26 October 2011
Lufeng's a small place that's easy to escape from - a roundabout in the northwest will bring you out of town and back to the G320. The road is split here — westbound traffic takes the north side of the river, while eastbound takes the south. The steep-sided, green valley is pleasant cycling, and traffic isn't too troublesome. Surface is a little worn and choppy, but it's still possible to maintain a decent cruising speed.
There are tunnels on this section, the first at about 10km out, so be sure to have your lights mounted or handy. There are five tunnels in total, two tiny ones that raise no problem, and three longer ones that are worth going through cautiously. They're only 100-200m long, but unlit and not straight.
After about 12km on the clock, you begin to notice that you're steadily ascending. While the gradient does tick up now and then, it never turns into the monster that we feared it would. Just before Yipinglang Zhen (一平浪镇) the road comes back together — just track through the small town, skipping the several turn offs. The following section is good shady and winding cruising road. After 38km down, we stopped for an earlyish lunch at Jiuzhuang (旧庄). Shortly after, a left turn took us in the direction of Chuxiong (楚雄).
After 47km down, a steepish climb begins, but it's only really challenging for 3km, after which you crest the ridge and zip downhill for the next 3km. This brings you back south of the G56 highway again for the undulating run into Chuxiong, which lies at about 80km down.
The highway runs riverside through Chuxiong, and while there are a few traffic lights to stop at, it's relatively free of obstacles. After going through town, a left will keep you on G320. There's good surface after Chuxiong, though with a few short but nasty little ups and downs that you'll feel after all those Ks.
You'll see Nanhua from the top of the last climb, and begin a steady descent into town — unfortunately the surface is rough and there's plenty of other road users, so keep it steady. A roundabout (go straight on) brings you into the small downtown area. Nanhua has a large and diverse food market (on the right, soon after the roundabout) where Nanhua baba (南华粑粑, a local flatbread) is on sale. Wild mushrooms are a local specialty worth sampling between May and October.
117km, 5hr50 rolling time, 19.9km/h average.