Goodbye Guizhou / by Rachel Banfield

Distance to date: 1875km. Punctures so far: 4.

Number of times given a spoon when eating with chopsticks: 11.

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A few days ago I said farewell to Guizhou province. For an area that I chose merely as a way to get to Sichuan, it proved a wonderful surprise. I covered 872km and rode 10,654m of ascent, riding in from Guanxi in the Southeast and crossing into Sichuan in the Northwest.

I certainly felt every one of those 10,654m and grew to seriously loathe this sign,

But the views were amazing.

The road conditions generally ranged from bad to horrendous...

With some more like bmx tracks.

Including patches that were so pot-holed and bog-like that I had to push Rafiki through the sludge.

And of course, I got four punctures in one day.

Sometimes the road was lined with trucks,

Sometimes with dragons,

And at other times, with noodles.

I saw people carrying much more than myself,

And lanterns being lit,

With ten diving straight into the river before one finally sailed off into the sky.

I passed beautiful traditional houses, like these in the south,

And completely different white ones of the north.

People were preparing the rice paddies for planting,

Or transferring the rice, often in the beautiful clothes particular to the many different ethnic minority groups of Guizhou province.

I arrived in my favourite town so far, Leishan, with it's elegant wooden buildings and green river.

The parade the next day just topped it off, with endless groups of schoolchildren marching past.

I discovered these delicious creations (some kind of rice patty thing stuffed with kidney beans and other goodies),

And also their sweet cousin, which is stuffed with brown sugar - bliss! The lady selling them found my return for more (4 in total to be exact) rather amusing.

And, most memorably, I met some lovely people. Like the two guys at the hostel who introduced me to Guiyang hot pot (the chicken being somewhat tastier than the cow stomach...),

Couchsurfer, Chang, who took me to a local noodle place where I confess I ate a few noodles before I had to race to my bag to find a yoghurt to put out the flames in my mouth.

My cute little friend at the corn roasting stand,

The kind man at the hotel who helped carry my bike inside and waved away my embarassment at the pools of mud it made on his beautifully mopped floors,

The super smiley cyclists I rode with for a little while,

Or the guy at another hotel who gave me a sticky rice triangle, part of the dragon boat festival celebrations.

I won't miss the rocky roads or the constant climbing,

But I'm so glad that I picked Guizhou.

Well, Sichuan, it's fair to say that the bar has been set very high.