Zhe4 shi4 bu2 shi4 si4 shi2 si4 shi2 shi1 zi?

Desperately trying to catch up on photos and stories from the past three weeks.

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Quick stop in Lijiang to rest up after my 150km day and to pick up some spare bike parts. This is Dong, yet another young Chinese fellow who had quit his job and decided to ride to Tibet. He had trained to be a veterinarian but wound up doing other word that he wouldn’t tell me about. When I asked him whether he thought he’d be able to get another job easily once he finished his ride, he replied, “I’m not confident.”

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After a night of mooching, I returned to the road, this time headed south to the city of Yunlong (“Cloud Dragon”), with a few planned stops on the way.

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If I had just followed National Road 214 for another 1000 or so kilometers, I could be in Laos by now. Instead, I took the scenic route yet again. It seems China isn’t quite ready to let go of me.

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A little park in Jianchuan where I was told I wasn’t allowed to camp. Jerks.

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I had read about the “Stone Lion Forest” in my LP, and since I had made excellent time that day, I decided to go check it out. The descriptions of being surrounded by thousands of stone lions led me to imagine that I would be surrounded by thousants of stone lions. Lost, drowning in them even. Instead, it was a long uphill slog of a hike with lions carved every so often into rocks along the side of the road. Cool, but not the Stephen King-esque scene I had been picturing.

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The title of the post comes from a Chinese tongue twister having to do with fourty (si4 shi2) four (si4) stone (shi2) lions (shi1 zi).

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These two kindly folks, whom I had met in the park below and asked for directions, not only accompanied me on the 5km walk up to the entrance of the Stone Lion Park, but even walked next two hours’ worth of stairs to get to the “Lion King” above. Both from the Bai minority. The woman taught me the Chinese phrase for “for a lifetime” in the context of insisting I remember her for the remainder of mine. She also offered to set me up with her daughter in Beijing, but it’s a little bit out of my way.

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The walk down.

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Old town by night.

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For breakfast: street food from bicycle vendors in front of the elementary school. Buckwheat pancakes, dumplings, flat breads, fresh peanut milk…$1.

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Buckwheat pancake lady looks like Christopher Hedges.

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Another few hours on the saddle brought me to Shaxi, one more cobblestoned ancient city. No Lijiang throngs, no Shangri-la frost, just a couple of college students here and there practicing their painting.

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After a nap and doing my laundry, I went for a walk around town. Amidst all the calm and beauty, I came across a litter of five puppies lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs. One of them was still, its body speckled with flies. The others were huddled together, either for warmth or solace. Should I have gone to the market and bought them some meat? At least brought them some water? Would that relieve their suffering, or prolong it? How can I turn my pain and compassion into something useful for the puppies? Is it good enough just to do what I can not to cause suffering in the first place, or should I be working to reduce it as well? These questions haunted me all night long.

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That night, in the hotel, my dorm roomie showed me a map of Yunnan that he’d been carrying around and pointed out that there was a shortcut that would save me about 100km on my trip from Shaxi to Yunlong.

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All was good for a while.

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30km later, I turned off the provincial road and onto the county road. How long will this unpaved road last? Who knows, but as always, I’ve got my tent, 3L of water, a bottle of oatmeal, and tubs of peanuts, raisins, and even some special dried, sugared plums. Roll with it.

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14 bumpy kilometers later, I took a break at this hydroelectric plant, receiving some tea from the two guys on duty. “We’re supposed to be making electricity, but there’s not enough water.”

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Constant dilemma: ride in the center and risk damage to the wheels, frame, and my family jewels? Or ride on the dirt shoulder and risk plunging into the river below?

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My lord, everything is beautiful here.

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This guy is way cooler than me. No tent, AND sleeping on a 1m x 2m ledge with a 200m gorge below. Baller! Or maybe just drunk.

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Finally, after 30km of excruciation, the asphalt finally reappears. Hello, sub-county road XL79532931!

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One more mountain between me and Yunlong, just 1200m or so to climb…

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Four hours later, I found this house at the top of the mountain. No chickens, no dogs, no trash, no garden, no firewood. Must be abandoned, right? With a tent-sized front porch facing east for a view of the sunrise (from 3200m!) no less.

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While I was pitching my tent, two girls in Naxi tribe clothes walked across the front yard. I approached them and started apologizing profusely. They saw me, started screaming “Daddy!” and ran away, down into the hills I had just come up. Was I trespassing? Were we both? From the top of the hill, I watched them run to their father below, after which they all continued walking away.

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What a long day!

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3 Responses to Zhe4 shi4 bu2 shi4 si4 shi2 si4 shi2 shi1 zi?

  1. 썌키 says:

    Hey at least you made some girls scream “daddy!”

  2. yangsong says:

    i think you’re freedom,brave,chinese don’t have your three rule ride ,i like it-3rr.nice .do you rember me michael roy ,i’m a cop in lancang.

    • Michael Roy says:

      Of course I remember, Lancang was only three days ago! Or was it four? five? I don’t know! I made it to Huiming the first night, then Menghun the second, then Jinghong today.

      How’s everything in Lancang? Please send me the pictures when you get a chance!