Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 10-14 - Dujiangyan to Luding

So after being prevented from going further by a landslide just before Wolong, we settled on a new route and got back on our bikes. We have now cycled four days and are in Luding, a small town about 50km west of Kanding...which is yet another small town (significant land marks are sometimes hard to come by!).
For the last four days we cycled through lush agricultural lands before entering the mountains resulting in a nice mix of scenery. After tomorrow we leave behind the relatively flat lands behind (we have been between 1000m and 2000m with about 1000m of total climbing a day) and enter the real mountains (where we will get as high as 4800m/16,000ft) so I thought this would be a good time post a few photos. No real story to tell, just a bunch of photos with my random here we go!
The first day or so of this leg was through a lush agricultural area and the Chinese do not mess around when it comes to farming. They cram it in EVERYWHERE. I tried to capture in the two photos below just how much they grow in a given area...there are crops on hillsides, mountainsides, ditches, sidewalks, in the middle of the road and on their roofs. This is likely a major factor in the amazing and cheap food here (more on that later).
Yes that is a garden in the median of a busy highway!
We have been very surprised so far at how much wealth there seems to be in all of the cities we have passed through. I always knew the major cities in China were quite rich, but did not expect so many of the more minor cities feel so modern and wealthy.
This is a farmer bringing some of his crop across the river to the road. There were lots of foot bridges over this river in the mountains that I would not have enjoyed walking over and was happy to stay on the main road.
Foreign manufacturers are always complaining on the news about the Chinese policy of keeping the Yuan weak. I have no idea if the complaint is valid, but this practice is treating us very well right now. Here are some examples of our daily expenses:
Hotel room (nice room with TV and internet connection in room, see picture below) - 100 Yuan/$15CDN
Large and delicious meal - 6-20 Yuan/$1-$3CDN per person  
One hour massage - 20 Yuan/$3CDN per person (a nice treat after a day on the bike)
The last two days we have been following this river making for spectacular scenery.
Although the sights have been mostly amazing, a few such as this one were kind of worrying. In a few places falling rocks had clearly broken through the side rail guard.
Every day we have passed through at least a few tunnels through the mountains, yet another example of the amazing infrastructure in China. As a fellow cyclist mentioned to us in an email "the chinese really know how to make roads that allow you to focus on your audio book". The one down side to the tunnels is that they are often un-lit, and although we are well equipped with lights it can still get quite lonely in there (the one in this picture was 4km long).
We ended off today by walking a chain link bridge built in 1701. The bridge is most famous as it was the site of a major conflict during the Long March ( but what we found more interesting was the manner in which they did quality control during its constructing. Each link has the name of the blacksmith that created it imprinted directly on it (as shown below) so that if any link were to break, it could be traced back to the person that made it. I have no idea how they punished people in 1701, but I would guess that it would have been bad enough to force everyone to work carefully.
(P.S. Thanks to our friend Zhang Lequn, the construction management professor from Chengdu, for that anecdote!  It was not to be found in our guidebooks...)
So that's all for now. As we often have internet in our rooms now we have been downloading the most recent episodes of "The Office" and I can't contain my curiosity about Pam and Jim any longer!

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