Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in Kunming

I arrived in Kunming and discovered something called a "backpackers hostel". For the first time since Istanbul I met English speakers, travellers and tourists and had a conversation beyond, "how much?", "how many kilometres?" and for the first time on this whole trip I met some other long distance cyclists, no fewer than five on my first day here! Apparently there are tourists all over this country but my route across China has managed to bypass them all. The staff put on a Christmas spread, there was no Turkey but they did manage to make decent Christmas pudding and custard served with sliced carrots and cucumber. Then we celebrated with that most traditional of Christmas games, an arm wrestling competition.

Roar like a tiger.

Enter the local champion.

What about the cycling I hear you ask. Well, I sit in the saddle, turn the pedals, which turns the wheels and moves the bike forward. Sometimes I move fast, sometimes I move slow and sometimes, when the road has descended into a muddy pit, I don't move at all.
Good Chinese road atlases are available everywhere but they never (ever, ever) show topographical info. I got my first look at a topographical map of the country here in the hostel and it confirmed to me what I have been suspecting for a while now. China is very mountainous. It has been fun travelling without really knowing what lies 100km ahead, to start the day not knowing whether the road will take me through an industrialised river plain or over a roadless, snowy mountain. It has led to some memorable experiences.

The roads have been horrendous in this part of China. Main roads linking big cities will just descend into roadblock without warning. After the advice of local police I embarked on a big detour to find smooth asphalt but in the end the road failed me, it was total road block. What did I do? Well first I cried and then I back tracked to the last town I had past. There was no traffic going south (because there was no road) so I got a train ride to the next town, arriving in some skanky suburb in the middle of the night. Some rat/feret like kid took me to a 1 dollar hotel. It was so rough that before I could sleep I had to hurl out of the window. Actually it wasn't a window, it was a hole cut in a piece of plywood that served for the wall of my 7th floor hovel. At first light I escaped and got a police escort out of town (me following a police car, flashing lights and all).

The G213 "national highway", China.

It's all worth it in the end though.

I was planning on a short trip through Vietnam but the visa takes 4 working days to issue and I can't be arsed to wait. It's tempting to stay here watching DVDs and eating pie until new year but I have an appointment to make in Bangkok so it's the Jungles of Northern Laos for me.


Anonymous said...

Falang woman same cow i think! But good arm fighter!

Anonymous said...

Ham - There are no pictures of you demolishing the 'Local Champion' at the christmas arm wrestling event!! Is it because you went out in the first round to a girl (The one with the glasses and red anorak)

I take it after the arm wrestling there was a bout of sumo with that red trackied up chinky (AKA - The Local Champion)bet you were soon out of there and on ya bike.

Roar like a fu@king tiger

Rich and Andy N

Anonymous said...

dude you've gotta include some pictures of your romantic encounter by the waterfall on the blog, thats the kinda shit that really impresses!