26 October 2011
After two long but relatively straightforward days, day three starts to throw in some proper work. It starts benign, but that's overlaid with a sense of foreboding: the road is headed steadily up a valley. We're going to have to climb our way out.
The main climb starts at 27km down. We'd heard reports of poor surface, but we started the climb on lovely fresh asphalt. It didn't last: 9km of climbing, most of it on very poor surface indeed, with rain showers thrown in for extra fun. There's almost no traffic, and many roadside properties have fallen out of use. The climb tops out at just over 2400m.
The summit is em-shaped: a short descent on good surface leads into the second climb on the rough stuff. There were a couple of chasey dogs on this section. A bumpy but surfaced descent follows. We stopped above a reservoir in the small village of Libidian (力必甸) for some lunch — a big bowl of rustic vegetable and ham stew (火腿杂菜) was the highlight.
After lunch there were a few small and medium climbs, before a final descent on acceptable surface. We came out onto the valley floor, cruising well, and went smack into a stiff headwind, which made going hard. We took a rest and snack stop in Yunnan Yi (云南驿) — the town was a major stop on the the Ancient Tea Horse Road (茶马古道) and a key airfield during the Hump flight years.
The road narrows as you approach Xiangyun, and the traffic gets busier, but a steady grind will bring you into to an approach to the town from the south. New concrete road brings you into town. After finding a place to stay we headed to the 'old' town to find some food — a full spread of good eats at a Muslim restaurant, and we were set for the final next day's ride to Dali.
112km, 6hr16 rolling time, 17.7km/h average.