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Taihang Shan [复制链接]

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Located to the south of China's Inner-Mongolia Plateau is the world's largest loess plateau 黄土高原, formed by accumulation of wind-blown silt and clay. Loess is homogeneous, porous, friable, pale yellow or buff and forms the most breathtaking landscape:

Three of us JH600 riders made a trip on the Qingming 清明 week to the mountainous area of this loess plateau known as Taihang Shan 太行山, with Motokai and me set out from Shanghai on 2 black bikes, joined on the second day by Barry on a slower but equally handsome blue Jialing from Beijing. For the Shanghai gang the “value index” may be a bit low, costing 4 days for getting there and back with only 3 days for the fun stuff. However, that is the cost of living in the warm and sandstorm free beautiful Shanghai.

The plan was to ride to Taihang Shan太行山and spend a few days there and later perhaps meet with Felix somewhere close to Xi’an for the second half of the trip. For Shanghai gang we would train our bikes back to Shanghai from either Xi’an or Zhengzhou 郑州.

The highlights of the trip are:

1. Loess plateau

2. Taihang Shan 太行山 and hand-dug “hanging tunnels” 挂壁公路

3. Longmen grottos 龙门石窟

  



The weather couldn’t have been better, with only a couple hours of rain on the first day arriving at Xuzhou 徐州and the rest of the trip warm and dry.

Day 1 and 2:

Getting there: Xuzhou 徐州 and Anyang 安阳

The first two days were spent on the road galloping towards Anyang 安阳, where we were to rendezvous with Barry coming down from Beijing. This part of the trip was simply for getting there, going through totally flat terrains with very little sceneries. From Shanghai we made a short ride to Taihai ferry 台海汽渡
to get across the Yangtze River to Jiangsu 江苏. After getting off the ferry, it was guodao 国道 204 to Yancheng 盐城 and some other guodaos going west to Xuzhou 徐州.
Those guodaos are mostly divided and wide with fairly light traffic during Qingming holidays. It was quite pleasant and relaxed going through those green wheat fields lining both sides of the road. We took very few breaks as it was difficult to find shaded rest areas.



We arrived at Xuzhou around 8 pm after getting rained on for about 2 hours on the way in. We were cold and stiff with hands totally numb. After checking into a hotel, we ventured out to find food, which brought us into the freezing rain more. It wasn’t too pleasant.

Xuzhou is the ancient Chuterritories and full of history and culture. People there are straightforward and laud, not as refined as those south of Yangtze. Its food has its own unique style, spicy but not very hot. Motokai and I had a good dinner of local Xuzhou dishes:

Delicious fish balls of fresh-water fish:

Since we made good time the first day, covering almost 800km, we decided to do some sightseeing around Xuzhou in the morning.

View from Yunlong Shan云龙山


  

In Xuzhou museum, we were presented with the following world famous gold-threaded jade cover 金缕衣 of an emperor, and his empress in equally impressive silver-threaded jade cover:


  

Xuzhou museum:

We left Xuzhou before noon and headed for Anyang安阳to meet up with Barry. Along the way we passed Heze菏泽 and Dongming 东明, crossed the Yellow River the first via the Great Yellow River Bridge 黄河大桥 at Dongming.

The Yellow River is called "the cradle of Chinese civilization" as its basin was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilizations and the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

The muddy flow of yellow river:

The sight of Yellow River is known to elicit strong patriotic feeling from Chinese people, but Motokai was just happy to take a nap on the bridge over the mother river of China:

Shortly after crossing the Yellow River we entered into Henan河南, which has the most chaotic traffic conditions and the worst possible roads. People there obviously have no idea of what traffic rules are. The roads are teeming with people on cars, trucks, tricycles, motorcycles, e-bikes, tractors, horses, donkeys; you name it, but all arbitrarily determine their own routes and directions and see no other vehicles supposedly sharing the road. Amazingly they are all super conscious of the poor road condition and do anything possible to avoid any pot holes, frequently going to the extreme left to circumvent them in total ignorance of the incoming traffic. One has to look at those vehicles very carefully in order to tell which direction they are headed. It was both scary and comical at the same time.

We met up with Barry and his slow blue bike around 7:00pm and checked into Anyang hotel for the night. For dinner we ate at a very nice little restaurant specializing in local Anyang cuisine. Can’t recall its name but it’s definitely something worthwhile to seek out if ever we were in Anyang again.

The triangular things are “blood pancakes”:


  


  

All in all, it was quite nice to be able to stay in an inexpensive clean hotel and finish the day with unfamiliar but delicious food. We almost forgot about the exhausting ride in the horrendous Henan traffic earlier during the day. Life was good.

最后编辑milton 最后编辑于 2012-04-23 18:34:54
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2#

Day 3: Taihang Shan
We left Anyang early and headed for Taihang Shan passing Linzhou 林州 and Rencun 任村. The plan was to go through Hongtiguan 虹梯关 village along route X670. The road condition was again quite poor, but the scenery more than made up for it.




Taihang Shan region is quite arid without much crop or vegetation to speak of. The dusty dark brown terrain is spectacularly rugged. However, there are large parcels of land evidently still being cultivated but without much to show for. The life here must be pretty harsh. However you could still see people in the field fighting their one thousand year losing battle:








Us taking a break with Barry’s pink T-shirt and Motokai’s yellow bag the only bright colors in sight:




More rare colors:



A village built by brick and clay almost invisible to the landscape:




The first tunnel we came across in Taihang Shan:




We had lunch at a really small village; noodles at 6 kuai each. The blue bike was leaking oil, so we decided to pull into Huguan 壶关 for repair. Later on we were told by a mechanic that the blue bike was missing a gasket at where the stator wires exiting the engine. Since there was no possibility to get the right gasket in the middle of Taihang Shan and the leaks were not that major (yet), Barry decided to keep going with oil dripping and staining the tail end of his blue bike. Had this kept up the back of the blue bike would have turned into a black one.

We checked into Huguan Hotel for the night. It was more money than Anyang but comfortable. We did have a run-in with the local police, who dared not to let us pass by without properly registering our documents. After copying our documents, this uncommunicative cop took us to a small restaurant full of rowdy locals.

Not being able to get a table, the cop walked around the restaurant to “find” us one. We didn’t know how he managed it but we soon were given a table with the cop attending:




The food was again excellent, different but tasty.


Day 4:
The Tunnels

On my way to the breakfast in the morning, much to my surprise, I found Barry and Motokai were actually getting their fingers dirty working on MY bike, tightening the chain with Barry’s shining new wrench set and checking the coolant level. Owning little tools and knowing almost nil about bikes, I was lucky to have these bike buddies to travel with.



On our way to the tunnels, we followed Barry’s GPS but ended up in some small village roads. The cement roads were in good shape, the sky crystal clear, and the air cool and fresh, just the perfect elements for a pleasant ride. We took a short cut here, through the road on the right of the picture, to Shuzhangzhen 树掌镇:





The reason that I was there all by myself was due to the fact Motokai and Barry have gone on ahead of me to explore the short cut. This was the typical marching pattern: with Motokai or Barry leading upfront, with me almost always taking the last place, slow, wise, not easily tempted by cheap thrills over the twisties and always free to take pictures whenever I feel like it. Fortunately I was on a black bike; otherwise I’d have been even slower.

After Shuzhangzhen we headed for Wangmangling 王莽岭, around which there are several famous tunnels carved into the side of the mountain. Constructed in the seventies by hands and primitive tools those tunnels used to be the only way small villages in the areas can be reached. The tunnels are basically narrow roads about 5 meters high and 4 meters wide, carved into the cliff close to its edge with openings along the insane pathway through which one can peek at the outside breathtaking scenery over the cliff.

The one we visited was Kunshan tunnel 昆山隧道,not the more famous Guoliang 郭亮 tunnel or Xiyangou (锡崖沟) tunnel. After strenuous negotiation with the guys guarding the entrances of those sights, we got a discount on the admissions for all the sights by promising not to actually enter them (except Kunshan tunnel). It was just fine for us as we were keen to make time for meeting Felix in Luoyang洛阳 that night.

Kunshan tunnel:















Just got out of the tunnel:





After the tunnel it was lunch hour already. We walked up and asked the villager of this house “Can we eat here”? Yes and we did.



Too tall Barry:



Waiting for our noodles in the patio:



While his daughter was working in the kitchen, this retired former steelworker extended his very warm welcome by writing his welcome speech on this piece of paper:



, which says “Welcome to visit my home, from a Chinese citizen, People’s Republic of China” almost formerly.  He also collected some wild “flowers” to decorate the lunch table.



Notice how Barry finally came to term with the village food. From this point on he ate whatever the locals serve us, including tofu, blood pancakes, donkey meat, etc., but was nevertheless steadfast against the lamb.


After lunch it took us full 10 minutes to bid farewell to the old man and his family. Heading for Luoyang洛阳 the first part of the guodao was horrendous, completely torn apart by identical looking coal trucks. For a dark moment we all had this ghastly thought that we might be doomed to this terrible road all the way to Luoyang, by then we’d be comatose. Fortunately it was brief. We even took a picture break for the beautiful dam along the road:



From the lookout one can see the “hanging tunnel” specifically designed for coal trucks . It must be the most beautiful truck route in the country. Too bad we wouldn’t dare to stop inside the tunnel for pictures:



We could have been stopped to pay for the sight of this tunnel and dam if not because of the coal trucks. By the way, for the admission of those sights we visited in the morning the Shanxi part was 120 kuai and Henan another 120 kuai.


In order to ride with Felix on day 5, we got on the expressway from the north of Jiyuan 济阳 after it got dark. The expressway was in excellent shape as usual, but the gusty wind made it a bit challenging to hold a steady path. We did notice that sections of road were quite scenic, unlike most of the boring expressways.

We passed Luoyang 洛阳 downtown into Longmen 龙门 around 8 pm and found out that Felix didn’t even leave Xi’an.
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3#

Day 5:
Longmen Grottos
Without Felix we didn’t really have a plan for the day other than visiting the Longmen Grottos. Were we to go to Xi’an after visiting Longmen Grottos? Or go up north to Hukou 壶口 for the second largest waterfall in China where Yellow River displays its full volume and power? We decided to put off the discussion until after the Longmen Grottos.

For breakfast, we had lamb soup with 馍, the toasted bread you drop into your soup. This is the kitchen that fed us with everything handmade:




To me personally Longmen Grottos was the highpoint of this trip.  It consists of an astonishing collection of 1350 caves, 750 niches and 40 pagodas, which altogether contains some 110,000 sculptures. It presents 500 years of progression of the Chinese stone carving art.

Earlier examples of Buddha images:




Another example of happy Buddha, which is quite a bit different from the later day standard image of Buddha:




Some small sample of Buddha images:




Now they are more Chinese looking:




Then there are lots of caves to demonstrate the faith of those faithfuls:
2375



The most impressive exhibit was the splendid and huge Fengxiansi 奉先寺(Ancestor Worshipping Cave), the culmination of the grotto art, carved between 672 and 675 for Empress Wu Zetian 武则天. Before its renovation, it is actually an oversized “cave”:




The Buddha in the middle is 17.14m in height with 2-meter long ears. The image of Buddha presented here is in the mature style that this particular art form finally settled on with the Buddha looking Chinese with little Indian vestige.









The left 2 status are eroded beyond recognization:





From a distance the Buddha peeked at us from behind:



After Longmen Grottos, the blue bike was really getting sick and gushing oils. After fooling around with some silicon sealant in vain, we gave up around 4 pm. For about 2 to 3 hours we were there by the road side there were a few local bike enthusiasts passing by and offering help. Finally we made friend with a local biker on CBR 400 who happened to run a “dealership” of bikes of unknown origin. We took up his offer and loaded the blue bike to the bike ambulance:



It turned out that the gasket wasn’t missing. It was simply forced into the engine housing by the impact created when the chain guide fell apart and thrust into the sprocket housing. This is one of the cancerously bad designs that has caused many JH600s broken chains and exploded front sprocket housing. Fortunately for the blue bike the disintegrated rubber parts of the chain guide didn’t clobber the front sprocket housing or break the chain, but pushed the gasket into the housing still in recoverable shape. So taking it out of the housing and reinstalling it was all that were required to put the blue bike into its former slow running state.




We had our bikes thoroughly washed after the repair and checked into Motel 168 afterwards. At night we had time to visit the local night fair and mingle with locals.

最后编辑milton 最后编辑于 2012-04-21 20:05:08
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4#

Day 6 and 7:
Going home

According to our newly acquainted Luoyang friends, there were many nice bike routes to the south of Luoyang. However, without Felix and not certain how best to train the bikes, Motokai and Barry decided to wrap up the trip and head our separate ways home on bikes without putting them on the train. As a good team player I went along with the plan. Motokai consulted Google and came up with a straight route for Shanghai.
The ride going home is quite uneventful.

Not willing to pay for the entrance fee, we passed by Shaolinsi 少林寺, the mecca of Chinese Kungfu, at the foot of Songshan 嵩山 without seeing Shaolinsi:



Day 7:

Almost immediately after getting on the expressway Motokai had a flat. By the time I’d found out about his misfortune I was already 150km ahead of him. Through a SMS conference, we decided to go our separate ways for Shanghai. I was told going across Yangtze River through the expressway is rather difficult, so I opted for G40 and head for Nantong 南通 to trace my way back to the same ferry I used on the first day.

Along the expressway the Rapeseed is in full blossom. Getting really bored of riding on the expressway and trying to get a better view of the rapeseed blossom, I exited earlier before reaching Nantong 南通.

The view from the expressway is always less than optimal and confined:



After exiting, the same rapeseed blossom becomes more enjoyable:







From the ferry going back to Shanghai, the Yangtze River was just as muddy as the Yellow River:


I was safely home by 7:00pm. It had been a highly enjoyable trip with 2 wonderful riding buddies. The bike performed marvelously. The 3.0 ECU upgrade had also proven itself.

Now I can cross out 黄土高原 from my bucket list.
最后编辑milton 最后编辑于 2012-04-21 20:22:15
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5#

hei buddy, finally you enjoy a little bit autoroute.  do you have interesting for a trip to inner mongolia in the summer?
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6#

does moto's pannier same wide as R2's?
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7#

does moto's pannier same wide as R2's?
enyacc 发表于 2012-4-21 22:16:00

Motokai's Tourfella boxes are smaller than Barry's and cheaper.
For summer and other seasons, there are quite a few people proposing trip ideas. I am open to all of those. Please let me know when your plan is more firmed up so I can make definite answers based on my schedules.

Cheers!
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8#

Photo beautiful
老张最牛
一辆与你相伴到老的车
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9#

Wonderful trip, ShanXi and HeNan is quite dangerous to pass alone by motors, but the landscape and heritage there is really valued to have a look!

So brave of you to make a such a long jounery totally by riding, lovely country side road, trully warm heart local people, beautiful unexpected nature...

hope to join you this summer by 2 wheel!
D R E A M S    T R A V E L I N G  ...
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10#

战友: Thanks for your comments.

Nostalgie: Thanks for your comments. I hope what you meant by "quite dangerous" was about the traffic condition in Henan and not about the crime. The traffic situation there is indeed horrendous.

Some of my friends are concerned about the crime situation in Henan, which may be misplaced. I just did some search on the crime rate in China, the order of which is as follows:
1 广州   2 深圳   3 重庆   4 武汉   5 南京   6 西安   7 天津   8 吉林   9 沈阳   10 成都

None of the Henan cities is even listed.  Actually, I had a rather pleasant time in Luoyang, where we stayed longest during the trip.

Human beings are generally good and evil criminals are exceptions. Also, crime tends to concentrate in places a risk-avert tourist shouldn't frequent anyway, such as KTV, night clubs, questionable massage parlours or hair salons, etc.
最后编辑milton 最后编辑于 2012-04-24 09:39:12
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