April 4 – 5, 2013
Distance: 50.5 miles Climbing: 4553.8 ft
I feel like a broken record lately, because the highlight of the day was climbing a huge hill, like every other day we’ve been riding in China. Yunnan is a tangle of intersecting ridge lines, so all the roads climb and dive, or just blast through the mountains with long scary tunnels.
The pavement was really good as usual and there wasn’t much traffic, so we had no complaints as we worked away at yet another long continuous climb. After a while we got to an area where the road was being totally realigned, so our GPS was way off. This was mildly frustrating because we didn’t know how much further we had to go. We had read someone else’s travel journal of this route and were expecting a teahouse at the top for a snack, but the road made a massive detour more than ten miles in the opposite direction of the old road. We were getting a little worried that we somehow ended up on the wrong road and headed who knows where. The road stopped climbing for a while as we went up and down little bumps while traversing below the ridge instead. We were quite hungry and annoyed that the road kept flirting with the summit of the pass to only have us descend again. The wind was picking up and we felt drops of rain hit us. We took out of raincoats and resolved to just power through the last section to get to the summit.
Two minutes later we rounded a bend into a deep road cut, the skies cleared and we saw a sign indicating that drivers should go slowly down the pass. We immediately pulled over for an Oreo victory snack. We kept our jackets on for the chilly descent and bombed down the hill. We were pleasantly surprised to find the new route was linking us back up with the old road and cut out several miles between us and the next city, Lincang.
We managed to get on the old highway for a while which was nice, cruising on a two lane road along a gentle stream tamed by a series of small dams with crops grown on the banks. Soon enough we were dumped back onto the major highway and descended the rest of the way to the city in the midst of the usual traffic chaos.
Lincang was like most of the major cities we have encountered in China. Not unpleasant, but not exciting either. There were lots of shops selling industrial things like pumps and tractor engines, hardware stores and the usual slew of western fashion stores. We ended up in the first hotel we stopped at, which had a nice lobby but very cold communist feeling room, narrow with white walls, spare furniture, huge ceilings and tall wrought metal window frames.
Chan went out for his daily noodle soup dinner and reported the town was creepy at night. Lots of people out, but no street lights in our neighborhood, a lit street in a busy city is one of those things that we take for granted. Milling around with lots of strangers in the dark is unsettling. He found a street stall lit by bare CFLs and had a ten minute pseudo conversation with a middle aged man that primarily consisted of different organizations of the words “nice”, “America”, “noodle soup” and “good”. The guy was friendly though and insisted on paying for Chan’s dinner.
For the past couple of days, we had been fantasizing about the food we would be eating in India and Europe. Chandler has been living on noodle soup and I have been eating mostly oatmeal and plain ramen. Mostly, our talk has been about Mexican food, especially the stuff we ate in the American southwest on our road-trip last fall. Chandler did a shot in the dark web search found a restaurant in town that actually served just that. Salvador’s is apparently a popular spot in Kunming which has a large ex-pat population, and for some reason they decided to open a branch in this town which seemed sort of odd as it doesn’t seem to be on the map for westerns (the whole city isn’t even mentioned in the Lonely Planet). The food was incredible though. Huge burritos with lots of cheese! We saw the first Caucasian person in the past week or so here, a girl from Chicago who is an English teacher in a rural village visiting Lincang while she had a few days off for the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.