17 November 2011
Marc and I take it slow in the morning. I've been trying to catch up on sleep, so no complaints from me about a lie-in. We get our stuff together and head for a bowl of ersi. Leaving the hotel, I discover the useful knowledge that if I use the long pannier shoulder straps, I can carry both of my panniers and my bike in one heaving, cumbersome go.
We ride the short slope of Dongfeng Lu back up to the main road and track south, descending for a bit. For 10km or so, riding is almost perfect - the weather's cool but sunny, with a gentle breeze, and the surface is smooth. We cruise along expecting the day to be a cakewalk.
Then, the road splits, each side a one-way lane, which makes for safer traffic, and we head into a steep 5km climb over several hairpins. The road lanes reunite about a kilometre before the top. 10km of descent, first steep, then gradual take us into Shadian. We tool around in Shadian for about 6km - there's a big mosque and plenty of guys in long white robes headed there for afternoon prayer. The call to prayer is being belted out of loudspeakers in the mosque's four towers. There's Arabic on the street signs. It's all a bit disorientating.
Outside the mosque we meet a Chinese bike tourist who was on his seventh day cycling from Guilin. He'd come via Baise, and was carrying a tent and sleeping "on mountains". One way to start the day with a descent, I guess.
After 31km down we exit Shadian on a smooth new/unfinished highway bound for Gejiu. We're on that for about 6k before being unceremoniously dumped onto the old S212, which soon starts heading skywards. Again there's the split lane thing, which definitely calms the nerves, but a climb's a climb. We ascend for 9km or so, topping out around 1800m, some 800m higher than Kaiyuan. There's some steep sections, but I manage to resist reaching for my granny ring, electing instead for short bursts out of the saddle.
The arrival in Gejiu is a short descent - we take the east side of the lake and track around clockwise checking out hotels. Initial impressions are good - the city surrounds a large lake, and a steep escarpment rises to the east. The place bustles in a businesslike and semi-ordered manner. Unfortunately, the hotel situation is less than ideal, with limited choice and poor value for money.
55km, 14.9km/h, 3hr40min.