26 October 2011
It was wet as we departed Xiangyun, and muddy roads on a short descent after leaving town left us rather dirty. After rounding a right-hand bend at the bottom of the descent, we went straight into the first climb of the day, a little earlier than expected. The surface was good, traffic light, and the rain on the trees gave us fragrant and cool air.
This warm-up climb tops out at 8km down, then descends on good surface for 7km. The traffic increases after passing the junction to Midu. The views of the verdant Midu valley made up for it, as we skirted around it to the northwest. The day's main event starts to show itself after 23km down, with the gradient creeping up. After an intersection at 26km down, the climb begins in earnest. The climb tracks across the southern face of the mountains at the north edge of the Midu valley, again providing some great views. Surface is great, and the climb is challenging but manageable — a steady grinder with the occasional flattish respite.
We looked for a place to eat lunch in Houshan (后山) village but found nothing. The climb tops out just after the village at 37km down. We decided to throw ourselves into the descent and find food at the bottom. The descent is mainly on good surface, though there is a 2km stretch of muddy rough stuff in the middle. We stopped for lunch at Jiangxi (江西) just before ducking under the G56 highway for the last time. Immediately after crossing under the highway on an unusual split level section of road, the road widens to eight lanes. It's gradually downhill, and as it's headed north, chances are you'll have a tailwind. Cue 38km/h cruising speeds.
The eight-lane takes you into downtown Xiaguan (下关), narrows and changes names several times. Traffic in downtown is busy, unsafe and dirty, especially in the wet. However, a little advance route planning made it fairly straightforward: you can track straight through town and make a single right turn from Jianshe Lu (建设路) onto Renmin Jie (人民街) by People's Park (人民公园). This will put you onto a road going north out of Xiaguan bound for Dali Old Town. It's up and down, but the destination is near. The Cangshan mountain range rises to the west, sheathed in cloud; Erhai opens to the east, fields rolling down to its shores.
A right turn towards the south gate of Dali Old Town, and you can get through the wall onto Bo'ai Lu (博爱路). Right: time for a pizza.
83km, 4hr22 rolling time, 18.9km/h average.