25 November 2011
We aim to get on the road early today, the plan being to get to Mekong Café in Jinghong in time for a late lunch. We roll out at 9:40am after throwing down some baozi, zhengjiao and doujiang.
Baozi are little round bready dumplings about 4-5cm across, usually filled with pork mince and onion. Ten of them, steamed in a long (stackable bamboo basket) typically cost 4 yuan, around 40 pence. Zhengjiao are steamed folded dumplings, with the same filling - think ravioli, but with no sauce. They're also 4 yuan. Both types of dumpling can be dipped into a small dish of sauce - the sauce blend is up to you, but typically contains vinegar, soy sauce and some sort of chilli. Doujiang is freshly ground soy bean milk. It's served warm, either in a large bowl or in a sealed takeaway cup. You can stir in sugar if you're a hungry cyclist who's trying to squeeze in as many calories as possible. Breakfast for two usually weighs in at a hefty 14 yuan, or £1:40.
As expected and desired, it does turn out to be an easier day. We start at around 1300m, and end just above 500m. We start out descending through jungle, occasionally getting views out over the valleys to find we are above the clouds. We're passing through a massive national park, as frequent signs and weird animal noises make abundantly clear. At one point the trees shake violently as some beast beats a retreat. Yunnan has some rare monkey breeds. We're also in Asian elephant territory, but they're far too sensible to come near the road.
After about 30km I hear a robust twang from my rear wheel. I've popped another spoke, right next to another broken one I've been riding on for a few days. I eyeball it and decide to press on, aiming to at least limp into Jinghong where my new wheel awaits.
We get sidetracked in Mengyang. A stop for a rest and a cold Coke somehow gets us off the G213 road and it takes us a few stabs to find the track that links us back. Signposts? Nah, why bother.
It's come out hot and the thought of my lunch getting delayed combined with low blood sugar has me coming unstuck. I pop a gel, and grind up an unexpected climb which takes us back up to around 900m. From there we practically fall into Jinghong - batting down a valley on good road which drops us right into the city. We cross the bridge over the Mekong, stopping to respectfully greet the Mother River once again. I'll be intersecting with it again in Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Savannakhet and Phnom Penh. In the Mekong delta in south Vietnam, I won't be so much intersecting with it as being surrounded by it.
Jinghong is small town China in the best sense - hot, laid back, leafy and very Southeast Asian in feel. People smile. We ride a couple of blocks into town and park up outside Mekong Café. Owner Greg grabs my new wheel and we get stuck into coffee, fruit juice and substantial western eats.
Finally, a day over 20km/h average! 81km, 20.6km/h, 3hr56min, 868km. Two rest days coming up before the push to the Laos border.