We are there. We finally made it. the moment I was longing for so long, the last pass lies behind us and with it the last part of our tour in front of us.
From here it is only 2080km to Shanghai. Compared With all the other “difficult” landscapes we have been through, this part is also one of the most easy to ride. Warm climate, flat landscape, a lot of food and water everywhere. We can easyly make up to 160 km a day. In fact, the night we came to Chengdu we broke our all time record:
235km in one day.
Yiha. I must admit it was not a joyride, bit somehow it was a very satisfying feeling. It showed me how much training the tour brought with it, how far I can push my body, what is possible if it has to be.
But why did it have to be.
Again, it is our visas. Due to a public Holliday in china, we have to extend 10 days earlier. This means hurrying and sprinting. We had Kind of a deadline, 25th we needed to apply for it latest, otherwise china could deny it.
Anyway, back to a chronological description of my everyday-life on the bike.
The morning I woke up after the horror-foggy-night I felt tired, tired from bad sleep, tired from the cold, tired of cycling, tired of the tour. Luckily an 80 km descend lay right at our feet and cycling was possible without much of an effort. In opposite to the Chinese cyclists that came swarming up the mountain like crabs at low tide, we just had to sit and roll. The only muscles I really needed were the ones in my hand. “Braking can be so exhausting”, Paul said to me, grinning at the sweating Chinese cyclists of whom, although their bikes were carbon and unpacked, most pushed their bikes up the hill. I must say, I felt proud knowing, that I had cycled steeper passes with a much more heavy loaded bike without pushing it once. :0)
The landscape began changing rapidly.
The autumn like and low vegetation disappeared and deep green forests started covering the mountains. Eucalyptus trees, bamboo and cornfields along the street made the air smell more intense. The snowy, clean cold air of the mountains was no longer filling our lungs.
As always, the wind was against us blowing up the valley. Sometimes we had to trample even harder than our Chinese opponents, which came cycling uphill.
This is actually allways a funny situation.
On the one hand, I feel pity for them having to cycle up the mountain, on the other respect. When I myself cycle uphill I fell jealousy seeing them speeding down, but also know, that I still have the pleasure lying ahead of me and they will soon be in my situation again.
In the end I guess, all of us cyclists know that it is an even game. And that connects the one going up with the one going down in a very intense way. Thumbs go up in the air, “Yiha’s” are shouted down the valley. There is something like an invisible rope which is tight to both, the ascending and the descending. This is redirected at the top of the mountain so that the one climbing up is pulled by the one going down, on a psychological way.
We reached a very low point in the evening, the place we camped at was at the foot of the very last pass but only 1300 meters high.
After having passed uncountable numbers of small tunnels, which every time, no matter how long or dark, give me a very insecure feeling, we found a place to sleep on the old decaying street right next to the new one with perfect view over the valley.
I prepared everything for a hopefully refreshing night while Paul wrote his blogpost. It was the first time in quite a while that the little beasts, which I really didn’t miss, came creeping out of the bushes with nightfall. Mosquitos, sandflies an other unpleasant guests let the otherwise calm evening become a battlefield. Luckily we had some anti-insect-stuff left and I was, against al logic, glad that I had carried the little glass bottle with me over innumerable passes.
We began the day with a Sunday-breakfast. Eggs, bread with yak-butter, peanut butter and honey, an apple, a carrot and a can of milk. In the half year we have been traveling now we have somehow learned to make the best out of the available and our shopping lists got more and more outdoor-professional. Although it takes a long time to adjust this list every time we come to another country, we now, that we are in china for 3 month, have quite an optimized daily food-plan. Our bike bags could be compared to a light weight but extensive kitchen. Pepper, curry, salt, bouillon, garlic, oil, and butter are a fix part of our daily “gourmet-sessions”.
The last pass.
I feared it at first but feeling the thick air with lots of oxygen and in a perfect temperature, streaming in my lungs, I soon began loving the ascend. Then a nice surprise made the day even better. We could spare us the last 500 heightmeters of the pass for there was a tunnel through the mountain. In fact, the old street over the mountain was not recommended to us for it was partly overgrown and partly destroyed by mudslides, only hikers could still walk it.
Strange feelings mixed un my head. I was glad about the tunnel on the one hand, on the other I now missed the last Himalayan pass, the last opportunity to say goodby to the beautiful mountains.
Instead a more than 5 km long descending tunnel catapulted us into the rainforest like the barrel of a gun.
Temperatures on the other side where double and humidity so thick that it reminded me of a Turkish sauna.
Birds and other unknown animals suddenly created a sound -wall that, compare to the quiet mountains was like having entered a lunatic asylum.
The view was overwhelming. Mountains completely covered with trees that again were covered in moss. Long lianas hanging from the oldest and tallest trees, reminding me of the movie Tarzan. Here and there white pillows of fog hung in the trees, about do be lifted by the warmth of the sun and begin their everlasting circuit again, rain down, evaporate, rain down.
I feel high. Maybe it is the unusual amount of oxygen in my blood, maybe it is the knowledge that now nothing lies in between me an shanghai any more. If I could see that far, no mountain would be in my way. My imaginations are able as never before, to reach out and touch our final destination., over the fog, the Yanktze kiang, over rice-fields and highways.
Shanghai, we are coming.
This day we didn’t get much further. We hung up the Tibetan flags of the auction at a beautiful little valley in jungle. Then we build up our tent next to a banana tree on which, as we found out the next morning, a dozens of spiders big as a hand had gathered to feast on a swarm of grasshoppers which obviously had chosen the wrong plant to feast on.
It rained the whole night. A very uncomfortable rain. It is so thin and light that it seems to even rain inside the tent. No wall, no plastic sheet could keep the humidity outside and so, in the morning, when it was still raining, we got up at 6 o clock, pulled on our wet clothes, got into our muddy shoes, ate some soft wet bread and decided that this is not a place where we want to be for longer. The jungle might look fantastic but it feels creepy and wet. Huge Mosquitos, big as a horsefly, let us flee the place before eight o’clock.
The decision was made. We would cycle all the way to chengdu in on day, out of the jungle, into the heat of ” lowland-china”.
The streets were bad at first, so bad that we feared to have overestimated our power. But luckily, after covering ourselves with mud on the worse street of the trip, we made it out of the rain, slipped through narrow valleys with lianas hanging down from overhang rock walls, passed waterfalls under which palm trees showered in fine spray-like rain, crossed mossed bridges and left the forrest, which surely has gotten the rightful name.
The sun came shining through the foggy layer at the feet of the mountains an dried our clothes. Soon it was so hot that our t-shirts were pulled out of the most remote corners of our bags, sunscreen on our arms and legs revived the summer in my nose once more.
The day was to become a long and hard one, as expected. Soon the night fell over the country and the monotone moves on my bike got me into a hypnotic rhythm, the only way to make that much kilometers on one day, I guess. We decided to take a highway to chengdu, the shortest way, but soon the police stopped us and send us back to the small road we had come from. chocolate, energy drinks and fruits kept us awake until we reached the biggest city on oh tour since Moskau. skyscrapers and light-advertisements on every corner showed me that now we have arrived in the china I know from movies.
The hostel we had made a reservation at turned out to be a a paradise.
We got the ” Tibetan -room” in the garden, it couldn’t be more perfect.
Although we arrived late we still did our laundry and went a to sleep at 03:00.
I can feel out destination coming closer, day by day. Shanghai is not just a name any more.
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