21st March to 2nd April 2004
From Zhongdian we had two pleasant days riding to Qiaotou, the entrance to Tiger Leaping Gorge. There we met our friends Alistair Morris and Ingrid Marshall who had spent the last eight months riding much of the way from New Zealand on their tandem. You can read about their trip on www.geocities.com/aliingi/.
After a day in Qiaotou, poring over maps of everywhere from Mongolia to Singapore and swapping information on the route ahead, we rode into Tiger Leaping Gorge and spent a couple of nights in Sean's guesthouse.
From the guesthouse we did a walk down to the river along a precipitous path, and threw sticks into the rapids to see if they came out again. Apparently it is too difficult to kayak, something I can well believe.
We parted in the gorge, Alistair and Ingrid pedalled north to Zhongdian while we set off south to Lijiang. Ljiang is a highly touristed town but it has delightful alleyways and a colourful market. We happened upon a quiet hotel where we met an English speaking couple from Taiwan and a couple from Beijing. We ate together in the hotel one evening and to the amazement of the Chinese drank over a bottle of beer each!
Also in Lijiang, Ju bought herself a wide brimmed peasant hat and tied it to her bicycle helmet. Apparently it does nothing for air resistance but it is nice and shady.
Riding south from Lijiang we felt that we had finally arrived in the "real" China. The fields were full of grain, beans, rape and rice, the crops already well advanced by the end of March. Along the roadside we passed men making cement bricks and kilns producing bricks, pots and tiles.
50km north of Dali we stopped at a spa for the night and spent the afternoon relaxing in the hot mineral water swimming pool:
Unfortunately Mark then got the runs, so we spent another day there before struggling on to Dali to look for a pharmacy with some recognizable drugs. Coming into Dali we were lucky enough to meet another cycling couple, Debbie and Colin from Holland. Debbie is a doctor so she was able to tell us that the antibiotics we had bought in a pharmacy near the spa (for 10p!) were worthless, and suggest something better which soon did the trick.
Dali was a good place for a break, many people speak English, there is Western food and the guesthouses weren't too expensive.
We left our bikes there and went to Kunming for four days to get our visas for Laos and Thailand.
These are the "Three Pagodas" near Dali, the central one was built in the 12th Century.
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