Luang Nam Tha, Laos. Checked out bus station though no one made it that easy to find, got it third time lucky when I ended up following the bus i wanted to the station. The bus wasn't much of a bus more like a van on steroids but the kind of steroids which shrinks your balls and in the case of the van the balls were the luggage compartment making it impossible to take the scoot on board. Since it was Sunday there was going to be a normal bus the next morning. I didn't really want to hang about for another day so I started riding to the border through the rain but realising how much i liked my idea and not wanting to get unnecessary rejection stamps on my passport I decided a U-turn back to hotel was a comfortable decision. Back in town I ended up meeting a German teacher(a bit negative but friendly enough) and just walking about trying to keep out of the unpredictable rain. Checked out the market and it was filled with Chinese junk and food and a lot of Chinese. It is very evident China is trying to make inroads into Laos to access its market and move some of its ginormous population over the border. Building signs could be seen with Laos and Chinese flags on them as an example of the flow of Chinese capital into Laos and the reason why the roads were so good about the north is also from the Chinese so they can send all there trucks back forth dropping there shit and taking back what they want with no or little tax to pay. It looks like China could soon own the place which is a scary thought.
Noticed the sore spot on my back kind of looked like it could be a bit.
Early start and off to bus station. Bus driver didn't seem to excited about taking the Cub but with a bit of money he was full steam helping push the wee beast into lower luggage compartment. Just had to whip the from wheel off and it fit snugly between all the bags. Felt confident on the way to border but just before we were stopped two times along the road while border/military people came through bus and checked passports/visas. The driver reckoned something may have happened in China because that never happens. Suddenly wasn't feeling all that confident! At Laos border the driver was worried and said I had to have some special forms filled out to take bike over but Laos officials didn't have a clue and had no problem with me taking it over. Once we made it to the Chinese side they made the foreigners take out our bags and searched them. Then they noticed the bike and called me aside to inform me no bikes whatsoever could be brought into china and I would have to take it off and go back to Laos. After trying to negotiate and work something out for half an hour with the nice but officious Chinese I resigned to the fact I had to disembark from the bus early head back solo again. while passing back between borders there was a small strip of shops including a motorbike garage. I pulled in and ended up spending an hour persuading them to ride the bike over using one of their Chinese number plates for a temporary disguise and I would meet them on the other side. This was great because it saved me all the hassles of reversing my departure stamp and going back into Laos. They finally decided under the cover of darkness would be the best option and meet at a hotel at 8:30 inMohan on the other side. Unfortunately I had to go over way before while the border was still open to foreigners. So I spent a nervous four hours on the other side waiting to see if they had just decided to keep the bike rather than collecting the reward on the other side but just after 8:30 I heard a familiar sound puttering up the main street and I see my bike with a nice yellow plate on the back. Meet an excitable Chinese character in the hotel and asked about getting a license plate and we took off to talk to someone and then a group of cops but I didn't have a clue what he was saying to them I was feeling rather nervous about what they might do. Nothing happened and the young cops just wanted to have fun and weren't bothered about anything but I went away with no one being able to help me. Back in hotel i noticed bit thing was looking a bit red and a little puss so decided to clean it and tried to get scab of with my little pocket knife. Lost a little bit of skin around it butcouldnt get all of the scab off so dressed it with betadine antiseptic and hoped it would go away.
Tuesday 1st July
rode 350k to Simoa with an offshoot ti Jinghong. Feeling really nervous and unrelaxed as riding by myself with no riding permit, driving licence and number plate. Lots of police about but never any attention. Really good roads with multi lanes, tunnels, bridges and toll gates, that I could just ride around and didn't have to pay. the road was so different from the Laos with no cows, buffalo, chickens, goats, horses, dogs and feral kids all over them. There was still a few obligatory roadside rubbish dumps and rubbish burnings but became less the further north i went. In Jinhong I was able to find a bank in that would accept my card which was a mighty relief as I had run out of money and couldnt get any in Mohan or Mengla. After having really nice fried rice I had to leave Jinhong on the normal road because bikes are not allowed on the expressway. This was ok because you get the more scenic route traveling through villagers, tea fields and forest. The very twisty road suited the cub no end but when you are riding next to a flat straight road which can get you to your destination three times faster is very frustrating! Arrived inSimoa about 6pm and stopped at a dingey restaurant on the edge of town to use the toilet. It was just a concrete slipway/channel filled with big turds slowly making their migration outside to be washed into the adjacent waterway. I took a distant slash and made a hasty retreat.
I wasn't expecting a very big city but it was a really big and modern with high rises and thousands of shops. Found it hard to find a place to stay as they wanted a Chinese identity card and Chinese name. Found a really cheap and not very clean place that would have me and got them to make up achinese name for me. Went out walking and I don't think this city sees many white people as a got a lot of stares and i don't think all of them were friendly! Bought my first Chinese meal by pointing to what someone else was eating and it was really good gingery/garlic fried pork with capsicum with a side of rice and boiled spinach stuff in both. I think china will have the best food so far and by going on what else I have seen, the worst as well!
Long day riding in mostly rain and drizzle but covered 400ks and ended up in Xiangyun instead of Dali when I unwittingly turned off early. This was probably good though as I really wanted to go to Old Dali, not the New Dali, which wasprolly another 100km away.
That morning I probably spent nearly two hours trying to find my way out of Simao going round in circles. I thought I could just ride straight through following the same road i came in on but it ended up on small bumpy roads. After riding back to where i entered a tried to ask the people at the petrol station and after about half an hour of consulting maps and calling friends they were able to figure out how to escape the city and draw me a rough map. It turned out to be very simple but there weren't any signs at the turn off. Had to ride next to the expressway again for half the way which was annoying. Stopped at small town for very late breakfast and had to use the local toilet. Jeez, it was the worst I have ever seen and sent shivers down my spine. It was a dark concrete room with 3 slanted channels cut into the floor(as if you would want to share it with two others as well!) and thousands of maggots crawling up the shit chutes and all over the floor(at least all the maggots allowed all the turds to tumble all the way to the bottom without any chance of sticking like in the last toilet). I was very pleased to be wearing boots and relieved my bladder as far away as possible in order to make the speediest escape.
Somehow along the way I managed to take my turnoff to the west as the signs weren't very clear. That made me very happy! There were lots of rammed earth and adobe style brick buildings along the way which was nice to see but gradually being replaced by cinder block and brick. New buildings were still being built using the old materials though. the road continued wet and windy and ended up riding with a Chinese guy who was on a faster bike but I was quicker through corners so we played cat and mouse to the next city. I had to ask a bunch of people for the right way out of town. Once I made it back on to the main road I bumped into the Chinese guy again but for some reason he couldn't keep up. Saw him at a petrol station sometime later and he came in locking up the front wheel and nearly falling over! Rode until I saw a massive flight of stairs and was too interested to see where they went so pulled over and climbed to the top with my pack on getting all nice and sweaty. There was just a pagoda at the top but nice to be off the bike and have the heart working. Some Chinese folk Had ridden up another way and offered me a ride back down which was nice. The road after that got really nice but the bike had lost power and wouldn't go over 70km/h. I thought it may have been the altitude but I suspect it was really poor fuel as it hasn't done it since. Climbed and descended a mountain on an amazingly smooth and twisting flowing road with great views. Vegetation thinned out into spindly pine trees and gum trees implanted into vivid red earth. Once I ended up inXiangyum (without knowing it) I started asking directions to Dali when a guy asked if i wanted a room for the night and said Dali was 70ks away. Since it was already 8pm I thought it was best to take him up on the offer. Everyone at the guesthouse was really interested in my map of china and studied it for ages. No one spoke English so when it came to dinner I just had to point to meat and veggies in the fridge for them to cook. Turned out really nice and similar to lunch.
Bike needs indicator cover and bulb, tail light, a good clean, maybe a tune to stop it backfiring under heavy engine braking and isprolly due for an oil change.
Relatively cruisy day, 300km. Seem to be getting up in the night all the time to take a slash. Not sure if it has something to do with my bite which is getting quite big and sore. will hit up the hospital when I get toLijiang. Got made noodle soup but unlike in Vietnam, cambo and Laos it was nice and didn't have that pungent meaty broth taste. Paid only $nz 8 for room, dinner, beer and breakfast. Guy next door hooked me up with a bolt to reattach my indicator then hit the road with new directions. Arrived to Dali new city and road turned into a vast expanse of concrete marked out into about ten lanes with centre stripe filled with massive erect rocks. The road was virtually empty apart from a few trucks, bikes and some very unfortunate people who were sweeping the road by hand!! Another road nearly as vast running perpendicular was lined with huge white Romanesque statues and just looked completely out of place and ill thought out but gave the city such and alien feel I thought I had just ridden onto a different planet. Ended up just blasting through the city to Old Dali which was really touristy but idled around the small cobbled roads and pedestrianised lanes on the cub which was in its element and found a place for lunch. Left my bike and bag at the restaurant and took to the stony streets on foot. Got offered ganja on every corner! went and found a place to get more information on the state of Tibet but the guy i wanted to talk with wasn't there. Found a map with both English and Chinese names on it so that should make asking for directions way easier...maybe. Decided not to hang around but when leaving heard some blues music playing at a cafe so decided to stay and have a drink and relax a bit longer. Who knewKeb Mo could sound that good? I must really be a blues starved boy! Bought some veggie salty pancake things from the side of the road to take with me and took off towardsLijiang into the impending rain.
The nice 8 lane highway thing suddenly turned into a cramped bumpy 2 lane road on the edge of town crammed with smokey trucks and crazy tour buses. I wasn't down with that shit an managed to crawl my way up into some open road. Tones of cops coming the other way which seemed strange. Ended up raining and while changing into wets an old village guy carrying a sack of something stopped and we sort of introduced each other and I gave him half my pancake thing which heyummed down then took off. The final ride to Lijiang over a mountain was spectacular with more tip top roads. trees started to disappear near the top, which must be over 3000m. Arrived inLijiang and set about finding the old town and followed the signs to where the edge of it was but couldn't figure out where to get in or where exactly the bulk of it was. Got completely confused by my Lonely Planet map and rode around for ages grumpy, tired and really sore(from bite) until I did a big swoop of the area and found a proper entry road and magically ended up exactly at the guesthouse i wanted to be at! The people at Ma MaNaxi's guesthouse were so friendly and hooked me up with some food straight away. Got talking to some with it travellers and we all went off to to watch a Ingmar Bergman flick which was cool with me as I couldn't be bothered doing anything! Asked some people to look at my bite and they thought it looked pretty serious and Ma MaNaxi said she could take me to hospital in morning. Ma Ma is the best, like a really nice slightly senile grandma. Walked about the old town after and checked out the bar street which was a real hoot with all the Chinese music and bad dance dunes mixed in with way too loud karaoke! All the tight lanes and roads are like a rabbit warren and so easy to get lost. Hit the bed bad my bite was so sore i couldn't sleep on my back. I guess it is not going to get better by itself.
Friday 4th July
Up early for hospital. Didn't sleep at all well and kept waking up in pain. All the lymph glands under my right arm were even more swollen than the night before and it was really uncomfortable to have my arm at my side due to the swelling. Ended getting a ride and got dropped in front of hospital. went inside and tried to figure out the queuing system. Paid something like 50c for a ticket and pointed towards another building. Found a doctor inside who just prodded me a few times in the arm pit and swollen third tit while i expressed great pain. Then he just sent my back to cue up again with another note. Paid some more money then was pointed back to the building I just came from to see a nurse. With flies buzzing around and stained walls, dirty sheets and filthy floor i was a bit apprehensive about what they might do to me in such an unsavoury environment. In the end though they didn't even try to clean up the scab or remove any puss and just put some brown paste over it and a bandage and sent me away! At that point I really didn't know what to think apart from they prolly didn't like me so decided not to treat me. Walked about town and decided to buy an MP3 player as i was starting to go a bit insane not being able to listen to music. Ended up with a pretty cheep Chinese thing that i hoped I would be able to figure out. Found a cd shop which had a very limited selection of pirated western music so ended up with some prodigy, chemical brothers and surprisingly a Spiritualized album i have on record back home all for a couple of bucks. On the way back to guesthouse ,whilst rather lost in the labyrinth of lumpy lanes, I bumped into a Singaporean woman that was on my china bus who acted as a translator for me when trying to sort out bike stuff and she said a private doctor is the way to go for proper treatment and probably cheaper. Went to a cafe to get some comfort food and while downing a Yunnan coffee and some cheesecake a young Chinese couple came in and the girl spoke English so I hit her up about a doctor. She happened to have a friend in town who worked as a doctor in the Burmese army for 8 years so we trundled off to his hotel. They all couldn't believe what the hospital did nor could they understand why i left it so long! Gan, the doctor dude, cleaned the protrusion with salty water and plastered it with some other brown slurry he made from some sort of Chinese antibiotic pills then chucked a bandage over top. he said it will help soften it up so it can be worked on the next day. I was informed though that I may have left it too late. I failed to ask, to late for what? Maybe i didn't want to know. I was sent off with more of the brown pills which i was to take four of every three hours and a bag of bitter tea which looked like dried mini broccoli. I was told not to have coffee, alcohol, smoke, spicy food or mango's!
Meet back up with the Chinese couple at the cafe to share their huge meal Which was all really nice apart from the pig head fat and liver. Had a couple of green bean ice blocks for dessert which were surprisingly nice. Had to leave my lovely couple and sort some photos for bro and get some rest.
Saturday 5th July
Slept in and listened to music. had lots of fruit for lunch then called home for first time to wish my wonderful Mum a happy birthday. Went to get my bite cleaned out in the arvo which turned out to be rather epic. I think the pills were working because my lymph nodes were already starting to go down. I arrived at hotel to find another doctor from Chengdu there and she did most of the work which was prolly a good thing. After removing bandage and cleaning the area some puss was removed with gentle squeezing but a syringe was then used to go deeper and suck out blood and puss. I was then informed that that wasn't enough as it was still hard and would need to be cut open. Then Gan pulled out his big leatherman and started sterilizing it with his lighter. I was told, "this will hurt a lot". Has no one heard of anesthetic! After a very tense minute the lacerations were made and chunks of puss made there exit under the internal pressure. With a lot more painful squeezing then washing down of water a stream of blood pink water was running down my back and into my shorts and out the legs where it pooled at my feet. At the end it was all covered up with another brown pill paste and bandage. The English teacher who was there didn't seem to keen on the whole thing said there was now a big hole in my back. It was all quite painful and stressful and went on for quite a lot longer than i expected so feeling rather tired.
Made way back to guesthouse and bumped into a NZ dude I meet in Dali and decided to have dinner at the same place and ended up talking to a brit who was super easy to get along with and later went looking for a good place to find a drink. With all the rain and cold I decided to hit the Jim Jarmusch back catalogue and watched Night on Earth which made for a nice easy night in.
Slept in again but still feeling a bit under the weather. Took off with some other dudes to a small village north of the city. Stopped to walk up a hill to visit a Tibetan temple thing but pretty blah and i think the people see too many tourist as it didn't feel too friendly. Arrived at village and really disappointed with how touristy it it was. Meet Doctor Ho 'the most admired man in china' who is supposed to be the guru on natural medicine. Thought I would see what he thought of my puss hole but was very disinterested and more interested in telling us about what he had cured and what famous people he had meet. Really nice man(he wished me well with my recovery) but i think a bit senile at 80whatever.
Went back to my doctor and took bandage off and supposedly lots of puss and then they squeezed out even more but they didn't really want to show me. I was then told if it isn't looking improved enough the next day I will have to travel ages away to Kunming to get surgery!
Kicked about with others for rest of day keen to take it easy and give my hole a healing chance. Tried some yummy yak cheese balls when out for tea. Miss really good cheese!
Really tried to relax and didn't do much but was good for me to just sit and enjoy the environment i am in and watch locals go about their day. Talked to people about guesthouse before seeing my doc once more. Lots of puss but less red so don't have to get surgery! Got it all cleaned and bandaged up again. Feeling much better and got given some real antibiotics. Hung out with all the Chinese people at their hotel which is actually pretty neat because if I hadn't been been bitten I wouldn't have done something like that and interacted with a normal group of 'locals'.
Showed an Israeli about town and went to an Irish bar for something different.
Another quiet day. Went to get puss scooped out again but hole looking good though. Meet some lost people and showed them back to Ma Ma's - Dangerous town! Went out to Irish bar again with funny Aussie dudes and a guy from Chile and meet a local guy from the states who I got talking to earlier in the day which was great cos he knew lots about the ethnic minorities and local info. Talked to some other westerners that live here which is interesting because its such nice place but totally different culture that its hard to gauge how someone from outside would cope here long term. First late night in ages, 3am.
still in Lijiang seeing my doctor. Said good bye to some good people i got acquainted with. Strange meeting so many folk on the road and then having to go your separate ways once you've got to know them. Its not bad just not that normal unless your travelling- and that new for me. Feeling low and unmotivated. Got some nice emails which is a good pick me up. Hit the streets to get some money and walk to black dragon lagoon(or something). Crossed up stream from the main entrance to avoid the excessive 80y entry fee. Walked 500m maybe up Elephant hill. Tried to run and jump up steps but I think the altitude started to get my breath or maybe I'm just really unfit now! Not a bad view from the top. Came back down to city and got really nice sweet crusty vanilla buns and then went to get my sore sorted. It had less puss again but more blood which he said was a good thing. Will get final dressing tomorrow. Bought a bag of really good sweet lychee's and finished them off after dinner over some reading. Hit the Irish bar again with a group of Israelis then found a computer to write some of this.
Messed around in the morning and tried to find a computer to upload some pictures with no luck. For some reason lots of computers wont recognise my memory card or it gets blocked by the security program and I cant figure out how to allow access as everything is in Chinese! Got a final bandage put on and paid my doctor. He said I can change it after 3 days to a week which seems like a long time. After the guy from the couple, who introduced me to the doctor, showed me a motorbike shop and rode on the back of my bike with his dog which must have looked pretty funny. Got an oil change, new tail light and taped a random indicator cover where the missing one was. Found a place that cleaned my bike for 80c and it was really dirty! Now all ready to hit the road again. Will try and head up to Shangri-la in the morning via tiger leaping gorge then the next day try my luck taking the road up to Litang. Will be interesting to see how me and the bike handle the altitude.
Love from Lijiang Spiderman.