Days 219 to 227 Ya’an to Chengdu. Jiayugan and Urumqi

May 18th to 26th. 144km

Yet another post with not a lot of cycling! At Ya’an, we joined the G318, an epic road running for 5,476km from Shanghai, via Lhasa in Tibet to Zhangmu on the border with Nepal. If we’d turned left we would’ve been heading into the Himalayas over several huge passes into Tibet, a route which is more or less impossible for foreigners travelling independently. We turned right, which took us out of the mountains onto gently rolling terrain through a tea growing area into the outskirts of Chengdu. We passed more touring cyclists on this stretch than in the rest of our time in China combined. All were local Chinese, taking the very popular Chengdu to Lhasa route. Other than the fun of waving at other cyclists, the couple of days riding into Chengdu weren’t overly interesting. It was easy going, on wide quiet roads which became busier the closer we got to the city. Hence not many photos.

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Days 210 to 218 Emeishan to Ya’an

May 8th to 16th 172km

Just as we feared, the weather didn’t improve for us at Emeishan, so we canned the hiking for the time being and rode the 30km down into Leshan. The next order of business was to renew our visas, as we were getting close to the end of our first 30 days in the country. As with applying for a China visa, the experience of renewing one can vary greatly depending on where and when you attempt it. We’ve heard very varied storied of long waits and some major bureaucratic hurdles, but we’d also heard that the Leshan Public Secuity Bureau was friendly and a safe bet for a painless renewal. (The next couple of paragraphs will be boring to people not planning to extend their visas, but hopefully useful to anyone who is.)

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Days 200 – 208. Panzhihua to Emeishan

April 28th – May 6th. 585km

Panzhihua was a good place to spend a couple of days. It was a decent sized city with lots of restaurants and shops, and a large pedestrian area in its centre. As with most rest days, we spent a lot of time in our hotel room, doing very little other than relaxing, watching tv and doing some washing. We did venture out a bit to explore and, of course, to eat. One evening we sat outside a bar in the a central square when one of the bar workers who spoke good English came over to talk with us. His English name was David, and he told us loads about Panzhihua and its surroundings. It’s famous for fruit growing thanks to its warm climate, especially its cherries which are the best in China and in season at the moment. We’d been seeing a lot of fruit stalls beside the road, so for the next few days we made sure to regularly pick up bags of cherries which were indeed pretty damn good. The town is perched on a steep hillside next to the river with parallel roads linked by staircases up and down the slope. This made leaving by bike a little tricky. We worked our way down to the lowest road next to the river which turned out to be a six lane expressway. It got us out of town quickly, but it wasn’t the most relaxing riverside ride. After about 10km of fast pedalling and checking over our shoulders, we turned off onto a minor road running up a river which branched off the Yangtze.

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