Guizhou

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Some days nothing out of the ordinary happens and other days it’s just one thing after another! Yesterday’s antics saw us hanging out with monkeys when we took a wrong turn, encountering a dog delivering a basket containing a brick and ended up partying on the baijiu and 2.5% pijiu at Chinese Karaoke and sleeping in a half built house!

We entered Guizhou after a lovely downhill stretch. Everyone has been telling us that Guizhou is the hilliest province in China and we can definitely vouch for that!

We are now cycling along the Jiang river and heading towards Guilin. We’ve had a few mechanicals this week… Beth’s rim popping, Beth’s chain snapping, Julia’s gear cable tube disintegrating… Luckily for us we met Xiao Gu on the road today, just as we established we had yet another mechanical – good timing! He persuaded us to stay in a hotel, his treat, so he could fix it! To top it all off, this morning Beth established why she had been going so slowly for the past week (Julia would speed off ahead and tease her for becoming fat) both brakes were rubbing, the wheels wouldn’t even spin freely… Doh! 9 months and we are no better at bike mechanics, talk about incompetency. Now that Beth is back up to speed, we are fired up for the last push – only ten 100km days!

Pigs in toilets

The toilet Julia fell down

This is the toilet Julia had the misfortune to submerge her left leg in much to the amusement of her two witnesses, Beth and a giant pig. Luckily the wall was there for her to catch!

Julia was very glad Beth was there so she could go and get some waterproof trousers out for her, very embarrassing when staying with a family you’ve only just met! In saying that had Beth not been there maybe Julia wouldn’t have tried to jump and spin in mid air after realising she was facing the wrong way!

It’s become completely normal to find pigs in the toilet…

Life in Tibet

Tibetan Family

We are descending down from the mountains towards Chengdu. We will be under 1000m altitude for the first time in over 3 months! The hospitality we have received from the Tibetan people in Qinghai and Gansu provinces has been a breath of fresh air. We’ve enjoyed the delights of stoves fuelled by livestock dung, homemade noodles, tsampa!, playing with children, learning Tibetan and getting wrapped up in huge traditional Tibetan dressing gowns to keep us warm at night. We’ve even had a proper bed for three nights in a row!

Aside from eating lots of fried yak meat and homemade flat noodles we’ve also been eating lots of tsampa. This is a mix of barley flour, hot water, a dollop of yak butter and sugar. Beth reckons it’s the best thing since sliced bread (she dramatically claimed one morning), whilst Julia reckons it’s ‘clogging her up’. The greatest thing about this is that you have to mix it up into a ball with your hands and the local Tibetans find it hilarious watching us throw flour all over ourselves as we try to do it like they do.

Tsampa

The children love building sledges to race down the frozen rivers on. We’ve been so lucky with the weather up here, apparently a month ago they were completely snowed under!

Getting out of Kashgar

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We have a story and a half about getting out of Kashgar!

A combination of poor map reading skills and overwhelmingness of people, traffic and roads led us to circumnavigate Kashgar by 180 degrees via its outer ring road – alarm bells started ringing when we saw signs saying “Kashgar City Centre, this way –>”

We turned back and with the light slowly fading we came off the main road and started asking people if we could camp in their courtyards. After our third rejection we asked a group of men standing on the roadside and one of them led us to a community centre building with a large courtyard in the centre. Much to our relief we weren’t to be subjected to the cold and were brought up to a small office with a bed. We were settled and thought we were in safe hands, would have a good sleep and be able to finally get out of the city early in the morning, until someone decided to tell the Police…

The Policeman did the usual ‘stare at our passports and pretend he understood what it said’. He seemed not to have a problem with us being there.

Half an hour later whilst we were eating some food in the restaurant across the road – he handed Julia his phone. Having previously encountered the most senior english speaking Policeman earlier in the week when Beth got her phone pickpocketed, we were not surprised to receive an earful down the line. “It is not safe outside” he said, “But, we are not outside” she replied. “You have to go back to your hotel”….”But it’s not safe outside”.

Anyway Julia hung up as he was just ranting on and not going to be persuaded. We thought we’d be able to explain to the other Policeman (it was almost 11pm by this point) but he, as all Police in China (so far!) seemed not to see reason, and escorted us out of the community centre and drove alongside until we reached the lit main road heading towards the city centre. There he said we could go ourselves to the hotel.

Well there was no way we were going 5km into the city just to stay in a hotel! We rounded a bend out of sight of his car that was sat watching us and ducked into the dark parallel side road, obscured from the main road by a line of trees. We doubled back on ourselves and asked a couple who were chatting outside their house if we could sleep anywhere. Finally! Someone understands that foreigners don’t need 5 star treatment, just a small room, piled to the ceiling with cardboard boxes, cold but dry, will do!