Price: 3380/ 3999 RMB
Min 6: Max 14
Indigo, precious to the Dong and Miao ethnic minorities of South East Guizhou marks our trail across the terraced mountains of Guizhou. The Indigo roots are kept warm next to the fires in the iconic drum-towers during winter; sold as dye in colourful local markets through spring and summer; pounded into handwoven cloth with clacking wooden mallets during the summer.
Farmers in weathered indigo cool themselves on the wind and rain bridges whilst the women dye the cloth in the river below.
Houses are draped in blue, purple and black cloth strips.Cycling from village to village it’s not unusual to find men playing the bamboo lusheng, women in festival dress, Indigo adorned with silver, in a dance circle, celebrating a marriage or a harvest festival.
Join us exploring the indigo culture of the Dong and Miao people on traffic free roads through remote villages, terraced farmlands, and stunningly located guesthouse accommodation.
Three and four day options are both possible on this itinerary.
Zhaoxing – a stunning Indigo-producing Dong-minority village in South Eastern Guizhou is the starting point for this ride. This once remote region is now just a three and a half hour train ride from Guangzhou – with easy connections from Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Travellers from the North may want to connect via Guilin and Guiyang. Shanghaiers can catch a flight to nearby Liping.
Please book at least two weeks in advance to ensure you get train tickets.
Designed as a weekend getaway for city-workers this trip features two fantastic guesthouse/village stays and two full days of back roads cycling along the Guizhou Guangxi border area deep in the remote Dong homelands. 12 cyclists is our maximum group size
6 is the minimum for the trip to run at the advertised price – so please invite a friend.
Bike Aways Style
Hemmingway says “that it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
We agree, but you can jump aboard our support vehicle on the bigger hills of which Guizhou has a few.
You will sweat but we bike for fun; to immerse ourselves in the landscape and culture; escape tourist traps, discover the charming rustic, and less commercially developed places.
Designed for reasonably fit, but NON- hardcore, NON-attitude riders, we use bicycles to see more, and get closer to where we are.
Bikes also fit our philosophy of low impact and spreading our travel dollars to lesser-known places. We support homestays, boutique hotels, and heritage projects in our accommodation choice.
We also love good home-grown local food and sampling the local wine!
Immediately recognisable features of the Dong culture viewed from a bike are the tiered drum towers that denote clans and their status within each village. Hundreds of years old, these drum towers function as the centre of village life, and are as fascinating seen from afar as they are from inside – with indigo clad men smoking pipes around the fire, playing Go in the cool dark interior or child minding whilst the women beat indigo died cloth to a sheen.
Dong villages are accessed by a covered wind and rain bridge. Farmers on their way home from the fields rest up, catching the breeze cooled by the rivers that these bridges span.The traditional nail-free ganlan stilt houses built from aged-pine, are clustered along the rivers – formerly the major transport routes to the outside world, as well as higher up on the terraced hill sides.
Sticky rice, tea and chilli are traditional crops. Duck, fish and vegetables are preserved by salting and fermentation – with the strong sour flavours extending the flavours and life of traditionally scarce food crops. The delicious rice noodles are wonderful riding fuel.
Looking good is important to the Dong who trade silver in dowries, worn with the traditional home spun, hand beaten, died and stitched indigo – still worn daily by the elder Dong, and used on festival days by many young as well.
Many Dong now live in large modern towns like Congjiang and Sanjiang where we start and finish, but the smaller back roads in between are alive with an older shamanistic culture, traditional wooden villages that are largely self sufficient, and patch worked farm-terraces interspersed with forested mountain vistas.
Freeways are being built, new trains are linking up urban centres, and a network of small roads are being built into the remotest villages – great for us on bikes but sure to have an impact on this fascinating culture and fantasy landscape in the very near future.
Originally from North China, the Miao number more than nine million people in China. Many Miao migrated further south to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in the 18th Century and are broadly known as Hmong in these countries.
Miao is a bit of a catchall description for Non Han minorities in the south of China, though the Miao do distinguish themselves based on dress and creation motifs into Red Miao, Black Miao; Mhub Miao, Big Flowery Miao, White Miao, Green/Blue Miao, and Small Flowery Miao.
The Miao tend to live higher in the mountains than the Dong, and in the area we cycle through there are only a few Black Miao villages. There are many more Dong Villages in this part of Guizhou.
Like the Dong, the Miao follow the directives of a local Shaman for all important decisions involving the village. The Miao believe that everything in nature has a spirit, Shaman’s also perform ceremonies designed to drive out evil spirits following any sort of natural or man made disaster. The Miao worship their ancestors with animal sacrifices and offerings of wine, meat, and glutinous rice. Some Miao also believe in Catholicism or other Christian religions.
Approximately 50 km a day on a mountainous route, mixed terrain, but mostly well sealed and without traffic, and more down than up.
The trip is vehicle supported which means you can kill off a hill or two by jumping in the support vehicle, or stop cycling when you feel like it (with a few caveats).
For smaller groups, our support vehicle will be mostly for the bikes and one or two passengers. We will use local vehicles from a few select spots to shorten the distance as needed.
This means the trip is also a great option for those who want a more challenging ride.
On Day 2 there is a small pass that our vehicle cannot follow. The road is unsealed with a steep downhill leading to an incredible, remote valley ride. Our support vehicle will need to drive around to join us on the other side. Support for this 20 kilometre section support will be from either local motorcycle riders or vans, as available or judged necessary.
The last 30 km is mostly downhill trending.
Zhaoxing – a stunning Indigo-producing Dong-minority village in South Eastern Guizhou is the starting point for this ride. This once remote region is now just a three and a half hour train ride from Guangzhou – with easy connections from Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Travellers from the North may want to connect via Guilin and Guiyang. Shanghaiers can catch a flight to nearby Liping. Pick-ups from Congjiang station will be be arranged and you’ll be guided to the meet up hotel.
Fri – Arrive in Congjiang by bullet train, transfer to ZhaoXing Dong Village, group meet up and dinner.
Sat – Full day cycle (rice terraces, valley riding, tea plantations) overnight in a mountain inn in remote Dong Village
Sun – Morning gorge ride, off-road climb and long downhill trending cycle to Sanjiang. There is an option for those needing to get back to work on Monday to transfer by van to Sanjiang around 5 pm for trains back to Guilin, Guangzhou Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Mon – Departure day – Transfer to Sanjiang station for trains to Guiyang, Guilin, and Guangzhou, Nanning. For those who can spare another day off work – cycle on to Chenyang Village famed for its wind and Rain Bridges and depart at your leisure.
Book your trains from Sanjiang station from around 5pm on Sunday or anytime on the Monday.
Sanjiang to Guilin is about 1 hour. Many trains go through to Guangzhou South (3.5hrs) where you can change for trains to Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
All meals from Friday night dinner to Sunday lunch, entry ticket to Zhaoxing Dong culture village, twin-share accommodation (single supplement available for RMB 200/night), quality mountain bike, helmet, water, two days supported cycling, transfers to and from train stations.
China Visa, travel to and from Zhaoxing. Tickets on the high speed train are cheap, but vary depending on where you get on, so we don’t cost this in, but can help you buy them.
A Further Note on Trains
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