to Shaxi

Jianshui to Shilin
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One more day of highway. After 3 days of rain it starts to clear
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Here’s a Chinese toll booth. Motorcycles pass free in the right hand lane. We’ve gone through maybe 10 of them so far
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Oil and damp steel. A little too much gas and you’re on your side. Paddling is the way
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Boring, nothing to see. We can’t read the signs and there are many
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I have a hell of a time keeping up with Jamil and Andrew on their GSA1200’s. Not only do they have a windshield, but their bikes are made for this highway.

And they can ride. Here’s Andrew on his track bike, the brilliant Aprilia RSV4
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And Jamil on his Duc 1098. Jamil at his most active put 100 track days in a 2 year period.
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They’re good friends. A classic bromance.

I think this is the Nanpan River, I just tried to mapcheck it, but maybe not
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We arrive, crash, and the next day head off to the Shilin Stone Forest like the tourists we are. It’s odd, but solo I never feel like a tourist. Here, in this group, I do, and don’t like the feeling much.

Anyway, the bridge across to the stone forest
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Unreal formations, not large, but interesting. Like free-standing, isolated hoodoos
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Lots of Chinese tourists come here
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We’ll be taking some photos over the next few weeks of Chinese ‘cool’. I’m interested in what their spin is. There’s a lot of visible wealth around the cities, the Porshe Cayenne being the suv of choice, in black
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Where were we? Oh yes.

(Jamil, Andrew and myself have ‘cliqued’ off from the others. This is a terrible thing to do, but it’s happened. The fact of the matter is, we know what we’re doing, the official guide and back-up guide don’t, and after 5 days of screw-ups we’re close to mutiny. We actually talk about mutiny, but the official Chinese permissions, at the most, require we exit the border and sign out as a group, at the almost-most that we stay together all the time. Solo is so much easier)

The 3 of us walk around the stone forest together
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Preparing the stone and chiseling in words is traditional here, and looks nice. I can’t think of anywhere else it would look as right
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Steps thoughtfully carved in. The stamp of the Chinese on the landscape is everywhere
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A yellow, robust pea relative, we think
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Not sure, maybe Nicky has a guess
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Here’s this spider again. It’s enormous, maybe 3 inches body length, with a web that we’ve seen span from tree to tree, 20 feet or more. We saw it way back in Timor-Leste, and before that, more than a year earlier a very similar one across the Pacific in Panama with Eddie. For some reason it’s really nice when these links with prior experiences happen
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A very still and deep pool. I check it carefully for life, nothing
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Shilin to Kunming
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Kunming (population 6.4M) is the largest city on the ride. It’s the political and economic capital of Yunnan province
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Wiki says it’s a significant example of China’s modernization effort
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Electronic signage lines the streets, the fashion ads are specially interesting. More later
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Green Park in the city center. Late fall, so little in flower
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Chinese dance. We see this often. Very slow and restrained with a central movement theme, but around that the movement can be free-form and individual but never at a different pace, everyone’s very slow timing is locked-in and it’s somehow satisfying to watch
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Musicians and singers in the various structures. The music is also slow and restrained. There are traditional 3 string bowed instruments of various shapes and sizes and frequently a violin
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Kunming to Shuanglang
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We’re headed for Eklai lake
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More of these…
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Into a small village before Shuanlang. Architecture chat later
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Lunch. General food chat later
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Fresh shrimp
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And bird-on-a-stick. I guess the strategy is to eat the body part and leave the head there on the stick. The eyeballs are glazed over which gives them an foetus-like lookP1020697

A kitchen off the street, with the traditional basket-steamer over a wood fire. Anything and everything could be in there
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Onwards
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Fishing cormorants. The wiki entry has a picture from this very lake, here
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Here we go again. Rich kids and their shades
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And to our destination, full of Chinese tourists
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Shot of Jamil, Anita, Andrew at our hotel. If you’re a riding ace like these two you can carry whatever vast top box you like and be beyond style criticism. Andrew had all kinds of amazing bike stuff in his, Jamil had all kinds of amazing food stuff in his. They were like Santa at times
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Fabulous rental scooters. We should have done this for an hour but it didn’t occur to me until now
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Shuanglang to Shaxi
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The track so far, from Chiang Mai
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How that looks on Google Earth
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Just south of the Himilayan Plateau, where we’re headed
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We start with a nice ride around the lake
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A representative well-off home from this area. New construction looks like this
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Through a typical smaller village. Vendors side-by-side at street level, homes above, same as everywhere really
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However money is being made now, this is the classic style of newer homes. Walls, white-panelled, open-fronted to the courtyard, decorative edging, Chinese characters and often dark blue landscape scenes painted into the empty spaces. For this whole central part of Yunnan, this style is consistent

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The traditional temples are everywhere, this one very small
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Me, Jamil, Andrew, Anita. Not a selfie because my helmet’s on
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Miles of this
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Low hills, a rare small lake
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A long stretch of this. For us these avenues are a good time to think
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Into Shaxi. This is one of the most important and protected towns in China. To quote wiki, it’s the most intact caravan town on the ancient tea route from Yunnan into Burma and Tibet. Trade started here in the 7th century
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My room in the old, wonderful hotel. This is the nicest room I’ve stayed in since, well a looong time. Here for 2 nights, great, felt like going to bed with iBooks and getting up in 48 hours, such comfyness
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Cars can’t get into the old town, so the hotel has this buggy to pick up luggage for tourists. The tires were a bit flat. Rather than help, we watched the 3 girls struggle a bit. They looked at us like we were lazy males. We laughed. It seemed funny at the time, 2 moto pros being useless, but not so funny now… oh well, you had to be there
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The fab hotel, right on the main square
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Next day, Shaxi day ride
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Getting into the country was great. Boo! to organized rides. Other than with Helge. And then, you ride your own ride and just meet at the day’s destination. Anyway, it was beautiful. Andrew with Anita, Jamil, and me. The troublemakers
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Zooming through little hamlets
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Dodging cows and goats, both here
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These
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Andrew and Anita, water crossing
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Jamil
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Barely wider than a path
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Then we got blocked by a huge number of small parked trucks. It didn’t make any sense, we couldn’t figure out why. So after checking there were no alternates on the GPS, we reversed.

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