Carsten 107 km/ / : Camp with Leon &
Not far out of Jiayuguan, just as we’d been hailed by some pipeline workers who gave us a present of tomatoes, we were overtaken by a cycling duo who had also started in SE Asia and were headed to Europe. Leon is a Brit and Carsten is German. They had come from Lanzhou in six days, and taken only one day off in Jiayuguan. We pedalled on together, and it was good to have company and different perspectives. It felt strange at first to be able to to speak full-speed English to someone other than Chris, after three months of essentially just each other.
We stopped to buy supplies at the last small settlement, and camped together in the desert that evening. The fresh tomatoes made a fine addition to our noodles. (John R.: Chris and I ate out of the pot as always, and nobody complained!) I’m learning about desert camping, which there’ll be more of. In future, I’ll make sure to wear shoes for night outings because there are plenty of prickly things. Fox tracks are everywhere. I haven’t seen a scorpion yet, but we’re trying to train ourselves to shake out our shoes in the morning.
Anxi 167 km/ / :
The next day, Leon’s cracking rim became problematic but the (sort of) bike shop in our lunch stop town wasn’t able to do much, so we rode on. The rim got worse, and Leon got a ride back to the lunch town from whence he got a bus to Anxi. We rode to Anxi with Carsten, who is a big strong competitive cyclist and a tough act to follow for mere mortals like us . We moved to the highway when our lesser road seemed to end, and covered km that day in under hours of pedalling, with some help from a favourable wind.
Leon arrived in Anxi by bus shortly after we’d checked in to a hotel there. He saw our bikes and came to join us. He managed to cut his head on the hotel’s door as he maneuvered his stuff, however, and the suture strips in our first aid kit came in handy. After dinner, we pored over maps comparing completed and proposed routes, and shared intelligence on the great visa puzzle that lies ahead.
Dunhuang 119 km/ / :
Carsten set out early toward Hami the next morning, whereas Chris and I headed toward Dunhuang to see the Mogao Caves. As we pedalled into the stark desert, a bus passed us with a cheerfully waving Leon. He was routed through Dunhuang to Hami.
After stopped at a cluster of rammed earth building marked as a village on Chris’s GPS map. The single inhabitant greeted us from the only building with a roof, and offered us a plateful of pancakes, which we wolfed. He refused our offer of payment, but seemed to want company even though communication was tricky. We don’t know whether he had a caretaker role or why he was there, but his pastime was obviously sketching, and his focus was mainly faces. We admired his work. Paper was clearly in short supply, because he was drawing over the print of old paperbacks, so we gave him a book we no longer wanted to carry to use as a sketch pad. He made it clear that what he’d really like was photos of us, so he could draw our likenesses after we had gone. We gave him our visa photos. km pedalling into headwinds and through emptiness, we
We pedalled on to Dunhuang, falling into a rhythm of switching leads at each kilometre marker. There had been no villages or shops for over km, and the day was a taste of the extended desert cycling that is to come. I took a degree video to try and give a feeling for our surroundings.