Sichuan, a province in the West from Tibet, turned out to be a remedy for the coldness of Xinjiang. After 5 days of resting in Urumqi (Ania had a problem with her knee and could not cycle too much) we made a decision to take a bus somewhere South. It was not easy – almost all tickets were sold out and we were extremely lucky to buy 2 last tickets to Chengdu for the same day, for a sitting bus (there are also sleeper buses in China, which are much more comfortable). An info for other cyclists: we paid 650 Yuan each and only 100 Yuan for each bike (because we could fold them super small!).
After extreme 50 hours of sitting, 50 hours with 50 Chinese peasants spitting into buckets (luckily not on the floor) and eating chicken feet snacks we crossed the deserts of Xinjiang and mountains of Gansu and finally arrived at the capital of Sichuan. Suddenly we found ourselves riding with t-shirts on – it was at least 15C warmer! Everything was finally Chinese – the roofs were covered with tiles, bamboo was growing everywhere, people were riding bikes and rickshaws. We finally felt that we arrived to China!
Chengdu was a fantastic city! Very modern (as all Chinese big cities) yet still quite traditional, with the pagodas and old buildings here and there. We stayed in a hostel in the Tibetan district and had a chance to get a glimpse of Tibetan culture.
Chengdu has a lot of parks, full of life! People seem to enjoy their free time there and like to do all sort of activities together – from dancing to traditional martial arts and sport.
After so many days in the wilderness we were missing some urban life and a proper shopping. We were quite surprised to find shops that we know from Europe. Whatever you think of globalization – it is nice to have an ice cream in a Swedish furniture store and buy some cheap but good outdoor equipment in a French multi sport hypermarket.
From Chengdu we went further down South, to see more of Sichuan. We cycled through some nice and quiet villages, inhabited by mostly old people (the young generation moved almost entirely to some big cities). The time in rural China runs slow – perfect for us!
China is a HUGE country and it is very difficult to cycle it all and yet see anything else than asphalt. To save some time we hitch-hiked between the big cities. It was not easy with the bikes, but Chinese people are used to transportation of unusual cargo, so we had a successful (free) crossing. The generosity of the drivers and “we can do it” attitude was really impressive! Everything is possible in China!
On every step we get surprised, amazed and sometimes disgusted by what people are able to eat in China. No matter how many stories about China you have heard, it will shock you! Luckily there are plenty of delicious vegetarian options, so we are never hungry!