16 November 2011
Today's a lot less eventful. We all walk out to breakfast at a place Chris has tracked down. Bowls of ersi supplemented with some chaocai, and we're ready for the day. Sander, Tom and Chris are headed for the bus station to return to Kunming, Marc and I will head to Kaiyuan, 86km almost due south.
We decide to take it in one, with no break for lunch. It takes us a while to find the road out of town, but once we're on it, we know we're headed the right way. The road is rough for most of the day, sealed but broken or poorly laid. This keeps our average speed a little lower than we'd have liked, around 17km/h. I'm also riding gently because of my errant back wheel.
We do a section on a massive new highway that is yet to be completed, and is free of traffic, but we leave it when we see tunnels ahead. We have a couple of opportunities to get onto the G326 highway again, but the traffic load is very high, and the road is narrow with no shoulder. We stay on the old road.
After around 70km on the clock, the old road ends and we get dumped onto the G326. Fortunately it widens here and the surface is much better than the old road. At a shop they tell us it's 30km to Kaiyuan. We're sceptical, but it's confirmed by the toll gate. We're going to have to ride hard again to beat darkness. The gentle ups and downs from earlier in the day now become more pronounced, and we're alternately grinding up hills awash with truck fumes and blasting down descents unable to hear for airflow noise. We reach the edge of the city, and ease off, sure that we've worked hard enough to make it to accommodation before darkness falls. Sulphury smells in the air and plenty of industrial buildings imply Kaiyuan's a chemical town. I see a bus whose line terminus is 'sugar factory' - we've been passing fields of sugar cane all day.
We track around the north west of the city, joking that all we need to do is find Renmin Lu and hang a left and we're done. Dongfeng Lu turns out to be the east-wester we choose, and we cross the north-south Renmin Lu just before we hit a 50 kuai/night hotel that fits the bill. It gets dark as we check in.
96km, 18.1km/h, 5hr17.