to dali…950km skated!

sun rising in shaxi

sunshine again, back at the crossroads, on the dali road, and i was skating again. today i beat my personal best, skating 82km to lake erhai, less than 30km from dali. it started with a two and a half hour ascent, some sketchy downhill, long rolling flats, a little uphill, some fast high traffic road, then back into the flats…pushing.

up and down

along the flats

sunrise at lake erhai

along the flats in the morning

arriving at tsai tsuen, dali

i find it interesting that i haven’t gotten more tired as i skate further, in fact i seem to build up stamina, or maybe thats just in my mind, but i skate and skate and half-noticenotice the kilometers dropping away. have a nice dinner, rest a bit, then off into the evening with the same regular push. by the time i found a cheap guesthouse along the lake road, i had gone 82km! i was pretty impressed with myself, and the next morning at sunrise i was back on the road, again through the flats along the lake. as i made it up the last little hill to the ancient town of dali, and was ordering a cappuchino at a little cafe, i had been on the road from the crossroads for 24 hours, and travelled 110km. needless to say, i partied in dali, tanked up on espresso and munched down cakes in celebration.

950km skated, feeling good, high on caffiene, and then my girl arrives, riding a new subsonic raven! (thanks scott, its a beautiful board!) dandan has come to chill out and skate some, its like paradise, some time together in the sunshine on awesome road with new kit to check out. i wont take her out on the road in the blazing sunshine, we’ll take it easy, but she said she wants to skate. she wanted to come check out what i am doing with the long distance thing, she skates a lot in beijing where its flat, and is enjoying going faster. well, here is a place to get going faster and skate further, and i chose a mellow mountain route we can skate and practice some. actually we drove down part of the route to get here from dali, and after she said, “i can skate that!” so i guess we”re on.

i am calculating 950km having skated, though the distance i travelled is closer to 1075km. however i know for sure that 53km of the route i didnt skate, took rides through construction zones and over 40km of cobblestone track. as well, the hike along the mekon cut some kilometers off of the return route, not many, but i have a feeling altogether its about 950km. together with dandan i think i’ll get in the last 50km, to top off my goal this time out, but the trek in of itself is complete. anything now, skating with my girl, is just extra fun. =)

950km upo the mountain and back, an awesome skate!

stage 4 – rain to weixi and beyond

then began the rain, which didnt let up, and hasn’t let up much since. the weixi road was uphill all the way, but not so steep i couldn’t skate it. weixi sucked, a really drab, new-town chinese-style, and rain or not, i decided to move the next day. rain it was, and 5 hours uphill, followed by a shitty-nasty broken road downhill, through mud puddles and torn concrete, dirt road mixed with crappy pavement bits.

patchwork asphalt!

that really sucked, in the rain, but i came to a place where the road was perfect, for maybe 12km, downhill through a wonderful valley. too bad it was really pissing down rain, and i had to concentrate mostly on slippery turns and footbraking, it was more dangerous than fun. but that’s also a cool situation, somehow, keeping one’s mind on staying ont he board, on the road, when it has the potential to get really fast and out of control. its a rush to be at the edge of control, sometimes edging out beyond that edge, riding really fast. helmet, kneepads, elbow pads, slide gloves…these all really make me feel better, even if they wont stop me from breaking an arm or a leg, at least if i go down on the road, i can get back up and laugh about it, instead of clutching some pained scrape or new bruise.

at the end of this ride, the road end, and turned into a cobblestone road, over which i hitched a 10km ride, and after a night in a hotel, took another 30km bus ride, to get out of the ricky pit and back onto the road. i wasn’t about to walk all that way through the rain, so the idea to ‘not skate it all’ was less distressing, and i was psyched again to get back onto what is labellled on the map as a ‘first-class road’. first class indeed, this road gave me a fantastic skate, even if mostly through drizzle, then a real downpour.

the slope was enough to keep pushing just enough, to keep moving at a good clip, enjoying emerald green forests clinging to lumpy hills above luminous green rice paddy. really gorgeous, and after that, some uphill, then some more wet downhill, at which point i had had enough of skating in the rain, my front right bearings were grinding, and i was cold.

i stopped skating at the crossroads, and took the next minivan over the ridge and down into shaxi. shirley greeted me at horsepen 46 with two awesome espressos. welcome home!

so i have skated over 800km, 8 days up to the glacier, and six days back, a bit quicker than i had imagined. i will rest in shaxi today, then go back to the crossroads to continue. my plan is to skate, rain or shine, the dali road, and meet dandan when she arrives on the 7th. i expect that will take 2 and a half days, and will make up my 42km missing kilometers, those the rides i took past construction sites and the broken road, and give me my 1000km, which is my goal this time out.

so, the remote, wild part of the trek is behind me, and 800km or a thousand, it was pretty awesome getting up there and back. but i am not finished skating yet…

stage 3 – to the road and along the mekong

from mingyong i rode back down the road, at least until the pavement ended and the dirt road continued. actually i skated a bit on the dirt road too, it was sloped enough to give me enough momentum to carry over the gravel and around the ruts, but it was a bumpy, harsh ride, dangerous not for the speed but for that falling into the gravel hurts and throws up ugly gravel cuts. i found that out last time out here i tried to skate through a gravel pit.

up, up into another village, where in the middle of a big commotion, an old medicine woman was massaging the feet of a fat-man westerntourist, who had apparantly collapsed. after her massage, he could limp away on the arm of his chinese girl, but then the old woman seemed to have a heart attack, and the fuss was about geting her to stand again. hmmm…

the locals directed me to the short-cut path, up towards the hot springs, a path which turned into the road and a good hour’s hike upstairs. the ‘hot springs’ were actually headed by a terribly run-down, trash-strewn yard with guesthouse and little kitchen buildings, overrun by dogs and pigs. the springs were directed into these little houses, where one can pay to sit in the darkness. yet behind the whole complex is the free spring, one pipe coming out of a wall, and a shallow pool of nice-nice hot water, where i soaked myself, then camped up above. not an amazing hot spring experience, but excellent to have a soak, in mildly sulferous waters.

the next morning i was down into the paths, hiking all morning down the slopes to the trail along the mekong (lansang) river. rocky, shifting shale terrain gave way to a pretty good footpath, which led around and about, above the river, eventually taking me to the bridge, and a dry dusty access road up to the tarmac.

trail along the mekong

i was psyched to get onto the blacktop, and was at once greeted by some fast downhill and the first tunnel of this trip. well, it would have been fast downhill if not for the 50knot wind raging through the river chasm, which pretty much negated my forward motion, and though it lessened as i went downstream, was a constant companion my entire skate along the river.

campsite by the mekong

day 2 on that blacktop, i was stylin out in the morning, easily pacing 25 km, just getting into my stride with the oats burning clean, when i came to a place where the road was closed. here, the first pitfall of my journey. actually, it was a rockfall, which had smothered the new and the old roads with tons of boulders, which took workers until 8 in the evening to clear. thus i wandered the nearby village, skeptically viewing the ‘must-see’ church, complete with its history-room, upon whose walls were many many old photos of solemn french christian missionaries. these missionaries brought the grapes to the region and the wine-making techniques, and did their fair share of cultural subterfuge in the name of christian proselytization (sp?). it made me think about how, working in beijing, i feel the need to educate, and change the chinese mentality, at least in terms of food service, health and safety, quality and consistency, which are not values generally ingrained in young chinese workers’ minds. why do i find christian missionary work so distasteful, when i am also trying to ‘educate’ the heathens, i wonder?

back into the flow, i skated downstream, skating into the dusk, through three tunnels, after which the darkeness scored a hit, and i crashed out. roadrash: not too bad; gear ruin: broken headlamp and split water tube, repairable; jilted stamina: i caught a ride 4km through the construction sites, showered and crashed in a cheap hotel, in a basic truck-stop town.

thankful for my high tech backpack

emergency stitch-up of my ripped pants


the next day refreshed, i skated 70km along the mekong, to the place where the road forks. awesome, smooth, well-paced, beautiful countryside, a great skate on the road, rolling up and down pretty regularly. that’s the kind of skating i really enjoy to get into the push-coast-push that can keep me going for hours and hours. very cool