We naturally needed a rest in Ganzi to recover after the past week. The plan then was to cycle south to Kanding where we would sort some public transport to get us to Chengdu.
Taking this rest day however meant we had to cover the 330km to Kanding in four days. Normally 80km average a day wouldn’t be too much of a problem for us, but there were some big climbs involved, and to tell you the truth, even after a day’s rest, we were both still pretty exhausted from our northern expedition across the western Tibetan mountains.
It ended up being a hard couple of days, mainly due to the fact we were both just so tired.
On the morning of the second day I realised that we had only given ourselves two days out of 12 off the bike – no wonder our legs were giving up on us – and we were both a bit sick of the relentless cycling/camping drill.
Half way through struggling up a climb on the third day we stopped for a drink and a horrible little kid threw rocks at us.
Later in the afternoon we were chased by a couple of really vicious dogs. Luckily the large stick which we had been using as a temporary bike stand was strapped to the back. I’ve never hit an animal before, but these dogs were really going for my ankles and I gave them both a good whollop on the head before they were finally chased away by a passing motorcyclist who stopped to help us.
Later again, the rain rolled in and we agreed to give ourselves a break and get to the next major town, Bamei, find a hotel and organise transport for the last 110km to Kanding.
This turned out to be a very good decision as we managed to organise a shared taxi to take us and the bike to Kangding for 200Y and the foul weather got worse overnight and continued all throughout the next day.
Despite our driver’s slightly erratic overtaking and the countless crashes we passed on our journey to Kanding we were glad to be in a vehicle rather than battling up hill through the rain, fog and wind.
On the way down to the town we passed a huge group of Sunday cyclists climbing the long switchback road up towards Kanding airport. Many of them looked soaked through and miserable and we were very happy to be in the car!
We reached Kanding at around 1:30 and booked ourselves on to the 4:30pm local bus which would carry us and the bike to Chengdu.
Before it got dark we were able to look out and appreciate the vastness of the Dadu river which is repeatedly damned the whole way to Chengdu. At one particular section, it was like we were driving around the edges of a huge lake rather than along a river. We enter a long straight tunnel and on reaching the other side find ourselves suddenly driving along a deep, empty valley instead.
Looking back over my shoulder, I gaze open mouthed at the imposing concrete wall stretching across the full length of the gorge. It must be nearly a kilometre high, the biggest hydroelectric dam we have seen by far.
The journey took nine hours and we sleepily disembarked in the centre of Chengdu at 1:30 in the morning.
We had had to take both wheels, seat posts and handlebars off the tandem and we were not looking forward to putting it together in the dark and rain before finding a hotel.
Luckily a family approached us and said they owned a cheap guesthouse just around the corner. We settled on a 50Y price and were able to carry the bike frame and luggage between us. At least we wouldn’t need to worry about setting up the bike until tomorrow morning and, dog tired, we fall easily asleep despite the very loud snores coming from our neighbour in the room next door.