The Three Gorges of the Yangzi, Day 16: Cycling from Ankang to Pingli. Nice weather, and quiet roads.
After one rather rainy day of rest in Ankang, weather got better again today as we swung back on our bikes to advance further South towards the Yangzi. On a very nice and quiet road we followed a mountain creek upstream and had to climb two passes on very mild ascents. For the first time on our route we saw many tea plantations and could watch the farmers pluck the fresh green leaves.
With a rather short stage of little more than 70 km and relatively few climbing ahead of us, I asked Xiao Yang if he stop at a tea factory so that we could get an idea how the tea was processed. Minutes later Xiao Yang pulled his car over at a local tea plantation and processing station. The friendly staff promised to show us the “factory” – a big room with a tea roasting machine, a tea breaking machine, and one drying machine. We had hoped to experience the processing in action, but the friendly lady told us that while the farmers used the light of day to pluck the leaves in the fields, they would only start their tea processing shift in the factory at 6 pm.
As we tasted some of the freshly fabricated tea, the plantation lady asked us if we had heard of their bicycle race track already? No, we replied, but this does sound interesting!
Not long and we found ourselves cycling a newly built race track through the tea plantation. The local tourism office had come up with the idea and financed it, so the lady explained. The whole thing looked a little bit odd to us, since we were now quite far out in the countryside and we thought it rather improbable that many people would travel far to cycle a 2km long loop cycle-path through the tea plantations. For us, however, it was a welcome change compared to the roads we usually cycle, and we enjoyed the steep little ascents and descents as well as the beautiful scenery.
After arriving in Pingli we went on a stroll through the little city and ended up having dinner in one of the hot-pot-joints. Just like on most other evenings, we went to see the small town night-life on the People’s square before returning to the hotel: What joy it is to watch all the people pursue their hobbies in public: women are dancing, men gather to play cards or whip their huge spinning tops, and the children roam about or drive in crazily blinking fun vehicles around the square.
We are back early in the hotel tonight to get enough rest for the long and hard stage coming up tomorrow.