Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dali - Shaxi - Lijiang. Confucius says: “And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

Louis had given me a tip off to detour via the small village of Shaxi on my way to Lijiang. It was a market town used as a trading point for tea and horses during the Tang dynasty, and is one of the most well-preserved towns on the tea-horse road. The town was a little off the beaten track from Dali, and I spent most of the trip on steep, pot-holed, dirt and gravel tracks. I had left my camping gear behind in Dali, but there were many instances during the climb where I would have preferred to call it a night and lay down in the wilderness. I contemplated just laying in the bush in all my clothes for the night, but I eventually reached the summit and descended into Shaxi in darkness. I stayed at Horsepen 46, run by a friend of the Dali house. I wandered through the market square the next day and admired the cosy little village, but moved on quite quickly in the direction of Lijiang.

The rough dirt track leading me uphill to Shaxi

Looking down onto Haixihai Reservoir during the climb towards Shaxi
Contemplating the descent towards Shaxi after sunset
The cobblestone streets of Shaxi at night

I thought the second leg of this route would be easier, but it provided a second day of climbing. I weaved up a mountain side littered with rubbish along the side of the road and the occasional truck passing by. Yet again, I'd left it late to finish the climb, and didn't reach the top until sunset. This meant another descent in darkness. I enjoyed riding in the dark but it also meant missing out on all the spectacular views I'd been working for on the ascent. Some kilometres down the track I was confronted with felled trees and a closed road. Some chinese people in a van signalled for me to make a detour through the woods, so I made my way through a dusty track and eventually found my way back to a paved road. Yet again I was prepared to lay down in the woods and get some sleep, but I made it out alive and cycled all the way to Lijiang old town. I was looking for a cheap hostel, but couldn't find it, so settled for another one...which turned out to be the one I was looking for but had changed its name. 

The sunset before reaching Lijiang
Reaching the summit of another climb
Lijiang is at 2400m elevation (higher than Australia's highest peak), and I became quite sick once I arrived there, so I spent a few days recovering, and just wandered about the old town. I met Olivia from South Africa and Harm from Holland and we drank and dined together. It seems the hostel owners wanted to concentrate all the foreigners into one room in the hostel. They both headed off to Tiger Leaping Gorge, and I intended to head there by bike as well, but my body wouldn't allow it.

Old Lijiang Town

I got news from home while in Lijiang and had to return to Australia to be with my family, so my trip essentially ended in Lijiang. I made a quick return to Australia via Dali to pick up my things and say goodbye to my family in the Dali house and then to Kunming to pack my bike in Hui's bike shop before boarding a plane and landing in Kuala Lumpur, spending 17 hours and having a nice sleep overnight in the airport, then reaching Australia's shores after too many days in transit. I was glad to return to the many comforts of home. I'd ridden around 1700 km during one month in Hong Kong and China, now it's time to think about my next destination upon return from Australia.

Looking out from Lijiang train station
Jade Snow Dragon Mountain in the background
The new highway construction coming into Dali by train
Back in Dali admiring the view
View from my rooftop room in Dali
Just some of the services provided by train stations
My bed for the night in the newly constructed KLIA2. I was told I couldn't sleep there when I woke up at 8.30 the next morning. Too bad I had already spent the night there.

China day 18: Dali to Shaxi
Distance: 113.6 km
Average speed: 13.9 km/hr
Max speed: 45.4 km/hr
Total ascent: 1348 m
Total descent: 1288 m

China Day 19: Shaxi to Lijiang
Distance: 100.2 km
Average speed: 13.3 km/hr
Max speed: 51.3 km/hr
Total ascent: 1519 m
Total descent: 1217 m

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