We used a number of resources from crazyguyonabike.com to plan this section of our journey, essentially breaking it down into three stages:
1. Lanzhou to Chengdu – 1,140.7km in 9 days;
2. Chengdu to Jinning (just south of Kunming) – 1,012.3km in 9 days;
3. Jinning to Laos border – 728.9km in 8 days.
Lanzhou to Chengdu
This can be broken down further into two sections:
1. Lanzhou to Longnan (AKA Wudu) – 467.5km in 4 days
We based our cycling on a blog entry by Reuben Ferguson, which outlines this section; the following are some additional notes that you may find useful when planning your journey…
a) For about 20km after Minxian you climb gently and then slightly more than gently to the village of Mazichuanxiang; from here it is literally a 50km downhill all the way to Tanchang, which took us a little over two hours. Of course this timing is dependant on a number of things, the key here is that it is downhill (and spectacular);
b) The Tanchang to Longnan section is entirely downhill; it is not out of the realms of possibility that we could have cycled Minxian to Longnan in one day given the overall downhill nature of the road.
This section took us four days and that included the second day being almost entirely on gravel due to roadworks.
We believe that if you were really against the clock you could do this in three days without too much effort. If you were to think of doing this then you would need to get to Minxian for the second evening. To make this possible you would probably have to push past Lintao on day one. There are ample places to wild camp past Lintao as you approach the summit of the climb, from here it would be a short up-and-over and then one more up-and-over to Minxian (Note: had we known this we would have attempted it).
2. Longnan (AKA Wudu) to Chengdu – 673.2km in 5 days
We followed the G212 until near the city of Guangyuan and then took the G108 all the way to Chengdu.
For this section we could not find any up to date information on the route we planned to take; the following are the notes we made…
Day One – Longnan to Wenxian area (136.4km):
The first 70km of the day continue down the same river valley as you have followed since just out of Minxian, it is all downhill;
The road turns away from the river and you are presented with beautifully quiet roads and a gradual uphill for 10km;
At 80km the day turned nasty and there is the best part of 30km uphill, mostly very difficult;
At the top of the hill the views of the next valley are stunning and there is a 24km downhill stretch (aggressively downhill);
From here it is an easy run on a gradual downhill all the way to Wenxian.
Note: the locals we had dinner with in Longnan said it was not possible to cycle to Wenxian in a day, but we found there was plenty of time to spare and we had the unfortunate experience of having about 20km of the brutal uphill on gravel.
Day Two – Wenxian (area) to Shazhouzhen (140.2km):
Once leaving Wenxian you spend roughly 90km next to a river/reservoir on an undulating road that at times takes you quite high away from the river;
From here you follow the river without the undulations until around when you cross the G5 Expressway (maybe 10km);
After crossing the G5 the road becomes steep but incredibly quiet, you enter Sichuan and the climbing continues for some time before a steep downhill to the nice relaxing town of Shazhouzhen.
Day Three – Shazhouzhen to Chaoshou (a “town” near Pu’an; 120.2km):
The first 50km are a lot like the first 90km the day before. You follow a large reservoir in quite undulating conditions;
The road flattens out all the way to Jiange and you join the G108 at some point on this stretch;
From Jiange the road takes you into quite mountainous terrain where you spend the rest of the day going up and down hills/mountains.
1. We found that leaving Jiange was very busy, however this only lasted until a large tourist attraction out of town and then the road became incredibly quiet and great for cycling (even given the up and down nature of it);
2. There is a sign about 8km from Pu’an that indicates that the G108 veers left and that Pu’an is to the right, we took the left road, however you could take the right road into Pu’an because the next morning we had to cycle into Pu’an on a back road and then climb out of the town to meet the road that was indicated to the right the night before. There would definitely be accommodation in Pu’an; it is quite big.
Day Four – Chaoshou (a town near Pu’an) to Mianyang (146.5km):
The road is undulating in the extreme (and incredibly scenic) until you reach the city of Zitong. We stopped here for lunch on the outskirts and then made our way into Mianyang;
The road from Zitong to Mianyang is flatter, busier, and less appealing;
The city of Mianyang is huge; the biggest we passed through en route to Chengdu from Lanzhou.
Day Five – Mianyang to Chengdu (129.9km):
There is not a lot to say about this part of the ride; it was fairly flat, had a wide shoulder, and is particularly dull;
Note: We cycled around the town of Deyang because it had signs to Chengdu, however this did cost us 11km. Not sure if you cycle straight across the town it is much quicker, but it would certainly be shorter. On the positive side, the 11km detour was very peaceful and we had our own cycle lane the entire way ☺
Chengdu to Jinning
This can be broken down further into three sections, based entirely on the excellent instructions that Peter Jacobsen provided Chris Pountney with (on crazyguyonabike):
1. Chengdu to Ludian – 568km in 5 days
Read this first.
Aside from the fact we started from Chengdu (not Dujian Yang where Chris was starting from) we followed these instructions to the letter, except for where we stayed.
Day One – we managed to make it all the way to Wutong Bridge, which had plenty of accommodation. The road is perfectly straight for about 60km out of Chengdu then takes you on a small mountain road and then it is rolling all the way to Wutong Bridge;
Day Two – you pass through a tunnel at the top of a big climb. The tunnel is almost 4km long, however it was one of the better tunnels we have cycled in (and is in the downhill direction). We did not make it to the second tunnel that day but instead decided to stay in the small village of Shanglongyan (there is accommodation on the left just before you reach a fork in the road);
Day Three – we managed to make it to the small village of Xiang Yang, which Peter observes is at the foot of quite a tasty climb. This was a great little village and doing the climb the following morning (as Peter suggested) was nowhere near as bad as it could have been the day before, a great suggestion;
Day Four – It would be possible to cycle all the way to Ludian on the fourth day, but we decided to break it up and stay in the hilltop village of Daguan; it is a very nasty climb to the top but has great views and good restaurants;
Day Five – was an easy cycle into Ludian
2. Ludian to Yanglin – 336.5km in 3 days
Read this first.
Day One – was basically a long downhill (rather bad road works) for 40-odd kms, then an uphill for 30-odd kms, and then a great downhill all the way to the Yangzi and Jintang;
Accommodation in Jintang was easy to find; just turn right at the bottom of the hill and head about 200m into town and ask someone;
Peter mentions the village of Laodian – we stopped here for lunch and you could definitely stay here if you wanted to break the climb up as we ate in the restaurant of what looked like a nice hotel;
Day Two – was quite tedious with a lot of up and down before one last big uphill. You will know when that uphill has passed because there is a short plateau and then good downhill and about 25-odd kms of flat before one last kick up into the city;
Day Three – starts off very hard. The climb took us over four hours, but you are rewarded at the top with a great services area where you can pick up a lot of great food;
Don’t get too excited by Peter’s comments about the road flattening out. Yes it does flatten out compared to the morning climb, but we still found it quite tough.
3.Yanglin to Jinning – 107.8km in 1 day
Read this first.
These instructions are spot-on!
1. We found the road to either be a complete mess or and amazing surface, there was no in between. Fingers crossed that the complete mess has been minimised by now;
2. In Jinning we had to go to five hotels before we were allowed to stay. If you are planning on staying in the town then I would recommend taking a look at our map below and staying at the hotel we did (to save yourself the hassle). We paid 88Yuan;
3. In Peter’s instructions for the last part of the #chinachallenge (here) you will see that he mentions the city of Yuxi. We think we could have made it all the way to Yuxi instead of stopping in Jinning. It is a good road and a lot of it is down hill. This would certainly put you in a really good place for the final section (which is the hardest thing we have done to date).
3. Jinning to Laos border – 728.9km in 8 days
Read this first.
Word of warning… we could not find any ICBC or Bank of China banks on this part of the journey so had to do with the money we had, thankfully we had just enough.
We found Day One and Day Two to be extremely difficult. We are not too sure if it was the terrain or because we were becoming exhausted, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are easy. There is a lot of up and down to contend with, as well as real heat for the first time, and a lot of road works (which of course will improve this section over time)!
Day One we stayed in Dakaimencun, which is a small town situated just past a truly awful looking factory;
Day Two we stayed in Yuanjiang as we could not face the climb up to the lake as Peter suggested;
Day Three started with what is quite a tough climb out of Yuanjiang (we never found the flop house that Peter mentions). The city of Mojiang is a great place to stop and relax (as we did). This said, if you have enough energy and are short on time there are places at 45, 64, and 85kms from Mojiang where you could stay. In an ideal world we would have pushed on but were absolutely exhausted by this point;
Day Four was a very easy day. We cycled about 85km to the small town of Dashaba and called it a day there;
Day Five started very early as we knew there was a tough climb involved. The first 30 odd kms continued on the flat (or slightly downhill) along the side of a river before we turned over the bridge (at 112km from Mojiang) and started the climb. The climb is very very tough in the heat. We ended up staying in Jiangcheng at a great hotel/hostel on the main road through town;
Day Six we followed Peter’s excellent instructions and it was a great day on the bike. We also used these instructions (more for understanding the terrain). We stayed just out of the town of Manla in the following hotel/guest house (which also sells beer and food, but no water);
Day Seven was a tough day in the saddle (a lot of up and down) and we decided that we would stop in the town of Mengyuan;
Day Eight we cycled all the way to the border. The first part of the day we decided not to cycle on the Class 2 highway from Mengyuan to Mengla as there were signs indicating that no bicycles were allowed. Also the road appeared to be awfully busy. The road over the mountains was not too tough (we left early to avoid the heat) and it is genuinely stunning. The road runs along the edge of a National Park. We stopped for a second breakfast in Mengla and then it is a simple cycle to the border.
Note: when arriving in Boten you can change money in the first “casino” you get to on the right hand side, just in front of a truly awful pink building. The rates are as good as inter-bank rates (i.e. the best you will ever find). This said, if you are staying in Boten you can generally use Yuan everywhere, and in fact a lot of places won’t take Laotian Kip. If we were cycling this again we would change the money and keep on cycling. Boten is an awful place and there are guest houses further down the road (no more than 10km); you will see them because they all have Beer Lao signs out the front.
Where we stayed
The following map shows the locations of where we stayed each night. If you click on the blue markers then a photo will come up, which may help you identify where we stayed if you are tackling this challenge as well.
View Lanzhou to Laos in a larger map
Note: Clicking on the markers will bring up the related photo
The following table outlines distances etc… for what we did.
|Day||Start||Destination||Accommodation||Daily Km||Time Cycled||Total Km|
Please let us know if you find this useful by commenting on the page, similarly, if information here is out-of-date please let us know and we will do our best to update it.