19 October - 27 November 2010

We are weak. China has defeated us. It is so cold that we cannot think, cycle or function anymore. Miserable and desperate to escape the paralyzing cold in Urumqi, we take a train south to Xi’an. Alas, Xi’an is still too cold, so we take a train further south to Chongqing. Chongqing is still not warm enough, so we take another train to Guiyang. In Guiyang we defrost enough to cycle on to China´s´Spring City´, also known as Kunming.

Dog is for eating
Of course you want to know that we are in good health. Don’t worry, in China we enjoy a very balanced diet. Next to dog, we also eat grasshopper, pig brain, sheep blood and chicken claws. Fresh food is everywhere. Once you enter the supermarket live chicken, eels, turtles, crabs and toads blankly stare at you from their plastic containers. Not only the food stares up at us, the Chinese also gape at us from their pitiful height with a frightened look on their face. Of course we also enjoy Chinese-watching in the local parks, where they flock together and do Chinese activities. Old men fly their kites, artists gather to draw calligraphies, groups of amateur musicians attempt to make music on traditional instruments, children feed birds and middle aged women move around trying to dance.

Up and Down
In all the previous countries we have cleverly avoided cycling through mountain areas, but China mislead us. We couldn´t find a map with altitude lines, so after Guiyang we end up cycling some serious mountains. Yes, up and down, up and down. Torture with beautiful views, sadistic. One night we stay with a family in a remote mountain village. Communication is difficult; it takes us more than an hour to understand that we are allowed to witness the funeral of their grandfather who had died the previous day. We have no idea what to expect. In the dark we follow the family up a narrow mountain path to the house of the deceased, where we join a group of people wearing white turbans on their heads and pieces of rope around their waists. All around us strange rituals take place. Next to the coffin there is a table on which various objects are displayed: a jerry can, a picture of the grandfather, candles, a bowl of white sand with a boiled egg in the middle and a tray full of cigarettes. We hear the continuous sad wailing of a woman crouched next to the coffin, while all around the men are chain-smoking and mobile phones are constantly ringing. We also receive a turban and bow and kneel a few times in front of the coffin, trying our best to copy what we have seen the others do. Which god we are worshipping remains a mystery to us.

  On a bus full of Chinese
In Kunming we are invited to join a university professor on a work outing. We are excited to go on a bus full of Chinese for a weekend of singing on the bus, sightseeing, good food, drinks and dancing. We find out that two big dutch girls in a Chinese countryside disco attract unusual attention. Usually our escort consists of two police cars, but this time a whole military police corps pulls out