Doing it the hard way.
Doing it the hard way.
Out of town the Burma Road becomes identical to national road G320 all the way to Xiaguan. This section of the road had been in use before as the connection between Kunming and Dali via Chuxiong. Traffic along this section is light to nearly absent because nearly all traffic takes the modern motorway.
This section can be cycled in 4 to 5 days. The five day partition is described below. In four days the partition looks like Kunming / Lufeng 107 Km, Lufeng / Nanhua 117 Km. Nanhua / Xiangyun 112 Km. Xiangyun / Xiaguan 67 Km. (Or 85 Km to Dali old town).
Starting from Kunming the first landmark is the Burma Road monument at the end of Renminxilu (See pictures above and below).
A short climb out of Kunming over the Xi Shan Mountain and one rolls down into Anning. Behind Anning starts an industrial area with heavy industry and probably the ugliest part of the road, good to have this out of the way on the first day. While the motorway continues the Burma Road turns north to Lufeng and climbs. The landscape changes and fields of grapes replace the industry. The first real climb is rewarded by a long role down into Lufeng. Note the old railway embankment now being used as a road just right of the road.
Fixing a hole for 3¥.
Bicycle repair spots can be found in every town also in rural Yunnan they are more specialised in motorbikes. And there is always somebody showing up who likes to have a look at it when it involves a foreigner.
After leaving Lufeng the roads splits in two. The east/west road follows the north bank of the river while west/east follows the south bank. The north side was originally constructed as a railway in 1935. This can still be seen from the bridges and the five tunnels which formed part of the railway. It is a nice example of the creativity used to upgrade the road in a hurry, and it is still in use today. These tunnels can be rather long and dark on a bike.
After Jiuzhangxiang the road climbs over the mountain and from there it is all the way down to Chuxiong.
Just making a living.
Candy floss, cotton candy, barbe à papa or suiker-spin, whatever you call it I don't like it but if one gets one offered as a gift one has to.
Outside school yards traders pop up with their sticky sweet and terribly fatty snacks when the kids come out.
After leaving Chuxiong the road slowly rises to Nanhua. In Nanhua one can see that the original road was always bypassing the city centre. As a logistic supply road there was no need to pass through towns and as one can see on the old maps all these towns at that date were walled and the narrow streets and gates were only a hindrance. The Burma Road, just north of the old town did have support bases and even now the road at Nanhua is lined with mechanic workshops and tire repair shops but as well small quick meal places and just as before; prostitution.
The gradual climb continues after Nanhua and brings one to the Lingguan Bridge across the Longchuan River. The bridge just next to the new one was built already in 1601 and shows that this stretch of the road was in use well before the Burma Road was created.
The gradual climb of the road becomes now a serious climb and the road surface gets worse and worse. The Burma Road reaches its highest point here after a long climb. Luckily traffic is light here but every time a car passes a lot of dust is swept up.
After the climb there is of course the descend and with smoking brakes one arrives over a much better road surface in a small hamlet called Tianshentangxiang where there is accommodation above the local shop.
Fresh as can be.
To busy for a talk but if you have some time later you are invited for a feast with plenty of pork-chops.
In rural Yunnan home butchering is quite common and so is the use of large amounts of lard.
The roads stays rather flat and a relaxed ride leads through rural Yunnan with corn and tobacco fields on both sides.
Half way the distance the Burma Road squishes through a valley together with the new motorway and the Kunming to Dali railway into the brought valley in which Yunnanyi lays.
The valley is more populated and traffic increases. The original Burma Road here is hard to find because many alterations are made and the motorway dominating the valley disturbs as well. The road is picked up at the old air base in Yunnanyi which makes for a good lunch stop and one can have a look at the old town and old airbase. For more information see our special Yunnanyi page.
After Yunnanyi the road continous to the old town of Xiangyun.
Yunnanyi temple is one of the liveliest in Yunnan and often when we visit there are large family groups performing religious rituals like the rooster on the back when prostrating oneself for one of the deities in the temple. The rooster will then be butchered and cooked in one of more than ten cooking kitchens of the temple.
The Yunnanyi temple lays halfway up the hill behind the village and was during the war the radio and air control base of the airfield.
Xiangyun like many other rural towns got swept up in the in the speed of times. The Old town walls taken down decades ago are partly back in the form of ornamental city gates and the old bell tower in the centre has been rebuilt. The Burma Road is three kilometres south of the actual town. Then a way to keep the road away from congested cities now like a modern ring road bypassing town.
Out of Xiangyun the Burma Road continues through a large area of stone mason workshops turning out grave ornaments. The road then leads through the Dongshan National Forest Park to the Midu valley.
Here we meet the pipeline construction crews again. In the actual park the fuel pipeline is laid through tunnels to protect the environment.
Before the road hits the valley floor it starts to wind its way up again in real Burma Road style "Keep to the high ground and avoid muddy valleys". The road skirts the valley and climbs up to a mountain range crowned with modern windmills. In the valley fossil fuel still reigns and one can find a petrol station with 18 pumps, they probably didn't notice that this is the old Burma Road and not the motorway.
The climb out of the Midu valley is long and steep (The modern motorway and train pass the same mountain through long tunnels). After that it is a fast descend into Xiaguan at Erhu lake and from there some 17 Km more to Dali old town.
In rural area grains are threshed by laying it on the road and let cars drive over it.
The Burma Road is no exception to this.
These Yi ladies in Houshancun are hard at work getting this year's harvest in.
The Yi are a highland tribe and the village of Houshancun, near the pass, is some 400 metres higher than the Bai populated Midu and Dali valley.
The statue on the left above one can find in all Chinese towns that have been awarded the 'TOP TOURIST CITY OF CHINA' status.
But this is identity theft, Dali is a further 17 kilometres north of here. There is nothing touristic about Xiaguan to award this status, so go the extra distance to Dali Old Town (Also it is not on the Burma Road).
It is not only locals that you meet.
Presenter Barbara Lüthi and producer Elvira Stadelmann and their team got stranded on the Burma Road when one of their vehicles broke down while filming the TV series "Old Burma Road"
Location: 25°02' N. 102°42' E.
Altitude: 1892 meters / 6207 feet.
Location: 25°36' N. 100°15' E.
Altitude: 1972 meters / 6470 feet.
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