-La 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan/Yunnan Province Two days worth of coach’s took me mainly west, into the culturally-Tibetan mountains of Yunnan and up to Shangri-La; an iconic sounding place. My first coach was from Chengdu to Panzhihua, a city on the banks of the Yangtze. It took 7 hours and I arrived late evening but found a hotel to sleep in. My second coach was 10 hours long and took me into Yunnan and over many mountain ridges. The sunset over the mountains was special even from the coach. A few good bowls of beef noodles at stops along the way helped. Travelling by coach is tiring! I got to Shangri-La at 11pm and passed the biggest Buddhist Stupa I have seen on the trip so far. I checked into a little hostel which was perfectly placed to explore the town tomorrow.
Better late than never, Happy New Years! Spending New Year’s Eve camping in the #olympicnationalforest was refreshing. On our trek back to civilization we played on the beach waiting for the ferry in #porttownsendwa :) . . . . . . . . #thegreatpnw #outdoorlife #getoutside #adventure #hiking #mountainviews #wanderlust #thegreatoutdoors #landscapes #theadventureproject #optoutside #earthfocus #natgeo #thatpnwlife #lostfam #discoverearth #visualscollective #campcollective #earthofficial #upperleftusa #log #washingtonstateferry
19/11/2018 - 21/11/2018 Chengdu 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Part 3 After the Pandamonium of the morning I spent the afternoon with Ye, the kind hearted woman who had helped me out so much in Dujiangyan finding a hotel. I took the Chengdu metro to People’s Park and met her and her two friends for tea. She had bought plenty of snacks. Dried sweet potato, spicy roasted peanuts, caramel puffed rice. Dreamy, haha! The park was full of chrysanthemum’s in full bloom. It was pretty spectacular. The park was full of life and interesting things to do and watch. An old man was doing beautiful calligraphy on the floor. People were exercising their arms with tennis balls on the end of elasticated string. More a test of coordination than of muscles. I had a go and the women who was doing the same next to me found a lot comedy in my initial attempts. She helped me get to grips with it and we talked for a while after. She spoke good English with a strange twang... she had taught in true University of Sheffield and had lived in Crookes... ridiculous 🤯 Me and my posse of middle aged Chinese women sat down for tea. All around, men in red coats carrying strange metal instruments lent over the shoulders of others having tea. They were cleaning ears! James had given me a heads up about this and suggested that it was well worth a go so when the offer eventually came, I nodded. Intrusive to say the least. A really weird and pretty uncomfortable ten minutes passed by. I was glad of the end and was left with a weird feeling in my ears. Could I hear better? Maybe... 🤷🏻♂️ After tea we explored more of this impressive park. Photo opportunities were numerous and I was ushered to pose in front of various different plants and statues. I gave in and had a brilliant time with the three of them. We said our goodbyes and I headed back on a bus to the hostel for some more pool. I met Ling who will be travelling to New Zealand for a year. She and her boyfriend love cycling and was keen to hear about my trip. Hopefully I’ll meet her again when I get there! A fast paced two day and a half days in Chengdu. Great city.
From a peaceful evening at SanO🌴
19/11/2018 - 21/11/2018 Chengdu 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Part 2 PANDA DAY! The next morning I went to the Chendgu Giant Panda Research Centre with Elizabeth who was also staying at Mix Hostel. Seeing Pandas had been on my to-do list since entering the country and finally it was time. We headed there early as the Giant Panda is more active in the morning and it was the right decision. We walked through the impressive entrance and joined a relatively small queue to enter. So began several hours gawping at these hilarious animals. Expectations of cuteness were comprehensively exceeded. The adolescents seemed to be the most mobile, running and rolling around. In fact, I’d say rolling is a Pandas preferred method of moving! The baby panda house was hushed with the silent dreaming of two little ones who were laying prone next to their rocking horse. That would be some picture. Despite being naturally solitary animals, they can, in captivity, be kept together although some individuals here had their own enclosure. The centre itself seemed pretty much as good its gets for a captive panda. Limitless bamboo to munch through, large and interesting outdoor enclosures. The crowds grew steadily as I imagine they do everyday. Crowds would move like schools of fish from one enclosure to another. Selfie sticks and Panda headbands at the ready. The efforts over the last twenty years to help protect the Giant Panda have worked and in 2016, the species was promoted from endangered to vulnerable. A huge success although outlooks are bleak for the remaining bamboo forests in China; the Pandas habitat of choice. The ground of the centre here in Chengdu are planted with little else but bamboo which gives you a great sense of what the bamboo forests are like. I won’t reach these areas during this visit to China so it was nice to see the majestic arches and closed-in feel that this tree creates. All in all. An enchanting and characterful animal. Panda charm, bought.
We had a blast trying out our new snow shoes! We backpacked out and were the only two at this pair of lakes both nights 🌲❄️ We took a sunset hike to the second lake and got some amazing blue skies! #pnw #backpacking #bluehour #pnwonderland #optoutside #camplife #snowshoeing #rei #campcollective #wildernessculture #snowcamping #oregonexplored
🍄BOHO FLEETWOOD TOP🍄 One of a kind “Fleetwood” halter crop top, painted by me 🤸🏼♂️ • off white, super soft, stretchy cotton fabric • high square neck • vintage, old english font spells FLEETWOOD in turquoise fabric paint • washable & dry clean friendly • this band t is perfect for festivals, shows, lounging, weekends, beach, everything • lenni the label & free people vibes • no size tag but would consider xs, small & medium because of stretch • message for custom requests! • FREE SHIPPING IN THE U.S. ~ this is hand painted so it is not perfect, I am only human after all :-) ~ [shown on 32D bust, 23” waist, 5’4” height] #retro #stevienicks #fleetwoodmac #hippie #bohemian #boho #belbottoms #tanktop #croptop #campcollective #lennithelabel #vintage #levi #guess #freepeople #coachella #graphic #band #shirt #halter #strapless #squareneck #custom #whimsical #urban #asos #shopdepop
19/11/2018 - 21/11/2018 Chengdu 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Part 1 Absolutely loved my time in Chengdu. Straight into the top five cities so far, not that I have a definitive list but when I do, it’ll be up there. My first day was a rest day. In the morning I visited Wenshu temple and enjoyed the detailed prowess of the thousand Buddha Pagoda. I then headed over to Aidao Nunnery and was treated to the vegetarian lunch that is served to the nuns and to the public every day for 60p. It’s a cool experience. You fetch your two bowls and chopsticks before heading into the ‘five vision hall’. I was one of the last to sit on the long benches that fill the hall. The central tables are for monks and the outer tables for the public. A dragon shaped gong sounded and monks with large metal containers started circling the tables offering rice and several different dishes. One was a cauliflower dish, another was lentils and another was cabbage. All varying in levels of spice. It was all delicious and I kept nodding as I was offered more. What I didn’t account for was the time limit in eating. A gong sounded and I could see others nearly finishing as I still had a bowl full of rice and a half bowl of lentil soup. A second gong sounded and the woman next to me smiled and gestures for me to put the rice in the soup and drink it up quickly! Haha, brilliant. I did as suggested just before a third gong sounded and people started to leave. I followed the lead of everyone else and took my bowl and chopsticks back to where I found them, washing them before storing them for tomorrow. In the afternoon I wandered around the nearby market. There was a healthy variety of impressively sized vegetables and also stalls selling frogs, toads and eels. A wild array of ingredients to say the least. I watched a women hand making dumplings which looked quite therapeutic. It was also cool to see jade before and after it is polished.
18/11/2018 Dujiangyan - Chengdu 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Here we go then! A short day of 60km into the biggest city of the trip so far and the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. I think I counted six ring roads! The sky was blue and the roads were flat so I whizzed along the fields of rice and bananas and watched as the buildings got taller and taller and taller. Despite its 12 million strong population, getting into the city was fairly painless. The segregated bike lanes helped despite sharing them with silent electric scooters that whizz by within inches. All fun and games and I soon found Mix Hostel, where I would stay for a few days, a few hundred metres from Wenshu Temple. Instantly welcomed by the girls there who were just starting a good luck charm making session. Still in cycling kit, I plonked myself down with a big bottle of water and calmed the body and mind down with some challenging craftwork! With a little help I managed to create a Christmas coloured charm that I was quite happy with. After a shower I went next door for dinner which was busy with locals and ordered extra rice. I was starving.
17/11/2018 Dujiangyan 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province After the exploits of the previous day I had somewhat of a lie in and got out of the hotel at 9. I found Baozi and some fried pastry thing which wasn’t great but had me suitably satiated to turn my attention on Dujiangyan and enjoy a day off. The city is named after the historically important irrigation and flood control system which was remarkably built in 250BC on the river Min which comes down from the Tibetan Plateau. (Adapted from Wikipedia) Originally, the Min would rush down from the mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. Li Bing, then governor of Shu for the state of Qin, and his son headed the construction of the Dujiangyan, which harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it. Impressive to see that this system is still in use over 2000 years later. I crossed an amazing bridge over one of the canals as I headed to the bus station where I took a bus to Mount Qingcheng. Mount Qingcheng is considered one of the birthplaces of Daoism, a traditional Chinese religion. Many of you would recognise one of its core symbols, yin-yang which depicts interlocking black and white spirals. In basic terms, the black represents darkness and burden and the white represents lightness and joy. Followers of Daoism aim to live the life in harmony with the Dao, “the way”, which is the line that is formed between the black and the white. The mountain is covered in a forest of tall straight trees alongside bamboo and banana. Today, cloud hung in the tree tops and created a very mystical feeling to whole place. It was busy with locals; clearly a place of pilgrimage for some. I hiked up the pathway and steps for nearly two hours meandering around ponds and through many of the small temples dotting the mountainside. With heavy legs I reached Shang Qing Gong, one of the larger temples.
It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different. Neil Gaiman
According to almost everyone she’s so “strong-willed 😡” “intense 😬,” “feisty 😋,” “messy 🤕,” “hard 😩,” “pinch-y👌🏻” “bite-y😁, ” crazy 🤪,” “loud🗣.” Don’t worry, I see all of that, and we’re working on some of it, trust me 😂. But when I look at this little spirit, sent to this new strange place (🌎) I think, “wow, she is so BRAVE.” She’s here on a daring mission so she’s going to dump out, climb on, scream at, pound on, bite off, knock down, and pinch at whatever she has to, to get where she is going. When I lay her down at the end of each exhausting day, her little eyes drift close with complete satisfaction in her day’s “work.” It’s as if she knows, all that touching, pouring, testing, learning, tasting, exploring is getting her one step closer to becoming exactly who she was sent here to be 👶🏼.
Throw back to these two beauties coming to greet us at our camp on this frosty morning! I love getting to see wildlife and mountain goats are probably one of my favorites to see! What’s yours? #pnw #pnwonderland #pnwlife #backpacking #wanderwashington #camplife #rei #optoutside #campcollective #mountaingoats #adventureoutdoors #wildlife
Indulge in solitude. Find peace in silence.
🎉With the beginning of 2019 I'll be opening a print shop of a mix of my photography (which has been in my plans for so long) but I am looking forward to finally doing 😄 - So If you're interested in any of my work as prints, pls comment on which image to help me get an idea of what is popular 🙏💕 .⠀ 📷 Image: El Nido's beauty was beyond words, limestone cliffs and glassy turquoise water, secret beaches and lagoons. Take me back please! 🐚⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #printsforsale #travelphotog #femalephotographer #landscape_capture #printshop #dazedandexposed #ignantpicoftheday #artfeed #showyourwork #salty #islandlife #coralreef #huntgram #vscogallery #featureart #justgoshoot #travelandlife #fineartprints #philippines #dreamermagazine #photozine #landscapelovers #2019time #originalprints ⠀⠀ #campcollective #wallart #elnido #exploreobserveshare #pureparadise #fromwhereyoudratherbe ⠀ ⠀
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Starting off 2019 relaxing and recharging so that we can make this year the best one yet!
🎉HaPpY nEw YeAr!!! 🎉🎉 My hopes for 2019 are that I find more reasons to smile ☺️, broaden my perspectives and horizons 📚, grow even deeper in love with my people ❤️, and never get another spontaneous idea to do a glitter photoshoot ✨😳.
2018 has been a year of many adventures, but picking my favorite is easy. My favorite memory was getting engaged to the love of my life in this most magical of locations! It will be hard to top 2018, but I am up to the challenge. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead for us! @walkinbird88 #engaged #pnw #pnwonderland #wanderwashington #optoutside #larches #campcollective #backpacking #outdoors #alpinebabes #choosemountains #alpineengagement
Made it to the sunshine state just in time to ring in the new year!
2018 was one for the books. I think the theme for this last year was courage and growth. I quit my job that was taking over my life and making me unhappy, went outside my comfort zone, made new relationships, lost a few, read a lot more, went to new places, got engaged to the love of my life, started my very first career job, and overall had the most fun and laughs this year out of any other. Cheers to 2019, may it be filled with more growth and even bigger goals.
Road trip vibes in West Virginia!
We met a donkey in Georgia! I’ve been MIA on this account for the last few weeks because the holidays have been craaaazy! We’re currently on vacation finally and took a long road trip to the sunshine state so I’ll have lots of fun photos to post soon!
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity John Muir
Trading in the trees and the slow life living for a week in the concrete jungle. New York we are coming for you tomorrow!
Livin free in Free People - @ashnichole_xo 🌿
Because it's Christmas day! This was also my last session in Vancouver before I flew back to the Philippines. Such a sweet family and I am so glad the weather cleared up for their session. :) More sneak peeks on my instastory feed. . . . . . #vancouverphotographer #vancouverfamilyphotographer #vancouverfamilyportraits #photobugcommunity #creativenetworkarc #campcollective #canonphotography #canoncanada #hlpresets
Christmas for me is always a time to be with your family however form or size it may be. I'm sure everyone is spending some much needed quality time with their loved ones just like this family. Thank you to all my clients for letting me come into your lives and documenting these moments for you. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! @larajanemanalo @kevinfrancismanalo . . . . . #vancouverphotographer #vancouverfamilyphotographer #vancouverfamilyportraits #photobugcommunity #creativenetworkarc #campcollective #canonphotography #canoncanada #hlpresets #kidsfromcanada
Merry Christmas Eve 🌲🌲
16/11/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - Dujiangyan 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Part 2 Well now getting to my target city of Dujiangyan was going to be difficult but I was generally happy to be rolling again having, truthfully, gotten away with it. I didn’t regret it though, fucker. Patchy blue skies and sun, it was warmer too. Holding on to the positives. I dropped my glasses under my bike and the back wheel finished them off... 😶 having gone through one town I was pulled over by a policemen. They had a van and he ushered me in. “Had they been contacted by the others?” “Is this where they make me write a statement?” ... “would you like water? Please, sit in front of fan”. It was a heater fan. This was all they wanted. Where was I from? Where was I going? Each answer greeted by a “ahhhhhh, hao (good)”. Water drank, an warmth taken in, I said my goodbyes and got going. What is this day? OH COME ON! My road disappeared. It was on the map but no longer in use in front of me. Of course a new road was being constructed and new tunnels were being drilled into the mountains for fun. I managed to get on to it and cycled through pitch black and deserted tunnels. Eventually this luck ran out and I ended in the construction sight. I asked one of the guys the way to Chengdu and he pointed back where I had come from. Nah, not happening. I went back and found a way on to the highway which also ran along the valley. It was a risk as it’s not allowed but with a legitimate reason I though it a calculated risk. It also cut off 15km of navigating the twists and curves of the mountains. One 5km tunnel negotiated, three more to go. I came through my second tunnel and was greeted by drizzle, low cloud and greenery. The comparative warmth of these lower hillsides provided the right conditions for palms and thick leaved plants to grow. I didn’t really have long enough to take it in as the daylight was brief in between each tunnel. After my third tunnel I whizzed by a slip road where I glimpsed a police car. Ahhh, no more, please. A minute later I hear a megaphone behind me, “please stop”. Okay, you can have this one.
16/11/2018 🤷🏻♂️ - Dujiangyan 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province Part 1 My patience snapped today but by the end of the day me and China were friends again. The etiquette of Chinese drivers is that of entitled toddlers; a danger to themselves and everyone else around. It can be true from scooters all the way up to trucks. Maybe it stems from the culture here or maybe it’s extreme tin-boxism but the road death toll per 100,000 inhabitants per year is 18.8 in China compared to 2.9 in the UK. I started my day positively; satisfied with my rock of a bed. The first section of the day was along a twisty cliff road. It was grey but downhill and enjoyable. I was easing my way into the day when I was passed close by a Land Cruiser. Miffed but unsurprised I passed small houses tucked into the rocks, cultivating any scrap of land they could. Road works on the opposite side of the road didn’t stop one car from driving head towards me forcing me dangerously close to the water gulley that run on both sides of the roads here. “Okay, it’s one of those days is it?” I thought as I got going again after a waving a questioning hand at the dumb dumb driver. Barely 2km later I passed another set of roadworks on the opposite side of the road. This time a coach, flying up the road didn’t even flinch and came barrelling towards me. “Don’t be a PRICK!” The last word coincided with me throwing my last ‘dog stone’ at the front of the coach. The coach stopped. I carefully made my away along the slither of space between the coach and water gully and carried on, blood pulsing around my entirely body. I was so angry. 5km down the road I turned around to see the coach following me with a fresh crack down the front of his windscreen. I did a U-turn back up the road knowing it would take him a while to find another place to turn around. He however, stopped and got out of the coach and tried to stop me. He grabbed at my shirt and tore the pocket and a few buttons. I waved him off with a few expletives and went on up the road.
15/11/2018 Chuanzhusi - 🤷🏻♂️ 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province I passed through the impressively walled Songpan county early in the morning which on another day I may have stopped to explore. Sometimes I find it hard to get out of that “forward motion at all costs” mentality. Especially when I’m alone. The road was sloping downwards following the Min river and I zoomed passed small wagons carrying families, livestock and crops. Some weren’t impressed with a bicycle over taking them! 💁🏻♂️ A new elevated highway was being built along the whole valley. Sheffield-ers, imagine an elevated highway built through the snakes pass. I reached Deixi via a quiet road that dodged a long, dark tunnel and was rewarded with a nice view of the lake far below. I started to descend a steep series of hairpins to the valley road but a kilometre down I saw that a bridge was destroyed. I check Baidu (Chinese map app) and it confirmed that it was closed. Phew, that was nearly a long climb back. My high mountain road was beautiful of a little busy. It snaked in between the curves of the valley side before diving down, this time it was the right decision. I descended 1300m from A to B. The snowlike disappeared above me and leafless trees and bushes appeared. I pulled in and under a raised section of road. The steep valleys make it difficult to find camp so this would have to do. Luckily, there was a rock that was sympathetically shaped and gave me a nice elevated bed for the night. Tarp, sleeping mat and sleeping bag gave me enough cushioning for it to be comfortable.
14/11/2018 Ruo Er Gai - Chuanzhusi 🇨🇳 China, Sichuan Province A mist descended over the town which was a shock as I opened the curtains. No new layer of snow at least. Baozi for breakfast and snacks bought for the day. I had a long day in mind. I quickly rose above the mist as the sun was also burning it away. For a moment, surrounding mountains seemed to float above the clouds. Mid morning I passed a really strange looking place. A house shaped into a very strange Yak and a building next to it topped by dancing figures. A shop or home maybe. I’m not sure. It took me by surprise. It’s one of the first originally creative things I’ve seen in China. Stopped for a bad lunch at 70km. Bread and peanut butter. Okay, not that bad but not exactly high grade nutrition! I caught myself admiring the bike which was gleaming after its wash yesterday. There was nothing majorly different about the landscape today; a little less snow maybe. No bad thing though. I’m still loving it and I rolled contently along gently rising roads. I followed the road up a valley that saw me top out at 3800m having completing 95km already. And that was my cue to say goodbye to the plateau. It’s now all downhill until Chengdu, 350km further south. That’s a very good feeling. My time up on the high plains has been great. It’s been tough on my extremities and budget (bundling into hotels having not carried the equipment for such temperatures) but yeah, brut-iful landscape and kind people. Great descent. Some of the elevated sections of road were amazing. I passed what I presume to be the half-built high speed railway that will connect Chengdu and Tibet which I had read about a few days ago. I continued to zoom down to Chuanzhusi and found myself a place for the night. I didn’t have much info on this town but I went into town and saw that there was an area dedicated to the Silk Road and Tea Horse Road over the river so went to have a look.
13/11/2018 Langmusi - Ruo Er Gai 🇨🇳 China, Gansu & Sichuan Province Out of bed and dressed super quick to combat the cold of my room. Packed and made my way down the road to have my morning shredded noodles as I had done yesterday. I was a little quicker eating them this time! Back to the hotel to pay and then I was on the road. There had been a smattering of snow last night which was actually the good news. It meant I could ride on it rather than ice. This did make it a careful start to the day and so I struggled to warm up. After 15km I pulled into a roadside cafe and swapped socks. 5 days of cycling is probably enough for one pair! It was starting to impact on their thermal properties 😅 a cup of tea helped too. I bought a red bull, I may need it today. New socks, new man! Although yesterday’s Baozi were having a rotten affect on me 😳 I’ve been through worse, crack on. A 600m ascent was downgraded to 400m as I came across a lovely 2km tunnel through the top of mountain I was cycling up. Get in! Road works meant a short delay before passing through but once it was our sides turn to pass a policeman drove behind me, shielding me from any discourteous overtakes through the tunnel. Top man. I popped out the other side to an expanse of flat land surrounded by distant white peaks. A real plateau. It was beautiful in its contrast to the previous days. Here I was at 3500m with a huge flat marsh land around me. I stopped for some peanut butter on bread before making good progress with the forgiving terrain and a small push from the wind! This was great. Eagles and vultures could be seen circling high above. Much less snow. It even felt warm at 8 degrees.
12/11/2018 Langmusi 🇨🇳 China, Gansu Province I had a brilliant day exploring the unusually quiet town of Langmusi. This place is bustling in the summer with Buddhist pilgrims and domestic tourists. Now the temperatures have dropped, many of the towns shops and restaurants have closed. Dominated by two monasteries. The northern Setri monastery lies in Gansu Province whilst the southern Kirti monastery lies in Sichuan province. It is surmised that the border was designed to run through the middle of the town to eradicate any power disputes that occurred between the two monasteries in the past. It has worked and these days the two monasteries along with an Islamic mosque all live together harmoniously. Kirti monastery is made up of three temples all built between 1713 and 1748. All very well kept, they look a lot newer. A dazzling array of colours and patterns had me in awe before I did one clockwise lap of the last temple. Many tourists were doing similar; whispering mantras or asking Buddha for help. They however were doing many more laps. They counted each lap with counters on strong or with piles of small stones. Pilgrims walk for weeks to visit Langmusi. I saw one woman who was walked towards the monastery. Every third step she would lay herself on the ground face down before going another three steps. I then walked away from the temples towards a river that came from the narrow Namo gorge which is home to some caves. The river was warm and clouds of steam could be seen rising from it. A house with a few prayer wheels inside sat over the river, using the water to forever spin. I found a few caves. One had lots of small moulded sand stupas. Another had hundreds of candles burning in honour of the Tibetan Goddess, Palden Lhamo. They were quiet and peaceful. I then continued to hike up the river, using the rudimentary planks of wood to negotiate the river. I followed the tracks in the snow for an hour listening to Rose Finches that I would catch a glimpse of every now and again. Small birds with a reddish blush to their front. The light was good today and shone brightly on the rock all around.
11/11/2018 Luqu - Langmusi 🇨🇳 China, Gansu Province It is tough up here, I won’t lie. The cycling is harder with the altitude and cold. The bike is getting clogged with grime and ice. And yet, when I stop at a crest a hill, the wind wondering passed my ears, the cold disappears and a rush of “you’ve got this” flows through me. It’s magic. I headed out of Luqu and up a 20km climb which is where I saw the view that is shown in the first image. The whole scene looked like a painting. Epic. And so the day went, rolling on roads which were clear of snow due to the wall to wall blue sky and sun which beamed down all day. I stopped in Gahai and parked up with the lads for some noodles. Gloves on the central stove to warm them up. During the afternoon, I gradually rose again between hills where snow dominated the scene. A swift and fun descent to Langmusi. A day off to explore this small town that is home to two Buddhist monasteries and some nice walking routes. The population of Langmusi are Tibetan and the town sits on the border of Gansu and Sichuan province. The town was pretty dead when I arrived but I eventually found the owner of the hotel who’s lobby I sat in for half an hour warming up. There was no heating or hot water so the price was very cheap. Heated blanket though. The high life. https://strava.app.link/QtuBHz7WLR
With the New Year just around the corner and Jazz’s 13th birthday fast approaching, I’m hoping to bring about a better balance of these quiet moments into my life. With the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, washing away the one thousand and one thoughts racing through my brain, I can finally be free- with no one in sight but a little red dog and me.
10/11/2018 Henan - Luqu 🇨🇳 China, Qinghai & Gansu Province It’s like cycling in an Arctic summer. This place is incredible. I was up early with the best intentions today. I went and collected my bike from the tall man who owned the restaurant just down the road from the hotel. I then headed out of town. Ah, an ABC Bank! There are only two banks I can withdraw from in China so I was lucky to find this one here as I was low on cash. I had to wait until 10pm for the bank to open. The cash machine outside had “confiscated” my notes but at least returned my card. An hour went by until the doors unlocked. “Try taking less cash.” Bingo 🙄 By this time it was nearly 11 and my 110km to Luqu looked questionable. Let’s go and see anyway. After only 5km a man in a smart Audi stopped in front of me to give me a Red Bull! He knew! What a guy 😁 The first stint was tricky on roads that were partly covered with ice and snow. A first for me, my gears froze. Spray from the road had frozen around my bottom bracket and the gear cables. I stopped to chip away at the ice which released a few more gears on my cassette. Luckily it was fairly gentle gradients on the snow and ice. However, I did actually have an incident around one long bend. Luckily it was at low speed and I could feel it coming. I let the bike fall away from beneath me and managed to keep myself upright into a small slide. Must have been quite elegant to watch 🙈 A slither of tarmac appeared and I kept my wheels in it as much as I could. Once I reached 26km, I topped out at 3700m before starting my descent for the rest of the day. Wispy golden grass, rocky outcrops and yaks gave me a very unique and beautiful day. I managed to cruise through the kilometres along the Tao river.
And then I realized, everything I needed was right there in front of me.
Ready to dance my way into the Christmas holiday. ❄️