Tongguan to Pu’er

Tongguan to Babian, 18.6 miles – 10.25.2010

Short riding day to Babian. The hotel in Tongguan was definitely our worst yet. We always ask the hotel for somewhere safe to leave our bikes. This was the first time that the owner suggested we take our muddy wet bikes into our room with us. And this was a carpeted room, albeit carpeted sometime in the last century. It was horrible, and so was our meal in town.

So the next day, after a short pleasant ride along a river in the sunshine we were happy to pull into Babian and stop for the day just an hour after lunch. It might have been the weather and our mood, but Babian felt the antithesis of Tongguan. Our guesthouse was clean and new, the people were friendly and smiling, and there was school attended by children from all the surrounding areas, which gave the village a jolly feel utterly absent in Tongguan. The afternoon was spent pleasantly, relaxing, doing laundry and tinkering with the bikes. Seems Tuesday is market day in Babian, and the village’s two streets were completely lined with stalls selling all manner of goods as we pulled out of town the next morning in good spirits.

Babian to Ning’er, 32 miles – 10.26.2010

Although the next day started off well with a reasonably quiet ride along the 213, a sudden downpour caused us to stop for an extended lunch, and drizzle continued for the rest of the day. This turned out to be the least of our worries. The new expressway has not been completed from Mo’hei to Pu’er, and our small, winding road turned into a small winding road full of trucks and buses racing to be the first to the top of the mountain. So the steep ascent into Ning’er was for the most part utterly terrifying. The least said about this the better, but I really hope the expressway is finished beyond Pu’er.

It is interesting to note the difference that the new expressway has made for the places along the old highway. On this section of the road the restaurants and stopping points were much more frequent and better kept. Where the new expressway has been completed, traffic along the old 213 is almost non-existent, and consequently the roadside buildings and settlements are often abandoned or in poor condition. Many small villages use the 213 highway as their main or only road. I wonder whether the new expressway and consequent lack of trucks and buses constantly speeding through is a blessing or a curse for some of these places. For us, the bike trip would have been impossible and horrible without the new expressway to relieve us of our unpleasant fellow road users. For many of the villages we pass through, the traffic was probably the only reason for their existence, and lack of it may lead to their demise.

Ning’er to Pu’er, 31.2 miles – 10.27.2010

The city of Ning’er was previously known as Pu’er. Pu’er is a very famous brand of long leaf green tea (which technically must be sundried in the Lancang Valley to qualify as such). In 2007, the municipal government of the nearby larger city of Simao decided, for reasons of tourism, to change the name of Simao to Pu’er. And consequently, Pu’er was renamed Ning’er. This has caused us a lot of confusion, though we hope it has the desired effect for the area.

In order to avoid the hellish experience on the 213 into Ning’er, we decided to take a smaller road from Ning’er to Pu’er. Confusingly this later also claimed to be the 213. It seems any road going south is called the 213 in these parts. The road we took, though mostly empty of traffic, had been completely demolished by trucks building the new expressway. At several points our bicycles were completely bogged down in the mud and locals were warning us to turn back. The renaming of the cities also made asking directions more complicated than necessary as locals pointed us back the way we came to get to Pu’er. We eventually rejoined the rest of the traffic on the main 213 and made our way into Pu’er, which frankly needs more than a name change to turn it into a desirable tourist destination. Road signs seem to suggest that the new expressway has been completed beyond Pu’er. So our next leg should be more pleasant (fingers crossed).

Other pages updated: Pictures, Maps, Statistics, Food

Pictures from this post and the previous two can be found here

~ by Elephants on October 28, 2010.

One Response to “Tongguan to Pu’er”

  1. Great to see how well you are progressing. Good pictures, great scenery. You both look pretty well! Keep it up – preferably with fewer week-long breaks in service! J

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