Sichuan Tour. Day 6, 19 May, Rilong to Danba

Warning: Pics-heavy post. Please be patient while it loads 🙂

The hotel in Rilong that I stayed in.

My hostess, a Qiang-chu (pronounced Chiang), a people different from the Qang-chu (Chang) or Tibetans. All the rest are Han-chu, or Han Chinese, which most of us Chinese are.

her husband

and her father.

I feel like lazybones today, even if I’m not in the Chengdu hostel of the same name. The sun was already up but I figured that I’ve earned the right to loll around in bed and get up at a indecently late hour, which in my case would be 9am. I took my time, and since it was too cold to take a shower, I did a quick Chinese-style wash-up and went downstairs to see what my friendly hostess was going to surprise me with for breakfast.

I was not disappointed – Tibetan flat bread, peanuts, raw cabbage and yak butter tea. What a combination. The bread was warm and sweetish with some traces of what I can only suspect to be yak butter. I’d seen 2 huge blocks in the kitchen, partly wrapped in newspaper. The yak butter tea? Well, I needed to tick that off my list, so I’m looking forward to it.


Yak butter

Note: Lonely Planet lists yak butter tea as #2 in the list of ‘Top 10 Worst Experiences in Tibet’.

The bowl of tea was a murky white in colour. It didn’t smell horrible so I took a swig. It was …. not …. too … bad – a bit milky, a bit buttery in a yakky way, I suppose, and a bit salty as well. I couldn’t quite make out the taste of tea though, and I also couldn’t quite finish it either. Ok, been there, done that; it’s one for the journal. But I do think Lonely Planet was a bit harsh in their assessment. Personally, I would have listed it at #3 or maybe even #4 ……. The raw cabbage garnished with some weird condiments (I swear the whitish stuff on top was MSG, and lots of it) she served me was worse.

Having their own breakfast. The big urn is full of yak butter tea.

Aged pork hanging in the kitchen. There was quite a layer of dust on them. The nice hotel folks were having some for breakfast, so I asked for a bit to try. Surprisingly, it was rather good.

After such an interesting breakfast, the only other sensible thing to do would be – have a cup of coffee, freshly brewed, of course. I brought out my coffee equipment and proceeded to prepare myself a cup of hot brew, much to the amusement of my hostess, her husband, her sister and her father, a friendly guy who was always asking if I was ok. Seeing as I was the only guest in the hotel, I couldn’t blame him for being so fatherly.

Note: Rilong is suffering the same fate as Wolong and other tourist-dependent towns. Since the 2008 earthquake, cyclo-tourists not withstanding, tourists were far and few in between. The main reason tourists came here was to visit or trek up Siguniangshan, or Four Maidens Mountain, located in a natural reserve not too far from the town. The flashy hotel opposite the one (see pic below) I was staying, including a few similar ones, had long been shuttered down and was beginning to look very dilapidated.

Morning wash-up, to last the rest of the day.

After coffee, I went back to the room to pack up and get ready for what I knew to be a looooooong downhill ride to Danba, about 115km away. My legs were looking forward to a lazy ride today. I finally rolled off at 10.30am. Straightaway, I was on coasting on a beautifully sealed road, smooth and pothole-free. The scenery was just as breathtaking, and totally different from the other side of the mountain. There were more tracts on the mountain sides that were barren and arid brown in colour. At the same time, there were also abundant alpine greenery.

The houses are also different in their facade and architecture – mostly a mix of Tibetan and Qiang (say ‘Chiang’). However, they all shared one thing in common – the walls were built with slate, which is plentiful all around them. They also sported similar hieroglyphs and symbols, strangely, spray-painted on instead of drawn with a brush. The road continued to snake its way downhill, following the river faithfully. And for the first time since I started the tour, I was enjoying the awesome scenery unfolding before me … without having to do much pedalling. What joy. This was to continue all the way to the Xiaojin, a sizable town that straddled the river.

Almost every house I saw on this side of the mountain were made of slate, and sported pointed corners on the flat roof.

Check out this unedited, 4-minute video shot while passing through a small town::

Another one on the road…

The Qiang people here were definitely more friendly. This was an ice-cream stop at a Xiao Mai Pu.

Kids on the road:

One very glaring detail that I noticed -- no barriers

I shall always remember this nice, shady spot. I stopped for a break, took out an apple, peeled it and then ...dropped it on the dusty ground.

Just after 2pm, I arrived at the town of Xiaojin

...where I had lunch at this shop run by a friendly lady

. .

It was after busy lunch hour and I was the only customer so the friendly proprietress took time out to chat

An elderly admirer of my bike outside the shop

Out of Xiaojin....this was something to marvel at; a huge boulder on the left and a solitary tree on the right, directly opposite each other and claiming a section of the road each.

The smooth tarmac ran out soon after, with bad, dusty patches all the way to Danba, but the scenery was still very nice.

Finally at 7, I arrived at the T-junction where Danba is located. It is also the confluence of the Dadu River and Rilong River.

The bridge crossing the Dadu, the biggest river I

The town of Danba. The hostel I stayed in is on the left

My room with a nice view at Zha Xi Zhuo Kang Backpacker

Tomorrow, I take a well-deserved rest day and explore the town and its surroundings, and visit a couple of interesting villages.



Rilong (3,000m) to Danba (1869m)

Total ride time: 7.5hrs

Distance to day: 115km

Total descent: 1,131m

Distance to date: 378km

2 thoughts on “Sichuan Tour. Day 6, 19 May, Rilong to Danba

  1. Hello Mike, really enjoy every bit of your journal. I could feel it through your words, nice. It was funny when you drop your precious apple on the ground – I imagined and laughed, I wished to be there 🙂
    The tree left untouched on the tarmac reflected ‘precious when scarce’, I liked it. You inspired me… thank you my friend.

  2. Alex, thank you for your kind comments. I’m always glad to have inspired another cyclist to hit the road and see the world … so consider a tour or two… our own backyard is great but the big world out there has many less-travelled roads waiting to be explored

    cheers :-))

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