Few weeks in South West China

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Brice, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    In July 2009, my Family and I will leave China after 4 years. There are so many countries and places to visit and live in that we have few chances to come back before long.

    This November, I took the opportunity to do a solo ride in some areas that I enjoyed during past trips with my 4WD. The journey is the destination, I visited very few touristic places, just wanted to ride and experience South West China, its landscapes and its people in an another way and different season than in a cage.

    The trip lasted one month, 6500km and crossed 5 provinces anti clockwise in South West and South China (GuangDong, GuangXi, GuiZhou, Sichuan and Yunnan). I have no precise itinerary to follow, the idea is to reach Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province then to head west on the Tibet-QingHai plateau then to go back by Yunnan. I'll try to avoid most of the big cities.

    To see the interactive Google map:
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&ll=26.115986,108.215332&spn=13.471198,27.905273&z=6&msid=117259849508788517697.00045d804b481987f42cd

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    The bike is a QingQi QM 200 GY, a Chinese production that uses a copycat Suzuki DR200 engine. This is one of the best and most reliable dirt bike made locally. 200cc could seem small for western riders but considering the roads here it was good enough most of the time for me and my 30kg bag.

    Check this thread to know more about the QingQi range.

    [FONT=Comic Sans MS, cursive]This specific bike was owned first by CrazyCarl then ChinaV, two fellow members of this forum. When I bought it, it was better than a new one, ChinaV has reviewed and upgraded whatever might failed based on his experience during a previous trip in Yunnan and Sichuan with Carl. Being a local production, this bike shares many parts with the armada of 125/150cc basic Chinese bikes available everywhere plus Suzuki (HaoJue in China) has a huge network of resellers/mechanics so finding common parts should not be a big issue.

    Here the bike when I bought it from ChinaV.
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    The objective of the first day was to leave as quick as possible GuangDong Province or at least the Pearl River Delta which is a crowded and industrial area.
    First stop, 80 km from the departure, I took a small ferry to cross one of the numerous rivers of the delta. Highways being forbidden to motorbikes I couldn't use the huge bridge behind the two folks.
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    For the locals to see this kind of bike and a foreigner is always an event, they are curious about the price, where I'm going and where I come from.
    My Chinese being very limited, the conversation turns short often after few sentences. Ting Bu Dong (he doesn't understand), is always the last thing I hear...:huh
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    Cost of passage is less than $US1.
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    Lot of traffic on the Delta. Rivers are used to carry goods and raw materials between factories and cargo ships.
    Like on the road, size matters here, the bigger has always priority.
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    Another bridge just before Wuzhou my first stop at the end of the day. The water is clear which is a big change from the Delta, one of the most polluted regions of China. Wuzhou is less than 300km from my hometown, on good tarmac/cement roads my average speed is around 60/70 km/h. It seems slow compare to Western countries but roads here are full of hazards so being cautious is the best way to stay safe (more to come on this subject later).
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    For this trip, I have a big bag which weight less than 30kg plus a small tank bag for papers, maps and electronic devices (GPS, camera, phone). The 200cc engine will carry me (100kg) and the bags for the coming month unabated, only the clutch then suspensions will suffer later on dirt roads. On the opposite side of the exhaust, you can see a black cylinder, this is the toolbox made of a sewer tube. No plate on the bike, it is legally registered and insured but the plate was lost during a previous trip, Police never mind of this.
    The side stand is a little bit short specially when the bike is loaded with the bag. I have to check that the road is flat.
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    More to come, stay tune...

    [/FONT]
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    60,271
    :thumb
    :lurk
    #2
  3. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z Long timer

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    Location:
    Denver, more or less.
    Very nice pics. Bigger font please. :)

    Jamie
    #3
  4. bigdamo

    bigdamo Been here awhile

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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Tasmania,Australia
    Sounds great.

    Waiting to see more.

    Thanks Brice
    #4
  5. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Location:
    Jennings, Louisiana
    Very Neat. Bring it on. As Jamie said, " Bigger letters". Please!
    #5
  6. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Tampa, Flatistan
    I am REALLY looking forward to the rest of this one!

    And yes, bigger font for us old farts please...

    "subscribed"

    Well. Middle-aged maybe. Not ready for "old" yet.
    #6
  7. VampyreMP

    VampyreMP Frustrated Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
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    153
    Location:
    Traverse City, MI
    This is looking like it will be a great RR. You mentioned that bikes are forbidden on highways. Tell us about that, please. :huh
    #7
  8. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    Oops, under Linux it was fine. Should be ok now.
    #8
  9. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    Highways are forbidden to light vehicles in all provinces but one or two. I can understand the reasoning if they want to avoid the taxi guy with his 125cc loaded with 2 or 3 passengers at 30km/h.
    #9
  10. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    Based on your profile, you are only 2 years older than me.
    #10
  11. Smackit

    Smackit Life Is Good

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2007
    Oddometer:
    406
    Location:
    Reno, Nevada & Guangdong China
    Brice,

    Forgot to send this picture to you, so I figured I throw it into your report. This was the morning you picked up the bike, just look at that devilish grin.

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    Keep it coming, the story is great so far and I know it's just going to get better and better. :lurk

    Cheers!
    ChinaV
    #11
  12. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    You caught me fully ATGATT Chinese style here, I got an helmet and shoes for once:D

    I'll publish few pics and comments every 2 or 3 days, I have to work a little too...
    #12
  13. LUNLUNZAI

    LUNLUNZAI n00b

    Joined:
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    4
    Was it taken in Dongguan?
    #13
  14. V@lentino

    V@lentino Inspektor

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    Vankouver
    I am in for the ride:clap
    #14
  15. bigdamo

    bigdamo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 31, 2008
    Oddometer:
    163
    Location:
    Tasmania,Australia
    I am waiting on the story of " Police hold motorbike until hospital fees paid"

    According to your google inter active map.:lurk

    I presume your OK because your back.

    I hope
    #15
  16. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    Yes
    #16
  17. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    You are few days ahead. I still have to ride up to the place...:D
    #17
  18. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    Wuzhou in a foggy morning. For those who have seen Charley Boorman's By Any Means, this is the place he should have landed when he took a river boat from GuangZhou.
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    But the boat was too slow for the TV show...
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    In all cities, you have 2 kind of taxi. The classical sedan car like the green one and some local variant like tricycle, rickshaw with or without engine, motorbike... Here this a hack added to a 125cc.
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    Motorbike ads are everywhere. For the vast majority of the Chinese people in rural areas, a bike which costs around $300 is the only vehicle they can afford. Average monthly salary is around $120.
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    Back to the trip and after the morning fog, it was heavy rain the whole day on dirty roads, so not pics this day to save my camera from dying. I arrived in Liuzhou wet to the bones and cover with mud.

    The hotel's staff looked at me strangely and I was not sure they were ready to give me a warm welcome. I was trailing a brown line of mud like a giant snail. They certainly give up the idea of declining a room after realizing that I didn't understand what they said and I will wait in their lobby indefinitely for a room.

    My gears proved to be pathetically inefficient against the rain. In fact, most of my equipment is a shame, I'm a cheap rider and when the elements are against me I have to payback.
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    After a hot shower, I feel better and start to shot again. First, the city from my hotel room. Liuzhou, is a mid size city in north Guangxi province, it was my first stop there and I found the place nice and clean.
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    My hotel occupies half of a church building!
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    It was late when I go for dinner so I have this nice restaurant for me alone. They serve a mix of Chinese/Japanese/Western food. I went for a Chinese dish less than $5.
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    It was my last pic with this camera. The day after, the memory card failed. This is an old digital camera (Olympus Camedia) so is the memory so I was unable to find this specific model. After few research on the web, I went to a local chain store (Best Buy alike) and pick up the new Canon Powershot SX110, my initial choice, the Panasonic Lumix TZ15 (TZ5) being not available.

    In this kind of shop, you have to pay first at a cashier counter, they give you a ticket then they go to their back shop to pick up your box. I wanted to see the sealed box first before paying. This is an elementary precaution here if you want to avoid to end up with the demo camera. Again, my pitiful Chinese was an issue. By chance, a couple, waiting their turn, start talking to me in English. They helped me the whole process and I got my brand new camera. We start chatting and they told me they were both English teachers in a local high school. To thank them, I invited them for a dinner, they declined and instead proposed me to join them for a birthday party! Well why not this will be my first Chinese birthday party. :clap

    First pic with the new camera, still in the shop.
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    It was the birthday of the man, Lance, and a young girl, daughter of one of their colleagues. I asked to stop by a toy shop to buy a gift for the girl and some drinks for the party.

    I don't know what I eat but it was very good home made food.
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    After the meal, the cake and since everybody speaks English, Happy Birthday...
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    Lance was decided to bring me back to my hotel on his e-bike, until he discovered that some guy tried to steal it and broke the lock.
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    So we loaded the bike on a van to bring it back to his home.
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    Next day, back to the road. It was still raining a little bit, I stopped on this bridge to shot around.
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    Their last trip...
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    Fishermen
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    New industrial China
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    Next stop was Guilin, one of the most famous touristic places in China, known for its amazing karts mountains.
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    Short trip on a taxi bike in the evening.
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    To be continued...
    #18
  19. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    This morning, I'm leaving Guilin and GuangXi province and I'm heading north to the mountainous GuiZhou.

    As usual every morning, I check the spokes, oil and the chain. QingQi is dirty and will stay like that all the trip but runs fine.
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    At the north exit of Guilin, I met these local riders riding japanese and Chinese dirt bikes. They are heading to Guyan, capital of Guizhou. They propose to do the road together. Their idea is to go by the main road. I decline their proposal because I want to take a smaller north road which is in bad condition but cross ethnic minorities areas and nice landscapes.
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    I'm in Dong country, a minority group related to the Hmong in south east Asia. They build their house in wood and normally don't use nails.
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    Many villages are on the wrong side of the river. Light bridges allow walkers, bikes and animals to cross.
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    The road is partly in construction, many sections are flooded by streams and get muddy even in this dry season.
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    The mud is everywhere. I start to understand why the local bikers wanted to take the main road. But that's also part of the fun.
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    Twice I fall, I sweat like a pig in my rain gear to put the bike back on wheels.
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    After few kilometers in this shit, a short stop is welcome. Bike and I were are cover with mud.
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    The owner of the shop where I buy some drink and snacks also give me some water to clean up a little bit the mess.
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    Few kms, more sweat and mud later, the bike is out. Engine is running fine, I can engage gears but the clutch stalls in neutral. Only one week on the road, and the bike is broken, I feel that my trip is going to an end.

    Few days, before my departure, ChinaV the former owner has changed a broken part in the gearbox. Contrary to me, he is a fine mechanic and perhaps he has already experienced this issue. I'm in the middle of nowhere but China Mobile is working so I call him to get some advice. He told me the only solution is to open up the gearbox and have a look to what's going wrong. Well I'm in the mud, no village in sight, I have no parts for the gearbox or the clutch so no way to open it here. Because of the road condition, I can't push the bike, I need to find a way to transport the bike until the next village.

    Not far from me, two trucks are also battling with the mud. They have hired a group of farmers to clear the road in front of their wheels. I explain to one guy who seems the boss my situation and he kindly agree to load the bike in a truck. Thanks man!
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    Bike is loaded and attached on the trunk.
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    These trucks are two wheels drive. They have lot of difficulties to progress in the deep mud. The speed is no more than 10km/h.
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    After few kms, we arrive at the entrance of a bridge in construction close to a village. The road is narrow and inclined. My truck gets struck once more time.
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    The road is too steep for this little truck and we have to wait for another one to trail it.
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    The savior is coming.
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    But we can move only few tenth of meters. The road ahead the bridge is even worse and a bulldozer has been called.
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    While the bulldozer is working, I shot the countryside life around the river.
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    The night is coming, a bus in hurry to reach its destination stuck itself deeply in the mud behind the bulldozer. The road is now fully blocked!

    My truckers decide to give up for the night and to let their trucks where they are and come back later to pick them. They propose me to come with them for the night since the place we are has neither hotel nor mechanics to repair the bike.

    As I understand, we have to walk only 500m to reach a section of the road that normal cars and vans can reach. Half a km is ok so I decide to take with me my 30kg bag and carry it on my back. Well once again my poor Chinese has played with me, we will walk in fact more than 5 kms on the same kind of muddy road in the night!

    Before to take a van to reach their place which is 50km westbound, the truckers want a quick dinner. These guys are really nice people, they are from Nanning, the capital of GuangXi, 400km south. They are road workers and spend many months in the area.
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    She is hungry too!
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    We are 7 guys in a small van. It will take us 2h30 to drive the 50km in the night. That's give you an idea how bad is the road.
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    We reach their place after midnight, this is an empty house without comfort or privacy, there are more than 20 guys living here for months or years before going home one or two weeks then back again. Tough life for these workers.
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    I got my own room with a nice bed, the wood panel on the right. I was so exhausted, I slept like a baby this night.
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    Be to continued...
    #19
  20. Brice

    Brice Long time no see

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    282
    Location:
    South China
    In the morning, the boss tells me that they don't go back to their trucks Today. They phoned some guy in the village and the road is still blocked with even more buses and trucks stuck around the bridge.

    So I decided to go back alone and see what I can do to repair the bike. First I take a bus, 2h30 of shaky roads to go close to the road block.
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    Once arrive, I'm still 5 km from the bridge and I don't want to walk again this muddy road with my 30kg bag. So I take a boat to reach the village near the bridge. Cool, a nice cruise in perspective far from the mud.
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    These boats are also their home.
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    Many people are in the same situation.
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    Above us, trucks, buses and their passengers are waiting.
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    Half an hour later pushed by the strong current we reach the village.
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    Bike is waiting for me in the truck, I ask a taxi bike if he knows a mechanic around. The closest is in another village 15km from there in the north. This place can be reach on a cement road, no more mud. We make a deal and he agrees for 60RMB ($8) to help me to unload the bike from the truck then to trail up to this village.
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    Once arrived at the mechanic, everything is going fast. The guy tells me that the culprit must be the clutch plates. He opens the right side of the gear box and yes he is right. The case is full of particles of cork that come from the plates. These plates were nearly brand new, changed by ChinaV before the departure, so they must have some default.

    He tells me that he doesn't have this kind of plates here and I have to wait 24 or 48 hours to get some new ones. No problem for me, the village is welcoming, there is an Internet cafe and lot of pics to take...
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    I take 2 hours to find an hotel, take a shower and go to the local WangBa (internet cafe) to check my emails. When I come back to the mechanic shop I have the surprised to find him on the bike. He tried some used plates from a 125cc Suzuki and they are the same. The clutch is working nicely. I decide to keep them for now but will wait for the new ones next day to have some spare parts in case of another problem. More 6000km later this is still the same used 125cc plates...

    Nice guy and competent mechanic. Since I'm here for two days, I ask him if he can built a new rack to support my bag. The former one made of a shower tube is twisted by the weight of the bag and the falls.
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    It's dinner time, here my 3 stars restaurant, not yet in the Michelin guide but this is just a matter of time.
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    My dinner.
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    In the morning, the hotel's owners invite me to share their breakfast. The man is a retired policeman.
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    Then I go for a little walk in the chilly morning.
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    Kids are gathering to their school.
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    Some stop by the shops to buy some snacks.
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    Village from the back.
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    On the market, this is already too late for some.
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    Others have still few weeks to enjoy.
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    Or only few hours.
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    A somewhat used tricycle.
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    But with a nice water cooled engine.
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    Basketball fields are useful to dry the rice.
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    And rice fields make the joy of the ducks.
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    It was a peaceful day in the Dong countryside.
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    To be continued...
    #20