Towards the broken wedding cake

annika_roberto_bambooCycling in Sichuan, China: Towards the broken wedding cake

Country: China
From Emei Shan to Yibin
Days on the bike: 3
Kilometers cycled: 219.18
Average Kilometers per day: 73.06
Total Kilometers cycled till Yibin: 8285.18
Total days travelled till Yibin: 481
Lesson learned: Avoid chilblains, keep your fingers warm at all time
Laughed about: Two little girls staring into Roberto’s mouth
Most wonderful miracle: A sunny day between bamboo, fields and villages
Food we ate: A lot of homemade food
Greatest challenge: Cold and humid wind for Annika, finding a dentist for Roberto


By bike through Yunnan. We left Emei Shan on another foggy day. One and a half days of rest and some self made pancakes were more than enough to bring the power back into our legs after climbing probably 10000000 steps. A rather big street led us to Leshan. From here on we followed a smaller street.

Annika on her bike on a green road

It is cold and humid but we enjoy the ride through the Green

Foggy bamboo forests surrounded us and the further we rode the less traffic we had to cope with. We spent the night camping in the backyard in an industrial area between a group of wild dogs.

Our tent in a wild garden

Our home for one night

By the following morning there was frost everywhere. We packed our things and got on the bikes when the morning fog disappeared and the sun finally came out. The temperature rose quickly, but under plenty of bamboo tunnels it was still cold. Between the villages we passed several fields and gardens. Every tiny piece of land was full of plants, houses or construction. It was hilly and some of the ascents were pretty steep, but short. Every curve was a surprise, because the countryside was full of river views, forests, small villages and fields.

Finally the sun shines and we can enjoy the Scenic Road

Finally the sun shines and we can enjoy the Scenic Road

At night we entered a small path towards some fields where we asked a farmer for the permission to pitch our tent. The farmer was so surprised to see some dirty foreign cyclists on his land that a piece of sugarcane fell of his mouth.

Instead of letting us camp he immediately invited us to stay over inside his house. We carried our things there and tried to talk to him and his wife – who understood little of what we told them.

Harvest Time

Everything seems to be green in China

A couple of neighbors came over and our hosts invited them all for dinner. While we were eating, another neighbor came in. He smiled constantly and talked very loud. He appeared very excited talking to our hosts. Just a moment later he grabbed Roberto by the shoulder, took the chopsticks out of our hands and asked us both to follow him. We looked over to our host who also got up from his chair. Roberto and I looked at each other, the neighbor pulled on Roberto’s arm, grabbed my shoulder, softly pushed us away from the table and continued talking like a waterfall. All that time he smiled and I was sure that he does not get to meet too many foreigners. Just a minute later we all were seated in a small minibus heading further south.

Roberto shakes hands with kids

The kids are curious on the funny foreigners

About one and a half kilometers later we got out and walked into a public house where the excited neighbor forced a couple of shy young girls to speak English to us. Roberto and I had already been full before the first dinner and after the third my belly was about to explode. It was 8.30 pm when we jumped on the back of our host’s motorbike to get back home. We were just unpacking our isolation mattresses when the farmer offered us a bed to sleep in. His wife prepared a bowl of warm water to wash ourselves. I could not wait to get out of the sweaty clothes and into the warm bed. Roberto got the farmer’s bed, the farmer himself slept on the couch and his wife and I shared her big bed. It was 9 pm, I was slowly getting warm again, the farmer’s wife yawned loudly and we laid down each of us facing her feet towards the other’s face. At the same time all over China people started preparing their New Year’s Eve party, fired fire crackers, drank beer and got together with their friends and family.

A man sleeps on top of his motorbike

I wish we could just sleep on our bikes like that

We got up at 7 am, it was barely midnight in Germany, my family and friends were probably all celebrating and watching the fireworks. We felt sober, fit and ready to hit the road again. I always thought the Chinese New Year’s in February was the one celebrated in China, but I had to learn, that the Chinese had decided to celebrate both. How could I forget how much they like holidays and days off in China, after the disaster that we had been through in Bishkek thanks to a holiday (the border was closed for five days due to a Muslim Kyrgyz holiday).

Roberto and Annika on their bikes Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

It was a cold and foggy morning and the ascents were too short to warm up properly. Around noon the fog disappeared and we were getting closer and closer to the Yangtze Kiang River in Yibin. The road was now so small that we hardly saw any other cars and most street signs were written in Chinese only. But we were prepared: our map was bilingual. Chinese characters are incredibly complicated but with a little bit of creativity I managed to see pictures in them. The characters for “Yibin” looked like two big wedding cakes, one was new and the other was broken or half eaten. So we just asked for the way or followed the broken wedding cake.

Chinese Street Sign

The “cakes” in the upper right side spell “Yi Bin”

In the afternoon we had one last long ascent to climb before we watched down on the town. All I saw was industry, smoke, chimneys and factories. Yibin did not appear like the nicest place to me and we decided not to stay longer than a night or two.

Landscape in Sichuan, China

Where we had come from …

Yibin's Industry

… and where we were heading for

We found a cheap hotel and hung tent and wet clothes when I put my gloves of. Two of my fingers hurt and were swollen on double their usual size. After plenty of internet research I found out that I had two chilblains from the cold and humid wind in the morning. Enough winter – it was time for us to get some sun.

Our second visa extension had to be done soon, Roberto’s wisdom teeth hurt and after comparing all possibilities we decided to change our plans, skip the travel towards the east, get the extension in nearby Leshan, where it takes 2 days only and then travel straight south towards Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

Confusing Chinese Street sign

Confusing Street sign

Roberto got treatment with a local dentist. We found her searching for food. The entire wall facing the street was made out of glass, three dentist’s chairs stood in the middle of the room, some chairs were squeezed to the wall and in the back of the small room there was the office.

The doctor spoke some English and treated Roberto with something liquid, something red and something bitter for three days. While she looked into his mouth two little and curious girls came closer and watched Roberto’s mouth with the doctor. Privacy – zero.

Chinese Dentist in Yibin

Chinese Dentist in Yibin

We never found out what the doctor had been doing there but it was the cheapest (3 $ for each session plus 2.50 $ for medicine afterwards) and most effective treatment he could have gotten.

Madina, a Chinese girl that we had met on the way, called the PSB (Bublic Security Bureau) in Yibin for us to ask whether it was possible to extend our visas there. It wasn’t so we went to Leshan for a third time, got our extension quickly and took the bus back by the following afternoon.

Yibin's Bell tower

What appeared so ugly at first sight turned out to be a beautiful town

Yibin, which had appeared all ugly and grey to us, surprised us with a modern city center, good food and a beautiful and huge Taoist temple.

Taoist Monks

In the Taoist Temple

When our tent, sleeping bags and washed clothes were finally dry we were ready to hit the road again with the new plan to go south. But the sunshine would have to wait since we had quite some mountains to face in order to get into the warm sunny areas of Yunnan.



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  1. Héctor says:

    What did the excited neighbor wanted to show you?

    • admin admin says:

      Hello Héctor! He introduced us to all his friends and neighbors and wanted to offer us another and even bigger dinner. We were really really full when we went to sleep 🙂

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