Lesley and Tina on the road.
Forget the award, the greatest excitement over the weekend was my cycle trip from Pu'er (aka Ning'er) to Simao (aka Pu'er) with Tina on Saturday. Ali and I first cycled part of this road, from the Simao end, in 2005 in our early explorations of the town. We got caught in a huge downpour and were glad to have our newly-purchased capes. The capes, now well-worn, made another appearance on this trip. Within half an hour of leaving Pu'er the drizzle started. It was actually a great relief, keeping us cool as we began our 60km journey through the mountains.

Our stats were similar to Ali, who cycled it the week before [see previous blog entry]. The bus driver was completely unperturbed at having to load our bikes on the roof at the crack of dawn. Tina's first few minutes on the bike weren't a great success, crashing twice in the bus station alone. She thought her brain was playing tricks on her then I noticed that the handlebars had twisted round. This caused much amusement for our spectators. We grabbed some water and snacks, finally setting off at 8:30am.

A cool ascent in the rain.
As Ali said previously, the old road is one of four generations of routes through these mountains from north to south. With all the traffic sticking to the more direct route in the valley before, the journey was very quiet - the odd motorbike and local buses running between Pu'er and Tongxin. The surface was, at best, slightly bumpy tarmac, deteriorating into rough tracks where there had been landslides or subsidence. With 18 gears and sturdy tyres, our bikes are perfect for this kind of terrain. It's funny to think we used to do these trips on single-speed flimpsy bikes with the children on the back!

Tongxin noodle shop.
We followed in Ali's footsteps, stopping for (an albeit early) lunch in Tongxin at 10:30. Given that we'd been up for five hours we were needing it. We brought our bikes in from the rain and were given a very warm welcome by the locals, who spoke with a strong local dialect. Luckily I could pick up the key words and we muddle our way through a conversation together. Unfortunately the other visitor in town [a van driver, sitting opposite Tina] was less pleasant company - slurping his noodles, spitting on the floor and smoking in our faces. Don't be tempted to think, "that's just the way it is in China". The four customers at the other table weren't displaying the same habits. Very often, when one questions someone about customs and etiquette, they share similar values. It's just people are less likely to say something here. It's really not good to 'lose face', nor to be the kind of person who causes another person to 'lose face'. So people do what they can get away with. He got away with it. Returned to his van, blew his nose, threw his tissue out the window and drove off. We took some photos and promised to return in the near future with some prints.

A Simao gardener hosing us down.
From Tongxin onwards we faced the gradual climb over the mountains to Simao. Ali had kindly provided us with two maps - the first was a detailed one of the route, marking all kilometre markers, villages,  bridges, big landslides etc. The second was an altitude profile. I had decided to keep the second one hidden from Tina, as it looked somewhat daunting. I almost wished I hadn't seen it myself. Our main ascent was from just over 1,100m to 1,700m, with gradual reprieves along the way as the road wound round round a stream recess. We slipped into first gear, and remained there for the best part of two hours, stopping for the odd gulp of water and to take photos. On entering the city we found a friendly gardener who said he'd hose our bikes down. I offered to do it ourselves but he was reluctant to hand over his hose!

It was fabulous being up high in the mountains, something I really miss here. I also miss cycle touring, so on this trip we promised ourselves we'll do more. The next trip will be a two-day journey to Jinghong, where we can enjoy a dip in the outdoor pool when it's over.

Have a look at Tina's blog for some more photos and tales!

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