We were relieved when our bikes came out of the bus’s luggage hold undamaged. And it was great to be met by Michael and Dong, who led us by car (us cycling) to The Loft Hostel where they’d booked us a room on two hours notice. After helping us move in, they took us out for a fine dinner.
2009/ /10: Chengdu
Tuesday was spent doing errands, and enjoying what the big city usefully offered after two months of villages and smaller towns. There were outdoor gear shops and bike shops right near our hostel. We bought good insoles for my cycling shoes, genuinely effective Nivea sunscreen, dental floss, Sensodyne toothpaste, Oreos, and Dove chocolate bars. We’ve eaten a few western style meals and even had cappuccino! We had the bike repair place near the hostel clean our drive trains, rather than hunting for rags and making a mess in the hostel courtyard. The result was a better job than we’d have done ourselves. Thank you to “Firewall” at Banner Cloud.
2009/ / On Wednesday we visited the Sanxingdui Museum, taking taxi and then bus about km north of Chengdu. The museum showcases a relatively recent archaeological find that allows a glimpse at the highly developed Shu State which existed here during the Bronze Age. To us as Vancouverites familiar with Haida and Coast Salish art forms, the style of the Shu bronze masks looked very familiar. We wondered how styles travel through time and across oceans, and whether Bill Reid had seen the Shu masks before he began to carve yellow cedar, to cast bronze, or to work with silver.
We also went out with Dong and Mike again, and the food was superb. Please don’t think that we are existing on meager rations of rice; quite the opposite is true, as you can see!
This morning we went with others from the hostel to see Chengdu Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Research. The Pandas are fed in the morning, and we arrived in time to watch eighteen-month-old pandas munching bamboo, as well as six-month-old pandas receiving their bottled formula and vitamin supplements from hygienically gowned human “mothers.” There are only giant pandas left on the planet, so to leave the species to continue only by natural reproduction would be to doom them to certain extinction. The exhibits and film explained the species’ evolution and natural history, as well as the centre’s work.
We have a new route plan which will avoid currently closed areas. It will take us northeast to Guangyuan, and northwest toward Lanzhou in Gansu Province. From there, the most likely route will take us westward to Xinjiang passing north of the Qinlian Mountains. We’ve bought several new maps, and Mike has given us the name of a Uyghur travel agent in Kashgar.
We plan to leave Chengdu tomorrow morning, taking a bus at first to get beyond the busiest roads. We’ll need to get our visas renewed in about three weeks, and will get haircuts before then so we look less scruffy. Off we jolly well go again.