Starting to Look Like Desert

2009/03/24: Road Construction Camp 75 km
With no hotsprings, there wasn’t much to stop for in Wushan. We pressed on, with the landscape becoming drier, more open, and less densely populated. We wound our way up another dusty brown ridge, terraced and planted with small fruit trees not yet in leaf. We were over taken by a twenty-something lad on a mountain bike, who had seen us at the fritter stand as we left town. We stopped and talked as we climbed, and at the top we took out our repair kit out for his inspection. He had thoughtfully inquired what we’d do if our bikes had problems.

After a sweeping descent, we were in a flatter and bleaker area that reminded us we were headed toward the desert. The wind gusted from the side. I was fading, and our inquiries informed us that there were no lodgings for at least 40 km. Could we camp? Yes, said the foreman of the highway-building crew whom we’d asked. We bought noodles and eggs at the tiny shop, set up our tent in the lee of a grader, and cooked a one pot dinner with a stream of locals of all ages coming by to wonder at us, at our MSR stove, and at our bikes.


A local teenaged boy was concerned for our safety camping near the road crew, because “they’re not from here.” Meanwhile, the foreman watched the local kids to make sure they didn’t touch our bikes. We crawled into our sleeping bags, and made it through a night that dropped to –5 Celsius.

2009/03/25: Yuzhong 121 km
In the morning, we were invited for tea in the foreman’s tent. I had told the foreman that Chris was a kexuejia – a scientist. The foreman, likely an engineer, asked me what kind of kexuejia Chris was, but “physicist” is not to be found in the phrasebook’s mini-dictionary. I relayed the query to Chris. Chris drew a beaker on the notepad, paused, and crossed it out. Not a chemist. He drew a rudimentary quadruped, and crossed it out. Not a biologist. He drew balance beam on a fulcrum, with two arrows. The foreman look puzzled. Chris wrote “E=mc2” . The foreman’s face flickered. Then Chris said “Einstein.” Aha! Then he wrote down the address for the CERN website for the foreman.

40 km along the road, without much breakfast inside us, we found our first restaurant. I went inside while Chris was still out by the bikes. Oh what joy! “They’ve got roast chicken!,” I announced, trying to hurry him inside. I ordered two half chickens and two bowls of spicy noodles. We really needed a good feed, and the Muslim owners seemed pleased to see our obvious delight as we wolfed down our food.


It was a good thing we filled our tanks, because the woman at the hotel where we’d planned to stop made a phone call. With apologies, she said we needed to move along because they couldn’t accept foreigners. It turned into another long day, but it ended at a friendly hotel only 40 km from Lanzhou, and a 22 year-old girl led us on a walking tour of the the town after supper.

2009/03/26: Lanzhou 39 km
We were left with an easy last day into the city.


One response to “Starting to Look Like Desert

  1. Wow. Those steep climbs are making me feel tired and I only hiked in East Sooke park for a few glorious hours the other day.I hope you are both taking your vitamins. very trendy spring haircuts! – you both look wonderful. The pictures and writings are both informative and very entertaining.YOu two are like CISV members spreading peace and cross cultural understanding-just a bit older that’s all!

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