D42: 寨蒿→乐里 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

October 10, 2020

D42: 寨蒿→乐里

Today was relatively short and, like yesterday, mostly followed the stream valley. The road wasn't as consistently in as disastrous a condition as it was yesterday but I still broke a second spoke. I didn't used to break spokes. I'm not sure if this is a function of just how fat I currently am, the roads I'm currently riding on, the change from 700c to 26" or something else altogether. But I didn't used to break spokes (one on last year's tour, none on any previous tour), and I'm not sure how many broken spokes you can safely ride on before you need to hop a bus to the nearest bike shop as soon as possible.

As the wheel is still mostly true (no noticeable wobbles anyways), I decide that three is the max I'm willing to risk. On 2018's tours I hitched a ride once for a mechanical failure and once because nightfall. Last year, I managed to go without a single episode of hitching a ride (the required border bus in Hong Kong doesn't count) and, although I've had a few motorized detours here and there on this tour, I kind of like this new trend where all my forward motion is achieved by muscle power.

I spend a goodly chunk of my morning slowly eating breakfast noodles and making coffee and people watching the crowds. The mix of traditional and modern clothing in various combinations is quite strong and if I were in a more paparazzi type mood, there could be lots of things to take photos of. Instead, however, I just enjoy watching the sound and the chaos of the people living lives that, to them, are completely ordinary and uninteresting. 

As is often the case in rural China, the population skews heavily towards the very very old and the very very young. There are some people in their 20s and 30s but most people in that age range have gone off to the cities to work.

As I'm going upstream all day, the watercourse which I'm following gets progressively narrower every time I pass a dam or one of the streams that feeds it. The colors of the water change as well from that brilliant green that looks nothing so much like an algae bloom that somehow survives rapids to muddy brown to a shallow black the color of wet rocks.

The scenery is about what you would expect from a river valley in remote mountains in rural China. Lots of wooden houses. Lots of smallholdings being worked with hand tools. More of that amazing indigo cloth hanging out to dry.

I admit that I'm actually trying to find all the things that I photographed in 2012 to take pictures of them again but it's not even all that hard to do as the majority of the things that caught my fancy 8 years ago are items which are unique in some way or another.

Despite the flat tire I get near the covered bridge at what I think might have been Darui Village [大瑞村] and the time spent fixing the flat and photographing the old men sitting on the benches along the bridge, I still have a lot of sunlight left to me when I get into Leli. This makes me strongly consider continuing onwards as it's really not that far to the next place with lodging. However, my memories from 2012 of the morning market in Leli and all the wonderful clothing that the women were wearing has me decide instead to make a loop of the town, pick a hotel out of the many available, and settle in for the night.

I get a room that has a (non-working) air conditioner/heater and a also (not very warm) electric blanket as well as an ensuite bathroom and a key card to enter. I don't remember if the bed was comfortable or not. Judging by the rooms downstairs (I had come back from doing my laundry on the roof and was trying to find a person to ask about the air conditioner's lack of warm despite lights indicating that it should be making warm) with the shared bathroom facilities and the sheer number of hotels available in a town as small as Leli, there must be some time of the year when Leli completely fills up with people. 

Today's ride: 35 km (22 miles)
Total: 2,143 km (1,331 miles)

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Mike AylingHi Marion

Re spokes
It is said that a 26" wheel can be stronger than a 700c and a Rohloff does not require dishing which tends to stress the drive side spokes so I would be having a word with your wheel builder when you get home.
We have a Rohloff in a 26" wheel on our Thorn tandem and Mary who is petite and I weigh in at about 125kg and we add about 20kg of luggage for credit card touring and have had no trouble with the wheel.


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