A rush to Leshan.

Lugu Lake, Xinchang, Leshan and Chengdu.

Half a rest day is never enough.  After such an epic ride, all we wanted to do was lie by the bank of the lake, dip our feet in the cool water and enjoy some time in the sun.  But Lugu had been a planned detour from the direct route to Leshan and as such we were already a few of days behind our planned schedule.  In Leshan a visa extension had to be obtained, and more importantly dad was coming to visit us again.  Yet stunning scenery and perfect weather has a way of capturing the heart and legs, so the continuation of our ride became a slow meander along the lake with a dip in the water to cool off.

Looking up the valley we cycled down.

Looking up the valley we cycled down.

Jude cycling the S307.

Jude cycling the S307.

Our favourite type of camping.

Our favourite type of camping.

By late afternoon we had reached our road (the S307) and we were very happy to discover that we had somehow passed the tollgate without paying the exorbitant fee.  Lugu Lake is at 2500m, so the next 42km was a gradual descent alongside a river, through a narrow valley with steep red rock walls.  Small matriarchal villages dotted the road, where the women held themselves with pride and grace wearing elaborate traditional dress and headwear the likes of which I have never seen.  Camp was pitched between these villages and we spent the evening relaxing in the warmth of the desert climate, a nice change from the frigid weather we had experienced for the last couple of weeks.

The locals checking out 'Martha'.

The local ladies checking out ‘Martha’.

Locals relax in the heat of the day.

Locals relax in the heat of the day.

These women initially thought Jude was a man (wearing a hat and sunglasses), they were very excited to find out she was a woman.

These women initially thought Jude was a man (wearing a hat and sunglasses), they were very excited to find out she was a woman.

The narrow valley we were cycling eventually opened into a basin where nectarine trees were fruiting and corn crops swayed in the wind.  We feasted on stone fruit and exchanged pleasantries with families enjoying the warm morning sunshine.  The downhill could not last forever and before long we were climbing again wondering how we were going to cover the remaining 500 kilometres in two days.  Part of the answer came late in the afternoon, two and a half hours into a long steady climb.  At some road works I had held up a truck and despite constantly honking at me they did stop around the next bend and offer us a ride to Xinchang.  How could we say no?  So the Green Fairy and the Dirty Salmon were lifted into the back of the truck and we spent the next five hours being taught random Chinese words and experiencing what it was like to navigate the narrow, steep, winding, poorly maintained roads in a large lorry.

The valley opened into an open basin.

The valley opened into an open basin.

After cycling downhill it was inevitable that we would climb again.

After cycling downhill it was inevitable that we would climb again.

Choosing which honey to buy on the way up a climb.

Choosing which honey to buy on the way up a climb.

Jude is excited about getting a lift in a lorry.

Jude is excited about getting a lift in a lorry.

Coming down the mountain towards Xinchang we were greeted by shining lights distilled by the orange glow of smog.  The industrial landscape and endless suburbs flashed by and just before midnight we stopped in the outskirts of Xinchang East.  The local English teacher was called upon to help us find a hotel, while our drivers ordered us a feast of food and beer to share together.  At 1am we fell into our beds thinking of nothing but sleep, the planning would have to wait until the morning.

Sharing a meal with our truck driving friends.

Sharing a meal with our truck driving friends.

The special 'giant baby' waiting area.

The special ‘giant baby’ waiting area.

Arriving in Leshan to find out we had 30km to cycle.

Arriving in Leshan to find out we had 30km to cycle.

The distance to Leshan was still too far to cover in a day, so we decided that we should try train travel in China.  The only train heading in our direction was a night train departing at 11:30pm, and there were only hard seats available.  It was going to be an experience.  We spent the rest of the day providing amusement to waiting passengers by doing bike maintenance and trying to figure out how we were to get our bikes on the train.  Being the giant babies that we are, the station master led us through to a special waiting area and then we were assisted by four guards to the platform early so that we could get on the train before the throngs of Chinese piled themselves into the carriages.  The journey was like being on a long haul flight, without seat dividers, the ability to recline or the inflight entertainment.  There was a man selling fried chicken at 4am and when we left the train before 7am we realised that Leshan station is actually 30kms from Leshan town.

Yes, I'm eating Nutella with a spoon in bed.

Yes, I’m eating Nutella with a spoon in bed.

Dad and I at the base of a pagoda.

Dad and I at the base of a pagoda.

The Big Buddha at 71m tall.

The Big Buddha at 71m tall.

The steps to the base of the Big Buddha, with Leshan town in the background.

The steps to the base of the Big Buddha, with Leshan town in the background.

Fisherman on the Minjiang River.

Fisherman on the Minjiang River.

Hot dumpling soup made everything better and after that the pedal into Leshan was enjoyably quick and easy.  We located our hotel (Home Inn) and almost fell off the bikes when we were quoted the price.  It had to be paid as we needed to be properly registered to receive our visa extension and we had organised to meet dad at this hotel.  Fortunately we were able to check in on the spot and enjoyed a nana nap before our trip to the PBS office to put in our visa extension paperwork.  Despite knowing that getting an extension is possible, going through the process was nerve wracking as Chinese rules change at a drop of a hat.  Getting the extension proved easier than anticipated, and it would be available for pick up in two days time.  We celebrated with cups of tea and biscuits, and spent the afternoon relaxing in our hotel room in our underwear.

One of the best signs we have seen in China.

One of the best signs we have seen in China.

Don't joke the monkey, okay?

Don’t joke the monkey, okay?

DSC_0099

Dad and I hiking up Emmei Shan.

DSC_0152

Jude at the base of the next uphill climb.

DSC_0176

On the first day of hiking there was fog all day.

DSC_0130

One of the monasteries along the hike.

After an epic 24 hours of travelling dad finally arrived.  As usual it was brilliant to see him again and I couldn’t stop hugging him.  We indulged in some late night snacks and beer before heading to bed for some much needed recovery sleep.  In the morning it was present time and as you guessed it – CHEESE!!!!  You will all remember the epic cycling adventure that we took dad on last time he visited us in Thailand.  Not knowing the Chinese terrain he opted out of the cycling this time and instead we organised a week of fun filled adventures.  We visited the Big Buddha sitting at 71 metres tall, carved into the cliff face in Leshan; we hiked 21km up Mt. Emmei Shan, spent the night in a monastery and then hiked back down again (I think dad may think we are trying to kill him every time he visits us); we explored Chengdu; visited the pandas; spent afternoons drinking tea at different tea houses; saw the Sichuan Opera and experienced every culinary delight that was available to us.  It was a wonderful week and it passed way too quickly.  Thanks dad for another amazing time together and we can’t wait until you meet us in Uzbekistan.

Jude in front of the Panda Conservation Reserve.

Jude in front of the Panda Conservation Reserve.

Two cuties.

Two cuties.

A bamboo feast.

A bamboo feast.

Patting a red panda.

Patting a red panda.

And that my friends is all from me for now.  Needless to say there was a day of moping in our underwear after dad left.  But the Tibetan Grasslands were calling and Jude will cover that leg of the journey in our next blog.

 

All my love as always,

Astrid.

Dad enjoying the wonders of Sichuan hot pot.

Dad enjoying the wonders of Sichuan hot pot.

Tea drinkers heaven.

Tea drinkers heaven.

Best beers in months! Yes it's an IPA.

Best beers in months! Yes it’s an IPA.

Sharing a cuppa.

Sharing a cuppa.

3 thoughts on “A rush to Leshan.

  1. Just read your blog Astrid and it still feels like we’re travelling with you everywhere because of the very descriptive way that you both write and all the amazing photos. How in the world will be ever be able to settle down to a normal life after such an epic adventure? Maybe you won’t. Maybe there are many more adventure to be had after this one. Great to hear that all is going well. Love to you both from Vita and Gavin xx

  2. Hi Astrid and Jude what a wonderful time you are having in China I love the photos I feel like I want to be there on the same journey, thank you for sharing this amazing adventure.All good wishes from Gwen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s