The weather looked fine when we started climbing up the ridge from our perfect campsite just outside Grimaud. But as we crested the col at about 400m the moisture in the air appeared to be a bit wetter than the cloud that we thought we were in. As we descended the other side the rain started coming down properly and would do so on and off for the rest of the day.
Bob was kind enough to lend me his Lone Peak panniers for this off the cuff trip. And while they are a good size they definitely aren’t waterproof. After a navigational error in the pouring rain that saw us do a hilly loop of about 15km unnecessarily, we settled on a suboptimal campsite just off the road as we needed to get warm and fed quickly. Unfortunately the rain had seeped through the panniers into my sleeping bag and pillow, making for a damp and cold evening in my cramped Decathlon tent. I was so knackered that after stuffing food in my face I crashed out at about 8 o’clock.
A leisurely start to the day with the McDonalds breakfast of champions before we headed down along the Mediterranean. A reasonably busy road most of the day with people out enjoying the weather and blue ocean views along the coast. It must get pretty frustrating though when you can’t get your Aston Martin convertible over 50kmh. Loads of Lycra clad guys on racing bikes out riding as well, some of them quite advanced in years.
We were aiming for Grimaud, resting place of Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France. By the time we reached the cemetery we were both pretty tired, though I did score a handful of rosemary that was growing wild in the cemetery grounds. That went well with the lamb chops I had for dinner.
I bid farewell to Bob in Bangkok as he prepares to ride in the south. Next stop for me is France to hook up with George again. He’s just finishing off his 12 day movie marathon in Cannes and ready to do some riding. I hopped on a Thai airways flight to Paris and managed to get three seats all to myself. I slept all the way to Paris…
During a few hours layover before a flight down to Nice I dashed into Paris to grab a SIM card and some camping gear. Decathlon had everything I needed.
One night in a ripoff hotel in Nice (be careful when you book online and are too lazy to check the details), then a nice ride down the coast to Cannes, where the film festival is in its final day. Lots of poseurs and hot women walking around. I counted three Lambos, two Ferraris and lots of Porsches idling along the seafront at 20kmh.
Tomorrow we head north west.
Hot riding in the baking Thai summer sun. We took the back way between Chiang Sian and Chiang Rai, which made for a quieter if hillier ride. I think we need to start getting up earlier.
After two weeks of having Chinese horns blasted in our ears and listening to the dulcet tones of the hacking of phlegm we decided to change cycling venues and head for Thailand. A Dragon Air flight from Wuhan to Bangkok gave me one last taste of Chinese culture as the gentleman next to me expurgated the contents of his upper respiratory tract into the change donation envelope that he found in the seat pocket. Ten times.
A couple of days shopping and eating in Bangkok preceded a flight up to Chiang Rai in the north. Other than the heat which reached about 39 today, there’s not much to complain about. Fish and somtum by the river, smiling faces, quiet back roads next to the border with Burma, cold drinks at the 7 Eleven….
Back onto proper roads today which made for better progress. We had covered about 60km by lunchtime so it was pretty easy to knock off the rest of the distance to Wuhan, another big capital city. The last 10km was a completely screwed up road churned to rubble and mud by the trucks, then typical crazy Chinese traffic once we reached the city. Time for a bit of a rest.
A rainy day riding along the dyke again. Two ferries required for river crossings which spiced things up a little, though one Chinese restaurant owner lied to us about one of the ferries being out of operation. He’ll be getting a negative review on Eatability.
Today’s ride was a little eventful, starting off with an extended 90 minute breakfast. In china an open shop door doesn’t actually mean that the restaurant is open. It just means that someone is awake. Breakfast was good though. Braised ribs and assorted stir fried oily veggies.
Smatterings of rain early in the morning as we left town didn’t last long and precipitated the usual jacket on, jacket off nonsense. I managed to withdraw money from an ATM without my card being swallowed, then we ended up on a road that was under construction. An entertaining diversion before we reached a toll road that forbid bicycles. Bob was under the impression that a ferry was in operation, but of course the new toll bridge had put the ferry out of service. But this being china, someone had spotted us riding down toward the disused ferry and alerted the local ute owner who showed up magically and offered to drive us across the bridge.
Our next riding stage was along a dyke that Bob claims was built 1000 years before the Dutch thought of such things. I beg to differ, and having seen the year 1999 written on a building today I now believe that all things currently standing in china that look old we’re built in that year.
30km of monotonous dyke riding later we found ourselves in Honghu, home to an albino hairdresser lady and the Missky Hotel, which is nice.
Bob and I rode from Miluo to Yueyang today. Not much to say really. Miluo is a smallish Chinese city, Yueyang is bigger. The road between them was well formed and a lot of bus drivers honked their air horns in my ear. Lunch in Yueyang was fish and I choked on a bone so hard that vomit came out my nose. Life is good.
China is full of surprises. Firstly, there is an incredible number of wealthy people here, at least that’s the impression you get looking at all the Audis, Porsche Cayennes and BMW X5s driving around. Secondly, the police are all shaven headed thugs, driving around in their cars smoking and intimidating people. Thirdly, be careful ordering blindly from a Chinese menu because you may end up eating pig intestines which smell very similar to a piggery and don’t taste much better.