Songpan to Qingcheng Shan and Chengdu

22nd Jan - 1st Feb 2004

In the space of 300km we lost over 2000m of altitude, so it was for the most part an easy and enjoyable ride, although we did have strong afternoon headwinds. The first two nights we camped and cooked our food on the Trangia, as it was difficult to find an open hotel during Spring Festival. The road ran through a deep gorge and where it was shaded it was still icy, but apart from that it was a good road and the scenery was superb.

On the second day we passed a small village where the locals made a living by providing mounts for photos.

This scenery was typical of the first half of the ride:

The day before we got to Qingcheng Shan it snowed an inch of wet snow. We were very glad we were not still in Songpan facing a 200km descent on fresh snow. Somehow the sight of us riding in the snow caught the imagination of the Chinese and we were photographed and videoed several times by passing cars.

Qingcheng Shan is a Taoist holy mountain, dotted with temples which are connected by steep paths that wind through the forest. We spent a pleasant day wandering up and down, exercising our wasted walking muscles and taking in the ambiance.

The day after we'd been on the mountain we had pedalled 5km from the hotel when Mark's front rim split. It had simply worn out after 18,000km of often hilly riding, despite being one of the thickest rims available (a Sun Ryno). This was our first serious equipment failure and we had no choice but to return Qingcheng Shan village, leave our gear in the hotel and get a bus to Chengdu to buy a new rim.

We couldn't find exactly what we wanted but we got three new Sun rims of different types to try out. While we were there we went to the Panda Research Base and saw the pandas chewing their way through vast heaps of bamboo leaves.

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