After an unhurried breakfast and enjoying the last moments of solitary lakeside camping, I’m ready to hit the road again. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated as I ride up the steepish slope of the campsite entrance and onto the road. From the junction to Puli, it’s a sweet, long downhill ride of about 20kms.
The goal is Wuling pass but I doubt if I can reach it today; Cingjing is more like it.
Cingjing is about 40 kms from Puli, the town located at the base of Hehuanshan, and a popular launching pad for climbs up to Wuling, aka the top of Hehuanshan.
From Puli the climb is gentle, almost too easy. Actually, it’s more like easily fooled into thinking it’s an easy climb to Wuling. The pin that pricked the bubble started at the 20ish km mark uphill. To make it worse, it starts to rain; cold, morale-sapping, incessant rain that chills all my extremities.
I’m feeling fuzzy and warm again, and it’s not just from the coffee. It’s that feeling when humanity touches you in unexpected ways. No matter how many times it has happened before in my cycletouring career, it never fails to amaze me. And … little do I know that my cup of goodness has yet to be filled for the day….
The road is getting ever steeper now. Though a bit obscured by heavy mist, the mountain ranges are coming into view. It’s an impressive sight. Soon, I’m at the small town of Wushe. I see a steaming stack of dumpling steamers outside a shop and the Surly makes a beeline for it on its own accord.
With the dumplings and pork balls digesting merrily in the stmach, I continue on towards Cingjing, my destination for the day, not that I intend to go any further than that. As I near the town, the town’s welcoming committee suddenly appear beside me — a little black mongrel. He runs alongside, and in front of me, and sometimes on the low parapet lining the road shoulder. I stop at a 7 Eleven to get some food and drink. When I come out, my canine friend is still there, waiting for me by my bike. I wonder if he’s decided to adopt me.
With the help of a taxi driver, I’ve pinpointed the location of Yang Chiow Choon, the campsite among the many farms that this place is known for. It’s another 5kms of climbing to go. The dog has decided that it has had enough of me and turns around towards where he came from. The climbs from Wushe has been quite a workout so far, and these last few kms doesn’t seem to letting up either.
Yang Chiow Choon is located on a slope, facing the magnificent mountain ranges spread across the horizon. As I roll in, it’s almost sundown, and I see a couple in front of what looks like the camp office. The friendly man greets me and I ask about camping for the night. To my surprise, Mr Tan, who’s the owner, tells me I can use the little bungalow on stilts instead – at the same price of a campsite.
I am, of course, thrilled at my good fortune once again. It helps when one rides in looking bedraggled, wet, tired and hungry, which incidentally, prompted yet another act of generosity (or maybe it was pity), from Mr Tan, who in his smiling, fatherly manner, said “Come and join us for dinner. We’re just about to start”. Well, I’m not going to refuse for sure. As I go in with them, smiling with happiness, I still cannot believe I’ve been blessed with meeting with so many kind people along the way.
The home-cooked dinner is a feast by cyclo-camping standards. I enjoy every morsel of meat, vegetable and fish that accompany my 3 helpings of rice. I am rather famished, thanks to the many switchbacks that marked my ride today.
My little bungalow is a steel-framed structure covered with thick tarpaulin. Inside, a mattress covers the whole floor. The view, from the door/window is of 5-Star category. As the sun sets, so does the temperature. It promises to be a cosy night in my suite.
I’ve decided to chill here for another day and just enjoy hanging around this lovely place.