Leaving a city behind is always a joy no matter how much I have enjoyed it. So it was with Kunming. When I enter a city it's hard to decide which road to follow and where to head for. At least when I am out in the country I just have to follow my nose and keep pedaling. An occasional road junction means at worst that I have to get my phone out and look at the map. Often the direction is signposted, although that doesn't necessarily mean that I can read them all. The road out of Kunming was a strange one as it started out as a wide tree lined avenue that turned into a two lane road and then into a track through a building site. No sooner had I left the city than I was on a road that was to all intents and purposes still under construction. After completing its network of new motorways China seems to be upgrading its other roads too.
The first days riding took me to Lefung which was another of those towns that are far larger on the ground than they are on the map. Just before I got there I came across the biggest traffic jam I have ever seen. Five roads full of lorries, buses and cars converging on the one single lane access road to the expressway (a one way street) with traffic coming the other way! Luckily it was just wide enough for vehicles to pass but what a nightmare. I only managed to get into the town of Lefung itself as the upper section of dirtroad that I was on was so bad that I decided to give the lower section of the road a try. It was just at that point that the roadways split. If I had continued on the upper section I would soon be across the other side of the river and would have had to turn back once I realised I had gone too far. Riding into town with two other cyclists out for an afternoons ride I was led to a hotel that provided the first room in China with internet access via a computer in my room. Or it would have if the internet had been working that day. It also provided me with my biggest meal to date. I was led to a chiller cabinet and asked to choose. Having fallen prey to this before I pointed to a few things and tried to motion that I wanted only a small dinner. Out came five dishes, soup and rice. The room cost me about £5.50, the meal £4.40. It's a good job that I was hungrier than I first realised.
That night it rained heavier than normal and I thought that I may have to stay an extra night if it continued, but come the morning all that was left of it was a few very large puddles. I immediately had to ask for directions as there were two roads both heading in the same direction. It turns out that this was a dual carriageway. It's easy to get confused though as the roads were on opposite sides of a river and for a short while on opposite sides of a mountain. 
The road was a beauty though. The surface was not good but it felt so nice in the valley looking across the river and up at the mountains that I had to keep stopping to take photos. I had set off later than usual that morning so by lunchtime I thought that I would have to put the camera away if I were to make my destination that day. Luckily for me the road began descending soon after and I reached the city of Chuxion in plenty of time to meet my host for the next two nights, Matthew, an American helping out at the university. Matthew very kindly showed me around a few places in the town as well as introducing me to some of his friends. We did the normal thing I expect young-ish Americans to do, hang out at a coffee shop, as well as teaching Matthew how to play Cribbage. They were convinced that it was an old mans game and should be played in a country pub sitting around the fire with half pint glasses. Funny that.
One of the areas we looked around was a modern outdoor shopping centre modeled on a minority tribal village where we found a grotto of sorts complete with plaster figures, pictures below.
On a more traditional note Chuxiong was the first city where I saw what I consider to be a real pagoda, complete with Buddhas on all seven floors, as well as a huge bell on the top floor which you can swing the suspended wooden hammer at if you pay an extra fee. It seems that everything here has a fee attached. They may not be large but they all add up. The area around the pagoda included a circular Chinese zodiac calendar, more Buddhas and prayer flag trees. It's a modern pagoda and grounds, laid out to great effect.
After two nights in Chuxiong it was time to move on again. A later start than normal. On the road I met a Chinese cyclist riding to Shangrila on a folding bike with what looked like 14 or 15 inch wheels and a massive rucksack on his back, which I swear weighed more than my bike and luggage together. And with only nine gears I'm surprised he wasn't pushing the bike more than the couple of times that he was forced to do by the gradient. Being unable to pronounce his Chinese name he told me his 'English' name, King Six, or Six to his friends. One good thing about meeting Six apart from having company on the road was the fact that he was able to order food for us both. Over the next couple of days I had some of the best dishes that I have had in China. Lunch for the Chinese is a large affair, normally with between three and five dishes together with rice and soup. Needless to say I was stuffed and barely able to ride up the mountain afterwards. We also picked up another Chinese cyclist for a few hours called Yow before he decided to stop for the day and find a camping spot. Six and I pushed on to the next town to find a hotel for the night, again a lot easier when you have someone who speaks the language.
One more day riding brought us to Dali new town where we decided to end our day early due to the rain. Not heavy but persistent enough to make us want to take shelter. Another hearty meal ordered by Six although I had to ask him to limit it to just three dishes and rice. Being a Muslim run restaurant we were lucky to have mutton on the menu instead of the usual pork, yum yum. Unfortunately I had been having a bit of a dodgy stomach the last few days and that night it came to a head, and a bottom. I spent most of the night in the bathroom and in the morning was so weak and dehydrated that Six insisted that I go to the hospital to see a doctor. Unsure of what time the doctors would be available he first went out to find a pharmacist and came back with four different medicines for upset stomach. Once we had chosen which one to take he called a taxi and took me to the hospital and translated everything to the doctor who decided to put me on four different drips for the next three hours or so. With me lying on the hospital bed, Six took up position in the bedside chair and oversaw my treatment, calling the nurse each time the drip bottle was nearing empty. And all of this while I caught up on the sleep that I had missed the night before. Once discharged it was another taxi ride back to the hotel where I once again took up my position in my bed. Lots of fluid and rest did the trick and the next morning I was back to normal, or as normal as I ever am.
Chinese hospitality knows few boundaries. Six paid for all of the medicines, hospital fees, taxis and even the food and water he brought me while in the hospital. Refusing all attempts to repay him or to even find out the cost I was able to get in first when we had dinner that evening by insisting on paying the bill before the food was served. The restaurant owner thought I was very strange, but it was the only way that I could pay Six back without him insisting that I was his guest and he pays the bill.
Just a short ride the next morning brought us to Dali old town, ancient but new, as it was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1999. More about that in the next post.
 





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