Sunday, November 8, 2009

October 28-November 9: Zigong to Anshun

It's been almost two weeks since we last posted due to a combination of lack of internet in our hotel rooms and being really tired at the end of any night we did have internet, but we are back now (in a really nice hotel with internet this time!) so here we go with a summary of the last two weeks.
Over the last two weeks we worked our way from Zigong in Sichuan province to Anshun which is in Guizhou province (you can see a map of our route by clicking here). The route was quite hilly (we climbed over 3,000m one day) and had a number of sites we wanted to see along the way, both of which slowed us down and tired us out enough that we are coming down with a bit of a cold (hence the rest day today).
Rather than tell a story about this leg of our trip, I will let the pictures help do the talking.
As we started to leave Sichuan province and got into Guizhou province, it got noticeably poorer (Guizhou is one of China's poorest provinces according to our Lonely Planet). The photo below was taken in a small city we passed through. The entire city was a large garbage sorting operation. Each house had a large stack of various kind of sorted garbage in front of it: certain colors of glass, bottles of very specific sizes, bike tires, oil bottles, etc. As we rode through the city large trucks with unsorted garbage continued to come into the city. It was really quite amazing. I wanted to take more photos but I was too embarrassed to stand in front of a group sorting through the refuse and take a photo of them with my expensive camera.
This is a sight we have seen everywhere but is even more common in Guizhou. It is shocking to pass large groups of people working their crops entirely by hand, and 50km farther down the road be in a large city with a McDonalds and huge "Kappa" clothing stores (which is amazingly popular here). I am really appreciating the amazing veggies they sell here more after seeing how hard the farmers work to produce their crops.
The pollution in this part of our trip was quite bad. Although there are a number of large plants and factories that contribute to the problems, my guess (and I have no way to verify this) is that in this area many every day sources add alot as well: household waste is generally placed into a cement garbage can and burnt when it is full, most trucks have huge black clouds coming out of their tail pipes and often appear to have two stroke engines, and most households heat their homes and cook by burning coal directly. The thick pollution in the air left us wheezing and coughing by the end of each day and really makes us dream of cleaner air. Most of the photos we post here I actually clean up first in photoshop to remove the ever present haze.
In each city and along the road garbage is being burnt which gives off an unfortunate odor.
Jen's arm at the end of one day. You can see the outline of her watch caused by the grit and grime from a day on the road. Showers at the end of a day are no longer optional! 
Alright enough bitching about the air, now onto the fun stuff. The people as always were nice, helpful and super curious. This mom kept on trying to get her son to come close to us, but he was quite scared at the sight of us.
Jen asking a farmer on the road for directions. Since our GPS was stolen, we spend alot of time doing this.
These two little kids were helping their grandma by transporting leaves up the hill up to their house.
The first site we visited was a national park called the "Bamboo Sea" which is exactly as it sounds: a huge bamboo forest. That bamboo on either side of the waterfall.
Jen riding through the bamboo forest.
Mike posing atop the bamboo forest. The entrance fee to the park was about $15CDN each, which is quite expensive to see a bunch of bamboo, but regardless it was a nice area.
Another site we visited was the "Xingwen Stone Forest". The highlight of this site was a big cave.
The cave was lite by multi-colored flood lights which made it a little hokey, but still a nice excuse to get off the bikes for a bit.
Some scenery as we biked along the road.
In the cities there are often large groups of people in groups (generally in the town square) beating drums, dancing or doing other fun stuff. We have no idea why these guys were walking along the road one morning, dressed alike and beating drums, but thought it was worth a photo regardless. If you don't like this explanation feel free to make up something interesting that is more to your liking.
The ride was really hilly most of the time due to the karsts (I think they were karsts, but I am not sure?). Although this made the cycling slow, it was quite beautiful.
Farming, farming, everywhere.
A photo taken out of our hotel window in Zhijin of the karsts in the background.
The last tourist site we visited was the Zhijin Cave. This is the largest cave in China and the entrance fee included a two hour mandatory tour of which we could not understand a word. Because of this we do not know much about the cave other than that it was: 1) again lit with multi colored flood lights, 2) indeed quite big and pretty, and 3) included many stairs which our tired legs did not appreciate.
One of the many rock formations in the cave.  
A sign in the cave which I sympathized with.
There were signs throughout the cave which pointed out rocks which supposedly looked like dragons, butterflies, turtles, etc; none of which even remotely resembled the actual animal. While they always pointed out the most minor resemblance of any rock to an animal, however minute, they failed to point out much more obvious representations... (sorry for this one, but after a two hour tour in chinese you get kind of bored)
Another nice view of the karsts as we ride into Anshun.
You can see here how much farming land they have squeezed into the hills. There was often a farmer tilling the land with a large bull like animal and I have no idea how he managed to coax the animal up the steep cliff onto the narrow terrace.
So that's all for now. We are now about a week's ride from Kunming where we are going to rent an apartment for the month, take a break from the bikes and Jen's parents are visiting for a couple weeks. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

keep going! It's always nice to read your stories...