Day 21 - 22nd April - Yuanyang to Luoping

The alarm woke us at 0600 to get up and experience the sunrise over the rice terraces. The alarm was necessary as I had spent most of the night trying to soften up the bed. I think it was a brick platform covered with a mattress protector. I must have succeeded at some stage as the bruising on my hips was already starting to show.

We strode up to the viewing platform in the cool, damp morning darkness. The whole place was socked in with cloud and we weren’t going to see any sunrise. We should have stayed in bed and enjoyed the fruits of our labour from softening the mattress.

After a breakfast of noodles, vegetables and eggs we set off back down the mountain. It was slow because of the fog and that water buffalo and most of the local vehicles don’t display hazard or fog lights. We could hardly see a couple of cars in front.

Yuanyang is at an altitude of around 1850m. The good part about all of this was that for the first time on the journey we were wearing long sleeved tops and long pants. The temp was down to around 10c and the Navigator was searching for the heater controls in the car.

The road to Luoping was dominated by steep, terraced mountains and every available inch (or should I say ‘mu’ as the Chinese do) of ground devoted to cultivating something. There was plenty of rice, but more so vegetables of every description, a variety of fruit including loquat and grapes (for making wine), canola, corn and other grains. These were all being sold along the road side along with smoked rabbits on a stick.

The villages vary from the dishevelled, bombed out look with rutted roads, rubbish (mainly plastic) and shop houses lining the street, to perfectly manicured gardens lining the main roads into other towns. Street sweepers both human and mechanical making sure that the roads were clean and rubbish absent.

With the mountainous territory comes the long steep descents. The trucks use water mist to cool their brakes on these. So to service that need there are water sellers in most of the laybys along the road. By the look of the people operating these services it’s not terribly lucrative. Further, I’m not sure whether they pay for the water they supply or not as their hoses just seem to miraculously appear out of the ground.    

We are starting to get to know these guys as we tend to use their laybys to pull in for morning tea as there are not many other options. No local sporting fields with parking lots and toilets or dedicated picnic areas at all. The expectations of some of the group was that we would buy food for morning tea and lunch in the local super market and stop in a scenic spot along the way and peacefully enjoy our picnic. But this is not the Chinese way and they have not catered for it. Historically the travellers would have stopped at a roadside stall or in a village to get some noodles or rice. More so now they stop at the massive petrol station/service centres which have clean toilets and a fast food outlet (noodles generally). There must be huge numbers stopping at these places all at once. They have a vast open fronted washroom with toilets off to the side. At one I counted 40 individual urinals – I’m not sure what the Ladies looked like but given the turnaround time they must have been equally as impressive. These facilities looked like they were designed to cater for more people than the Sydney Football Stadium at half time.

The areas we are travelling through are the poorer regions of China and that is reflected in the variety of vehicular traffic we are seeing as we approach the smaller towns. Buffalo drawn trailers, pedal/electric 3 wheel bikes with a carriage tray and a variety of motorised contraptions.

Luoping, like a number of towns we have been through, is perplexing. Vast new commercial and residential developments that seem to be empty. I think we were the only guests in the large modern hotel we were staying in.

After a long day’s drive (about 420k), I was knackered and had succumbed to a gastric bug, so had a shower and trundled off to bed while the Navigator headed off to hot pot dinner in a local restaurant ($8 each with beers).  

But the car went well.