As we half expected we might, we ended up staying a day or so longer than planned in Kunming. Jonathan, Annie and their children were delightful hosts. Keith went to church with them on Sunday and enjoyed meeting with and talking to their friends, and we had dinner with them again that evening.
On Monday Keith and I spent the day pedalling round Kunming looking for camping gas, a new cable-lock (ours had leapt off the the trailer a few days earlier) and a few other bits and bobs. We also rode up to the Bamboo Temple which from the outside looks like just another temple complex – robed monks, brightly painted and intricately carved eaves, incense sticks, gold-painted statues and a couple of fearsome statues of gods – but inside is just a little bit different. Opposite the main temple are two halls, each divided into three smaller rooms. Each room has 3 levels of shelving around every wall. And on these shelves are around 700 individual figurines, each about a metre high, each hand-carved and each different. They’re not exactly realistic, but there’s something strangely life-like about them. Sometimes you look at them and could almost swear you saw them blink at you. They’re quite creepy, often leaning forward to peer at you, or to whisper secrets to their neighbours. The main temple hall is even more amazing. Along the walls either side of the central gold buddha are two tableaus of fantastical sea creatures emerging from the frothing surf, with all manner of weird and wonderful beings surfing on the backs of the sea creatures. One statue is reaching out with a grossly etiolated arm to touch the ceiling near the buddha statue. Another is peeling his own face back to reveal another face below. Frustratingly the area is fenced off so you have to strain to see into the dim recesses at the back, but it’s still worth a visit just to marvel and wonder what on earth was going through the artist’s mind when he created it in the 1890s. Oh, and photography is strictly forbidden inside the temple so you’ll just have to make do with your own imaginations.
Since leaving Kunming, it’s been cycle-touring snakes and ladders again. We pedalled away on a relatively cool afternoon, following the scenically uninspiring, but topgraphically attractive (ie flat) road around the eastern shore of Lake Dian before cutting east on the S202 to Fuxian Lake. A quiet, predominantly well-paved road took us through little lake-side villages, and we had looked forward to an easy afternoon as on our map the road appeared to run the entire length of the lake. In reality though, it didn’t. We back-tracked a couple of km out of the village of Jianshan and began to climb up on the main road. The climb wasn’t too bad and in due course we found ourselves on the descent. A number of roads in China are surfaced with concrete not tarmac, and this one in particular was polished by the passage of a thousand tyres to a glossy sheen. Add to that a light shower of rain and the usual smears of grease and oil, and we decided it would be prudent to proceed with extreme caution rather than our usual brake-saving descending style. Our cautious approach was not cautious enough though. The rear wheel broke loose and slid to the left. Keith jabbed his left foot to the floor and we found ourselves in the unusual position of gliding down the road at a jaunty angle, with Keith remarking on the glass-like qualities of the road surface. Time slowed. For a while Keith thought he was going to be able to keep the bike upright. But the hill always wins in the end. The wheels slid left towards his bracing foot, our balance went and we fell to the right, and continued to slide for several metres towards a parked truck. The polished road surface that had been our downfall was, in a way, our saviour too. If any of you have taken a slide down the road you know it usually results in painful loss of skin, but we were sliding along for several seconds, me in a thin shirt and Keith bare-chested, and walked away unscathed! I have the tiniest bruise on my right shoulder and Keith a small scuff on his little finger, but that’s it! Our bags and bike were similarly unmarked so we re-mounted and proceeded even more cautiously, hugging the hard shoulder which had not been polished so smoothly and was therefore a much grippier surface.
The road flattened out and the rain dried up so the rest of the day was uneventful and we found a nice campsite that evening next to a boat club. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves until Keith turned the netbook on to type up his daily log. Oh dear. Somehow, despite being buried in our bag, the netbook had taken the brunt of the fall. The tablet and my e-reader that were between the netbook and the road were fine, and the banana that was resting on top of the netbook bag was unmarked, but the netbook screen was a rainbow of crazy colours with a crack running diagonally across it, and on closer inspection the keyboard of the netbook was bent so far that the clam-shell wouldn’t shut properly. Damn, damn, damn. This was a major frustration. Although we have the tablet, it’s not so nice to type on, and doesn’t have a lot of the software that we have on the netbook…and whilst our data’s backed up our software isn’t and given the dramatic bending to the case of the netbook we weren’t sure at all what would be salvageable from it.
The next day, as we rode through the large town of Tonghai, we saw a computer shop, so Keith took the netbook in to see if anything could be done. Several shops later we finally found someone who confirmed that the hard-drive was still intact (yay!) and said they could get the screen fixed (double yay!)….but they’d have to send it back to Kunming and it would take 5 days. Decisions, decisions. We have to be out of China by 10 April when our visa expires. We still have about 700-800km to go to the Laos border…and lots of hills. But if we leave it until then we probably won’t be able to get it fixed until we reach Vientiane, the capital of Laos, which probably won’t be for 3-4 weeks….and we reckon there’s a better chance of it getting fixed here in China in any case. So, we’ve decided to go for it. We’re in a cheap hotel with a frustratingly slow pc in our room and have been told the netbook might be ready on 1 April….and then it’ll be a mad dash to the border.
28 March 2013
A quick update: the chap from the PC shop popped round to our hotel this afternoon to let us know that rather than taking 5 days, our netbook should be ready by 2pm tomorrow. And then he invited us to dinner. What a nice man!