9th - 21st April 2004
After our first day of riding south from Dali we stopped in an area where horses and carts were still in widespread use. It was market day in one of the villages we passed through and the road was busy with carts taking entire familes to the market, or transporting sacks of produce.
A little further south and the water buffalo had replaced the horse. They weren't used for hauling carts but they were a common sight pulling a plough.
They seem to be very placid beasts, strong but slow, and of course they love to wallow:
In the town of Zhenyuan we were befriended by the local English teacher, Luo Hao, who took us to see his school and introduced some of his students to us. We had a day off there and spent part of the afternoon speaking English with him and his students, and had dinner with him.
From there we pedalled eastwards through a hilly region called Ailao Shan which is famous for its rice terraces. It was beautiful, and as well as terracing there were areas of forest where we saw monkeys, birds and insects.
Descending the far side we came upon a queue of vehicles and found the road blocked by a landslide. Some peasants with a tractor were carting off the smaller blocks but there was no sign of anything being done about the big ones. Undetered, we unloaded our bikes and carried them and the bags over, then simply carried on. We descended in the valley of the Yuan Jiang river, known further downstream as the Red River. It was easy to see how it got it's name:
Two days later we had to climb back out of the valley, this time the road soon turned to dirt and we had to bump our way for 70km over a 1900m pass. At least it was cooler up there and we saw more beautifully terraced fields.
Bouncing down the other side towards the town of Mojiang we came parallel to an almost deserted expressway. Dirt tracks for peasants and cyclists while those that pay glide smoothly alongside, could this be a new meaning for the phrase "capitalist roader" ? ("capitalist roader" was a label applied to Communist officals that had fallen from favour during the Cultural Revolution).
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