28 November 2011
Marc and I head to Banna Café for some breakfast. While it's being prepared, we pop to the bike shop around the corner on Manting Lu to check out a handlebar bag. Having some weight on the bars the last few riding days has made the ride feel a bit more treacley and less twitchy. The bag seems to do the job. Breakfast does the job too.
Just after 10:30am, I hit the road. Marc's either going to hop the bus back to Kunming or kick around in Jinghong another day. Traffic's a bit messy pulling out of town, but at least the route is simple. The new wheel's freewheel isn't yet run in, so I'm getting mad chain slack when I freewheel. It starts to improve as the day goes on.
Immediately after getting on the Mekong riverside road, the surface is broken up due to construction traffic. I'm pretty confident it's going to improve once I'm properly out of town, and after 6km or so, it does.
The Mekong's to my right for nearly 30km, Burma beyond. This immense slab of water is slipping between the rocks, returning to the sea. The road surface is smooth, and I race the river, sliding up over the bumps and flooding down the descents.
When I leave the riverside to go east, I'm expecting to climb. It doesn't really materialise - some short and gentle uphills take me up 250m, but it's all returned to me by the ride's end. I see a couple of roadies out for a spin. Thumbs-ups are exchanged. I spend several blocks of time in the big ring, putting down 30km/h+ cruises. The road is mine.
I come back into sight of the highway to the border, but I ride on the old road to avoid tunnels. I'm almost surprised when I roll into Menglun. I find a place to stay, slam down some fried rice and mala doufu, and head off to the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Gardens.
A totally professional-looking outfit, at 1,100 hectares this is China's largest botanic garden, founded in 1959. It takes me a while to work out what's irking me about it, before it comes to me that it's a garden. I've been riding through so much real jungle that this place just feels tidied and sanitised. This realisation made, I enjoy it more. It's quiet and visitors are sparse, light reflects off pools and spills patterns on tree trunks, birds make strange noises in the high branches, cicadas are playing percussion. It's hot in mid afternoon, but by the time I head out of the park around five, it's cooling off.
I've been feeling a bit of tightness in my right knee, so before I return to the hotel, I pick up a tiny bottle of zhenggushui - correcting bones water. Rubbing this on has a deep heat type effect which might relieve it in time for tomorrow's climbs.
73km, 22.3km/h, 3hr16min, 942km