Leaving Shaxi saw one of the last big climbs of the trip. We chose the minor road over the hills, and minor it certainly was. The cobblestones soon gave way to a rough dirt road, and it was the first time things felt truly remote since the Tibetan plateau. It was a technical ascent (for the tandem!) and Steve loved it. The descent, however, was less fun, as we bumped our way down at walking pace. We finally got down to the main road at 2pm, with a long way still to go.
Even the main road did its best to slow us down: we certainly never imagined we'd encounter traffic jams on these rural roads. With the usual stream of trucks, plus all manner of farm vehicles, several market towns were almost gridlocked, with queues of traffic stretching for miles.