This section from Jinping to Manhao is the seventh instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

People watching over the mountains
People watching over the mountains

I’m having some motivational issues this morning. I woke up at 5 but didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all. It’s partially the delightful bed, the air-con exactly at 20 degrees and the absence of any noise outside. But who am I kidding, the real issue is obviously the hangover. On the other hand, however, it’s thanks to last night’s early drinking that I’m able to wake up early and write the last two posts.

When I finally leave, it’s 11:30. The owner personally bids me farewell and so I deduce that I haven’t been terribly misbehaving myself yesterday night. We discuss quantities of fruit and then routes to get to today’s target, Manhao (three spellings, used seemingly randomly: 蛮耗, 曼耗 and 蔓耗). Without prompt, he informs me that the old road is good enough to ride on, that there are less cars and more views and that it’s therefore preferable to the new road. This man understands me! I wonder if he’s a rider too.

Speeding deterrent
Exemplary accident, Chinese always have good speeding deterrents

Before exiting the town, I stop at a noodles-that-crossed-the-bridge place and order a humongous bowl with goat and chicken mixed into the blend. It tastes divine and it feels like the smiling old lady has drowned an entire goat in it. When I’m done, I start my long climb to the top of the mountain (the new road goes through a tunnel). It takes 25 km and there’s not a whole lot to see, perhaps mainly because the sun’s in hiding for the morning. I’m a bit bored.

There are some pretty villages on the way, though, but I couldn’t be bothered to stop and take photos. Too many people staring at me already. The road itself is pleasant if a bit bumpy, with next to no traffic on it. As I climb higher and higher, it gets quite chilly. No wonder: the summit is almost at 2000 m, I believe that’s the highest point on my ride so far. When I reach it, I’m excited. The remaining 50 km are almost entirely downhill to the Red River, merely 100 m above sea level.

From the top, too foggy to see much, though
Rice paddies
Forget Yuanyang, this place has loads of paddies too

What follows is a prolonged arse massage: the road surface gets a lot worse after the first few kilometres. After yesterday’s drubbing, that’s more than my poor buttocks can take. I have to stand through most of the descent. The sun has also come out to play. Luckily, because it’s ice-cold at the top. Rice terraces and wooden villages zip by. My hands are numb with the road buzz. After 25 km there’s a slight incline, followed by another few, and then it’s business as usual: torpedoing to Manhao. I don’t envy whoever attempts riding in the opposite direction.

Whenever I have to tread, I notice a new injury since I’ve started going downhill. In the hollow of the knee, a tendon is nervously clicking with every cycle and while it doesn’t really hurt, it’s driving me insane. The knee and Achilles’ tendon have finally more or less ceased to play up, now this. Fortunately, I hardly have to tread at all. I do tread a bit when a vamp on a motorcycle stops right in front of me. Can’t be seen sulking!

Halfway down the mountain
Halfway down the mountain

I roll into Manhao, find a mouldy hotel room for 40 RMB – the standard for cheap hostels on the red river valley – and get showered. There’s no internet and only one plug in the entire room works. I’ve prepared for this: I can charge all my appliances with only one plug available. Unfortunately, that plug is also for the air-conditioning unit. So it’s either cool air or charged batteries. I decide it’s not really hot enough, shoo away a gecko and plug in my portable battery.

Whoever stops at Manhao can go eat (and probably stay) at Wadi Yijia 挖地一家. It’s a remarkably clean restaurant and I’m thinking the rooms (80 RMB) are similar. Although the food is delicious, it is rather expensive. I order ground beef, roasted peanuts, a rösti potato cake, rice, mala tofu and a beer for 70 RMB. Oh well, should’ve inquired first.

Tunnel on the new road
The new road goes through tunnels, I’m happy to be on the old one
Red River at Manhao
The Red River at Manhao, not so red any more.

One thought on “Slap the Belgian! Day 7: Up a Hill and Down a Mountain”

  1. When I encounter this problem I like to use Google to compare results frequency (I’d use Baidu, but they don’t tell you the number of results). Here’s what I found in your case:
    蛮耗 9,840,000 results
    曼耗 107,000,000 results
    蔓耗 2,000,000 results
    We have a clear winner!!!

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