Unicycling across Southern China
(17 Dec 04 to 27 Jan 05)

I'm looking for people to join me for all (or part of) a 6-week cycling trip to China over Christmas and January.  I will be on one wheel but 2-wheelers are welcome to join as long as they are happy with a slightly slower pace. I prefer people to join for at least 10 days. Ideally we would get 3-6 people at any one time.

We will be staying in guesthouses, hotels or truck stops (we'll see what we can find). There is very little (well, none really...) information available for the small towns we will be in so this is not an overly pre-organised trip. However, I have done a very similar trip before (on 2 wheels) in 1996 so I know it is possible. But expect that we will be making lots of decisions as we go along.

Why?

Good question. A few answers:

  • I love a holiday where I can get fit (not a state that I am in for much of the rest of the year) in the fresh air.

  • I speak enough mandarin Chinese language to get around;

  • I will be between jobs (between countries actually, I'm moving from Hong Kong to Australia) so I have the time;

  • The Chinese countryside is beautiful;

  • The Chinese people  where we will be going have rarely seen westerners before (or unicyclists!)  and are generally very friendly and interested in talking to us;

  • And I don't think anyone has done a long China tour on unicycles before so it is always fun to be a first.

Cycling

We will aim to cycle 4-7 hours per day or 40-80km. For unicyclists a Coker is recommended. 2-wheelers will find the going quite easy. If you get tired, China is a very bike friendly place. You can hail a bus anywhere and generally every bus will take a bike (or unicycle) - often on the roof so bring some bungee cords. There are very few roads so you are unlikely to get lost getting to the next town.  On my last trip, we managed to find each other without phones. Westerners (and long-distance cyclists) are really not a common sight. If you are not the first to arrive, you can just ask any street vendor - 'Excuse me, have you seen my friends' and they will point you in the right direction. And anyway, this time we should have phones.

On the other hand, if you are very fit, and/or want to do some off-road cycling, we will be cycling along roads with fields on both sides. These fields usually have rough tracks that you can follow to smaller villages, further into the hills for some extra cycling each day.

You will need to bring your own bicycle / unicycle - although I do have a bicycle I can lend people - Someone is already booked to ride it for the first week of the tour- but after that it is first come/first served.

Luggage

I have been quoted a cost of US$30 per day for a van and driver to take our luggage from hotel to hotel each day so we don't need to carry it.  I wouldn't have done this for a bicycle trip but it is difficult to carry luggage on a unicycle.  The other alternative (if there are enough willing 2-wheelers) is for everyone to travel light and divide the unicyclists' luggage between the bicycles. I would prefer this solution. Another is to just pay someone at the hotel the night before to take the bus with our luggage and meet us at the bus station in the next town at 6pm the following day.

Cost

Travelling in China is cheap (once you've got there) but there is a reason for that. China is still a third world country so don't expect 5 star hotels - we won't be camping though. We will find a roof over our head every night with plenty of blankets and hot showers. Also the food (and beer!) is excellent quality in China and very cheap so we will eat well (if nothing else).  Hotels cost from 20-200 RMB per night depending on whether it is in the country or the city. Food and drink costs shouldn't be more than 100 RMB (US$12) per day.  Therefore, a total budget of 250 RMB (US$30) a day should be plenty. 

Getting to China

The cheapest way is to fly to Hong Kong and go overland from there. You can get a ferry ticket from the China Ferry Terminal (33 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui),  CKS ferries to Zhao Qing (the start of the trip) for HK$170. Ferries leave once per day at 8.20am  and take 5 hours.  (They return at 2.00pm every day). From Zhao Qing you can get a bus to wherever we are.

Alternatively you can fly to Hong Kong and then fly to Guilin, Nanning or Kunming and get a bus from there. It is cheaper to do an internal China flight from Shenzhen (just over the border from Hong Kong) than to fly from Hong Kong.  There is a direct bus from Hong Kong airport to Shenzhen airport for HK$180 - it takes 2 hours and leaves every 30 minutes ( http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/aguide/cross.html  ). This website http://www.flychina.com/  has one-way air-tickets from Shenzhen to Nanning for US$133.

Weather

It is winter so it will be cold but should not drop below zero this far south so there will not be ice. I have cycled in this area before at this time and it was sometimes warm enough to wear shirt-sleeves during the day, although it was much colder at night - although the hotels/guesthouses always provided plenty of bedding and had hot showers.  Winter is the dry season so it will be cool but it should not (fingers crossed) rain too much.

Visas

Most foreign nationals need a visa to go to China - If you are in Hong Kong, a 6-month multiple entry visa costs HK$480 from Japan Travel Agency for Australian and most other passport holders (except countries like, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, UK or US which currently costs HK$950)- 5/F, East Ocean Centre, 98 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui Tel 2368-9151 (M-F 9.00-7.00, Sat 9-12.00).  Residents of other countries may be able to organise this through their travel agent or by applying directly to the Chinese embassy in their country.

Mobile Phones

My number in China will be +86 13097742555. It is a China Unicom card.

Getting a prepaid SIM card for my phone was surprisingly easy.  There are phone shops everywhere (in cities). However, the pricing seems to be for each province. Since we will mostly be in GuangXi province, make sure you buy a GuangXi card. Receiving calls is free (for the first 3000 minutes). The standard initial card is worth RMB 50 (although I paid 65 - for my easier-to-remember number!). You can buy top-up codes (recommended) and get the shop to help you dial the numbers to top up the money. I was able to call and receive calls internationally - although it was pretty expensive - but I didn't seem to be able to send/receive texts (SMS) internationally - but locally should be fine.

Internet - we should be able to get to the internet in the cities - but don't count on it for the small towns - I certainly didn't see any there. Although, unlike my last trip, I did see a lot more computers generally so we might get lucky in some places.
 

Route

Some tentative dates (you can catch a bus to/from the nearest place and join/leave us any day. You can call me to find out where we are). Note the cheapest way to travel to china is flying to Hong Kong and then catching ferries and buses to wherever we are - although an internal flight should also be cheap).

Cities are in bold. They are places you can take a bus to from anywhere. The other places are small towns which only the locals will have heard of. Many distances are approximations.

The roads should be paved all the way

Seems too easy? - there are plenty of off-road stuff to try every day if you want to do extra.
Worried about not being fit enough?  Buses come along every 30 minutes or so, can be flagged down from anywhere and can take people and bicycles/unicycles to the next town so no worries about finishing.
 

18 Dec 04 Hong Kong - Zhaoqing by boat 4.5hrs hours ferry leaves 8.20am. Seven Star Crags, Lake
19 Dec 04 Yuecheng 45km flat Chinese tourist spot - large temple
20 Dec 04 Deqing 53km flat  
21 Dec 04 FengKai 67km flat Chinese tourist spot - beautiful river
22 Dec 04 Wuzhou 28km flat rest of day to look round Wuzhou city
23 Dec 04 DaoShui 32km hills the first hills take it easy!
24 Dec 04 Tai Ping 70km hills so much for taking it easy...
25 Dec 04 Huangcun 65km  
26 Dec 04 Licheng(Lipu) 62km hills  
27 Dec 04 Yangshou (near Guilin) 40km flat Famous beautiful hills - backpacker mecca
28 Dec 04 Rest Day   chocolate pancakes and french fries...
29 Dec 04 Rest Day   caves, hiking up to viewpoints
30 Dec 04 Rest Day   well, this is a holiday, right!
31 Dec 04 Sanjiang 72km mostly flat  
1 Jan 05 Luzhai 65km mostly flat  
2 Jan 05 Liuzhou 44km flat  
3 Jan 05 Rest Day   temple, caves
4 Jan 05 Laibin 65km flat  
5 Jan 05 Litang 60km flat potteries
6 Jan 05 Silong 57km mostly flat  
7 Jan 05 Nanning 70km first half hills  
8 Jan 05 Rest Day   lake, museum, hot springs, waterfall
9 Jan 05 Rest Day    
10 Jan 05 Wuming 43km flat cave
11 Jan 05 Pozao 75km first half flat  
12 Jan 05 Pingma 80km flat  
13 Jan 05 Bose 62km mostly flat  
14 Jan 05 Rest Day    
15 Jan 05 Rest Day    
16 Jan 05 Leli 74km mostly flat  
17 Jan 05 Jiuzhou 68km hills  
18 Jan 05 Zhelou 81km mostly hills  
19 Jan 05 Anlong 89km flat
20 Jan 05 Xingyi 65km flat  
21 Jan 05 Rest Day    
22 Jan 05 Rest Day    
23 Jan 05 Luoping 120km flat ....well you can always finish on the bus
24 Jan 05 Shizong 50km flat  
25 Jan 05 Shilin 80km flat Chinese tourist spot - Stone forest
26 Jan 05 Yiliang 50km flat  
27 Jan 05 Kunming 80km temples, park, lake

I don't have much 'tourist information' about some parts of the trip. But I'm pretty sure that we will be passing through some hill-tribe areas where there will be villagers in traditional costume, particularly where we will be closer to the Vietnamese border. Also any of the hilly parts and places we follow rivers (which we do a lot of) tend to have great views so bring a camera with lots of memory/film.


Who am I looking for?

If you'd like to join me, I hope you will be:

  • At least average fitness (I'm not so fit right now) although that will of course improve on the trip. Two-wheelers in particular need not be tri-athletes as we will only be covering 40-80km per day.
  • Easy-going.  Things can happen in China - delays, broken equipment, low-standard accommodation (actually that one is positively guaranteed ;-)), misunderstanding (Just because the map says it is 40km and a local told us that it is flat doesn't mean it is not 60km on un-tarred roads up and down hills. Maps with contours marked are mostly impossible to find), dirty toilets (that one is guaranteed too - but there is always the side of the road...) so you should expect the unexpected and be willing to be flexible.
  • Fun, interesting etc, etc (this is starting to sound like a personals ad...)

Other Info

www.unitours.org - if you want to read about other long-distance unicycle tours and see some photos

Bike China Tours - the guy who runs this has given us the quote for the van and driver to carry our stuff.  If you want a more organised, (and expensive) trip (on 2 wheels), his tours look great. His website has lots of info about cycling in China generally.

Photos from my 1996 China Cycling Trip - This was in July and August which was hot and is also the rainy season.

Xishuangbanna (pronounced: she-shwung-banner) -A travelogue from this area of South-West China, not far from where we will finish .

Interested?

Contact me (Roz Beste)  at roz@hkcrystal.com or +852 9365-4291 (Hong Kong number) if you want any more info or would like to come along.

I now have a mobile phone number for China. It will be +86 13097742555. It doesn't seem to be able to accept or send text messages internationally - and there is no voice mail. So evenings or lunchtimes will probably be the most convenient for me to answer. We won't get to e-mail very often but you can try. I might check my Hong Kong number voicemail occasionally too.

If I can get to a PC - I'll try to put some updates and photos here http://www.hkcrystal.com/blog/

 

 

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