Thoughts on Leaving Route 213

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2009/02/12: Tongguan 81 km
2009/02/13: Mojiang 69 km

2009/02/14: In Mojiang
Since entering China, we have ridden mainly on the national road 213. We have ridden the old road, built in the 1950s, while most traffic has been on the recently built freeway that we see occasionally. From here, we leave this road onto more minor roads as we snake our way northwards, to the west of Kunming and Chengdu.

The old 213 was of variable surface quality, and frequent unmarked Porsche traps limit everyone to below 50 kmh; this provided a very pleasant cycling environment. However, the hills have been significant with 1,000 m climbs the norm. We try hard to do these climbs early in the day before it gets too hot.

We share the road with cows, buffalo, chickens, ducks, drying coffee beans, mopeds, and even a few bicycles. As we climb or descend we pass through various agricultural areas, with tea and wheat near the passes, and rice, banana trees, and vegetables in the valleys. When we stop for food we are often in minority villages, and we invariably find the people warm and welcoming. The same can not be said of the dogs; we have taken to carrying sticks, ready at hand, to ward off the most aggressive canines.

We generally stay in the best hotel we can find in town. In smaller towns these can be very basic, while in larger towns the $12 room is quite pleasant. For the first few days we ate street vendor food, but we are learning to find better restaurants often up narrow stairways, hidden behind hotels, or in a set of small private eating rooms beside the road.

Maps are an issue for us. We have a road atlas of Yunnan, but it has no contours, and the place names are only in characters. We have a map on our GPS which has contours, often wrong, and has only a few places are named in an obsolete form of pinyin (i.e. Peking not Beijing). We have come to learn to combine these, realizing that the GPS map is probably a pilots’ map, as we find it very rough except for major intersections, and it never understates the elevation.

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