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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Smackit, Jun 10, 2010.
Great report so far.... that accident whoah!
Lovely camera work, great writing, culminating in a fantastic insight to a country that I know little about Thank you!
I've never seen or heard of the offroad bikes your riding, assume Chinese origin...what are they like...reliability, performance etc. From the pics they look pretty good
Waking up in a spot like Luguhu is breathtaking. I made some coffee and just stood there at the window of my hotel room gazing at the beautiful morning. I really didn't care what time we left, I probably could have sat there all day.
We finally loaded up and hit the road around 10:00. One last shot of the lake as we headed north into Sichuan.
This would be our first day of riding into the "unknown". Up until this point, most of the roads we traveled were well documented on maps or the GPS. The road out of Luguhu going north branches off in several directions, and you must rely on passing strangers or gut feel to find the right way.
We proceeded through a few small villages and assumed we were making progress.
Felix sat waiting on this bridge while I tried to figure out why we were crossing rivers where the map showed none. Asking the horse would have been a better idea than consulting the map.
I'm fairly sure this person had no idea where we wanted to go.
We're definitely going the wrong way at this point, but damn, it sure is beautiful.
Backtracking to where we asked directions before.
Somehow I don't think this alley is the right way.
Ahhh… that's better, at least it looks like this should take us somewhere.
We finally made it to a road that was on the GPS, X042. I was sure this was correct, and thankfully it was.
The locals like to decorate their motorcycles with silk fabric and flowers. Felix likes to photograph pretty things. A match made in heaven.
Asking for directions was fun, as the name of the next town we were heading to was called Wu Jiao Meng Gu Zu, a rather long name for a Chinese city. The road cut through deep gorges and there were some great campsites along the river. We will regret not camping there later this evening.
After Wu Jiao Meng Gu Zu, the road starts to climb and there's no traffic at all. We eventually reached 4000 meters before a very long descent to Taoba.
Woof… usually these dogs go bonkers as you approach, but this one just sat there staring at me.
I have no idea what this checkpoint was for, but we all signed our names and got approval to continue on. I think it was a safety check for vehicles heading up the mountain we had just come down.
After a lovely afternoon, we started riding parallel to the Litang River. It was time for our punishment. According to the map, this should have been S216, but it will be many years before that road is ready for normal traffic. Currently there are huge hydro and mining projects going on here and it looks like a battle-zone from all of the heavy truck traffic. Each truck that passes creates a sandstorm of fine silt that covers everything and takes away your visibility. Eventually we reached a roadblock and had to wait while they blasted off the side of a mountain. It was getting late, and we were hoping to find a place to camp.
After passing the demolition detour, we kept looking for any kind of place to throw up our tents. We reached a junction with a tiny store and tried to get some intel on the road situation. The people barely spoke Mandarin and couldn't understand where we wanted to go. If we continued north along the river, we were doomed to another 30 or 40 kilometers of crap and little hope of a place to camp. My gut was telling me we should be at S216 going west, but S216 doesn't really exist yet, and being on the edge of a mountain made it difficult to determine which road actually went west. We agreed to head north for 15 minutes in search of a place to camp, found nothing, and backtracked to the little store again. It was now dark and with all the dust covering our bikes, and floating in the air, we couldn't see anything. Tempers flared for a few moments and things were not looking good. Fortunately we managed to pick the correct road west, and within a few minutes we came to a tiny town with a one bedroom trucker hotel. We asked if it was vacant and the owner was happy to put us up for the night. We unloaded the bikes and filled up on peanuts, crackers and beer for dinner. It had been a long day, and everyone fell into bed early, completely exhausted.
Distance = 222 Kilometers - Time = 10:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 33 kph
Thank you to everyone for the nice comments so far. Still have more to post and the best scenery is coming up .
Bowes, the bikes are made by Galaxy Motorcycles in Guangdong province China. There is a full report about them and all of the modifications I did before the trip at this link. They're based on the air cooled Honda FTR223 engine, so they are pretty reliable. Galaxy has picked some of the better suppliers of Chinese parts and the technology and performance is fairly good. Seem to have survived being tossed off a bridge OK. .
ive never heard Galaxy before.. how much did u spent for purchasing this bike??
Great Report, I love the look of that countryside - quite a few Eucalypts on the side of the roads - that Aussie export has found its way all over the world.
I assume you all speak some Mandarin? would it be possible to do a trip like this with arm waving,pointing, laughing(crying!!!) and no mandarin?
Having studied in Dalian, I'm a huge fan of the China ride reports. The scenery in the south is amazing. I miss throwing back a few of the big returnables 干杯! I'm insanely jealous.
Sorry about laying the bike down, do you think its just oil on the road, poor rubber? I know the Chinese trucks are notorious for leaking oil. Its a bit stressful not feeling confident around bends with uncertain conditions.
ChinaV thanks for the reply, I read the link on the bikes...very interesting. Lookin forward to more of the report, just read it again and enjoyed and looked a long time at some of the pics.
Some of the photos of the local Chinese people and scenery are absolutley stunning...thank you for taking the time to share with us lucky readers I'll be checking in for more!
The bike, registration, insurance, upgrades, racks and hard luggage were about $3000 USD and a boat-load of time.
I speak basic Mandarin which is good enough for traveling, but not good enough for deep discussions.
Felix is fluent, and also pretty good at reading Chinese characters.
Daniel was new to China and only spoke a few words, but he is fluent in "hand gesturing" as he has travelled the world extensively. We usually lied to him about what people were saying .
Mandarin will only take you so far in China, a lot of people speak strange dialects that are almost impossible to understand. Smiles and hand gestures will take you far in this world.
Yes, I'm pretty sure it was just an oil spot and bad luck. A lot of areas in Southern China have this oily road surface, I actually prefer concrete as it seems to give better grip. You generally have at least one adrenalin moment every day and this does add a bit of stress, but sure is worth it!
I'm almost done with the pics for day 10, should be up in a few more hours.
If you're a light sleeper, never share a room with your riding buddies. On the two occasions in my life I've done so, both could have gone the wrong way and ended in murder. As the straight pipe Harley Davidson sleeping next to me continued to slumber, I decided to get up and start the morning ritual around 5:30. Felix and Daniel were soon to follow and we actually managed to get on the road by 7:00.
We had inquired about directions and road conditions the night before, and my earlier hunch was proven correct. The road we were now on may become S216 someday, but for now, it's basically just a logging trail through the mountains. It's hardly used, and almost impassible on anything other than a motorcycle. This sounded like a lot of fun, so we headed off to find gas and filled up at this "full service" station.
A local villager circles a stupa while out for her morning stroll.
This is the town we stayed in. It looked so peaceful compared to the shit storm of construction and mining only 2 kilometers behind us.
Flowers, no idea what kind.
This woman seemed quite interested in our bikes as we passed by. It's not an easy life here, you can see it in her hands and face.
One of many small bridges we passed on our way up the mountain. Most of them were very narrow and barely strong enough for motorcycles. I couldn't imagine trying to get through with a 4WD.
This place is heaven on a dirt bike.
We stopped at this pile of Mani stones and chatted with a local gentleman. He was sporting a very cool knife and mentioned we might need one in some spots where the road gets bad. The Mani stones are plates inscribed with a six syllable mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" (Hail to the jewel in the lotus). We will be seeing lots more, as we are now traveling in the Tibetan area of Sichuan.
As the elevation increases, so do the Yak sightings.
We finally reach a peak at 4400 meters / 14,435 feet, and decide to yak with the yaks for a while.
We always seemed to find perfect campsites at ten o'clock in the morning. Wish we had made it here last night.
Looking off into the distance, you can see the 3 holy peaks, which were blessed in the eighth century by Buddha Padmasambhava. The south peak Jambeyang (mostly hidden to the left) at 5,958m/19,547ft is the avatar of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Chanadorje (middle) also 5,958m/19,547ft represents Vajrapani , the Bodhisattva of Wrath. Chenresig (right) at 6,032m/19,790ft, the highest of the trio, symbolizes Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Mercy. It is said that if a Tibetan makes a pilgrimage to the shrine 3 times in their life, they will be blessed with all they desire.
We descended for over two hours, and as the afternoon wore on, our stomachs started to grumble. We hadn't seen any sign of civilization, and at one point, the road became little more than a trail passing through the trees. As we arrived at a junction, we were fortunate enough to meet a passing stranger who told us we would come to a logging camp in about three kilometers. We may even find some food there. Upon arrival, we were happy to see lots of beer, but the only food to be found were a couple containers of instant ramen noodles (starch, salt, MSG) good enough for us. This lady stopped to gaze at the strange foreigners, I liked the combination of ethnic dress complimented with her "Chairman Mao" hat.
The cow was hoping to get in on some of our noodle action. Mooooo sounds the same in Chinese, in case you were wondering.
We made it out of the logging forest and the scenery turned harsh. A deep gorge with the fast running Wuliang River was bordered by mountains that were brown and devoid of almost any vegetation. The only green areas were the tiny Tibetan villages dotting the sides of the hills. How these people survive here is a testament to their strong will. There was a newly built bridge spanning the river and I knew this was the crossing for S216. The problem, again, was that the road ended after two kilometers. The line showing S216 continuing west on the map was nothing more than an optimistic view of a road that will exist, someday. With nobody around to ask directions, we decided to head north. Not that we really had much choice, move forward and hope for the best, or backtrack 75 kilometers through the mountains. Onward ho!
Moving forward was working out well for us, and we eventually met a nice man tending his fields. We asked if the road would bring us to Daocheng and he nodded in approval. He told us the road could only be crossed by motorcycle or horseback and it would probably take four or five hours. I looked at the map and GPS, then estimated maybe forty kilometers. How could that take four hours? Surely the old man must have meant by horseback. Roughly four hours later we were half way to our destination looking for a campsite. Pretty smart old man.
After an hour of climbing, we had only covered about 10 kilometers, or roughly 200 meters as the crow flies.
We stopped at this small stupa and made a round of prayers. Make sure you walk around these from the left, as that is the custom of the Tibetans in this region.
The prayer wheels, spun clockwise. The direction in which the earth and the universe revolve, according to Buddhist doctrine
As it started to get late, we stopped in several of these Tibetan towns trying to find food, water and beer.
One of the local children taking care of her brother. Shy but curious.
Around 7:00 we finally resolved to camping at the next piece of flat ground. The canyon walls were steep and offered no place to set up a tent. There was little vegetation to hide behind, and whatever we seemed to find was obviously privately owned land that we were not keen to camp on without permission. We passed a bridge, and the low water level provided a nice sandy spot for us to call home for the night. It was a bit more exposed than we would have liked, but seemed like a safe enough place to settle. Finally we were camping, now if we could just get the damn stove going, life should be good.
A friend and I always pick names for our campsites, so I guess I will name this one "Camp Bridge-side". The location turned out to be pretty good. A very friendly man had a house nearby, and he brought us gifts of firewood, walnuts, and some super strong hooch (moonshine). The conversation went late into the night as he shared many stories of how the area and people had changed since he was a child. With a billion stars overhead, the glow of the campfire, and the lack of my buddies snoring, I slept like rock.
That was probably one of the most epic days I've ever experienced on a motorcycle.
Distance = 130 Kilometers - Time = 11:00 Hours - Average Moving Speed = 21 kph
Thanks a lot for the share...
Excellent ride report.
Thank you so much for such an excellent RR!
It wouldnt be a an authentic CHina Adventure with a photo of Mans Best Friend on the spit! A doggy platter! Yum yum.
Awesome RR , Any more pics of rice terraces in beautiful Yunnan?
Love the China ride reports, its a part of the world we see too little of. Thanks for sharing.
ChinaV, good stories! So sorry to see you taking those spills. Maybe you need to walk around a stupa (three times?) to change your luck!
Were you wearing a helmet cam when you became an anti-bridge missile?
Last, I thought foreigners, thinking of your State-side friend, couldn't legally ride a bike? Have rules changed or just the "price".
I'll be keeping up with this chronicle, you bet!