Yuanjiang to Mojiang

47 miles – 10.22 to 10.23.2010

Yuanjiang was an uninspiring place, but the market was busy and interesting. Most of the food we tried was pretty terrible, and it wasn’t a place in which I would have chosen to spend two nights. Waiting for laundry to be finished meant that we didn’t leave Yuanjiang until lunch time – even though we had reason to believe that the next leg would be the hardest and hilliest yet. Stretching ourselves too far on the ride to Yuanjiang meant that we had to spend too long there, so we decided to split the ride to Mojiang into two days.

Heading into the hills in the midday sun was brutal, as was the gradient, such that we found ourselves looking for a place to stay by four. This was the first part of our journey where fresh supplies of bottled water were hard to come by, so we got the chance to try out our water filter in a pretty mountain stream. Exhausted and over-heated, we had almost resigned ourselves to camping out by the side of the road when we came upon a small family-run guesthouse, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The owner was pleased to see us – and was extremely proud of the fact that he could offer us a hot shower. A company selling solar powered water heaters seems to have done well in this part of China – with even the most run down looking concrete shack incongruously sporting a shiny new heater on its corrugated iron roof. The room was incredibly basic, but also extremely cheap, and the shower was indeed wonderful.

Early the next morning we continued on our route along the 213, up and up and up. Despite the harsh terrain, this area is reasonably populated; we passed through several small hamlets and farmsteads with their resident animals. We see a lot more animals than people, and every house has at least one dog – mostly very territorial and not at all pleased to see us. Amazing how an angry dog barking at your heels can spur your legs to find new energy on those ascents.

Mojiang was probably the nicest town we’ve seen, bustling and lively, and overlooked from the north by a big and quite pretty mosque. Many of the towns we passed through have clearly undergone very recent construction and development, but their population has not yet expanded to fill it, which gives them a soul-less, abandoned feel. Mojiang was different, which made it a lot more pleasant. Our hotel was the sort that was probably nice fifteen years ago, before the owner decided to stop trying, but as it was hosting an enormous wedding (tables spilled out of the the two dining rooms into the car park), even it had a nice atmosphere. We found a whole street full of proper restaurants (with full sized tables and chairs and a bit of atmosphere – though still no menus), and as we left in the morning we also glimsped a busy market place in full swing. Mojiang also provided us with the best breakfast, perhaps the best meal we’ve had since leaving Kunming – truly delicious tang bao (dumplings stuffed with pork and a soupy gravy). This city also provided something of a milestone for our trip, straddling as it does the Tropic of Cancer. They have a big park (the only one of it’s kind in the world, apparently) to celebrate this fact… but we didn’t visit it.

~ by Elephants on October 28, 2010.

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