What I think of when I think of China

Trying to summarize our 100 days in China (not including Hong Kong and Macau) is a tough challenge, but I will try my best.

Firstly when I think of China I think of the size of the country, it’s massive, we all know this, but once you start cycling through it, you realise how ginormous it really is. As we painfully saw what felt like minimal progress each day as we inched our way across the map, we started to wonder what had we let ourselves in for. In the end we covered a grand total of 5,265km (nearly half of our total cycling distance so far). As Andy mentioned before, if we had taken the G30, the longest road in China, from the port we arrived in to where we exited it would have been 4,243km but we had other plans. We wanted to avoid too much cold weather and in doing so we decided to do China in 3 parts. Each one very different and increasingly more fun and beautiful.

G30 from Lianyungang to Khorgas (not our route)

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Days 232 – 239 Urumqi to Khorgas

May 30th to June 6th. 662km

After four days of 5 star luxury in Urumqi, it was time we moved on. Fresh sheets, a soft bed and buffet breakfasts were great, but we were (ok, maybe I was) keen to get back on the bikes. We went out to explore a bit, had a wander around Hongshan Park and did some shopping to stock up on supplies for the next week on the road. A lot of good food was eaten too, some foreign, some local, and lots of kebabs with flat bread, washed down with cold beer.

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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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