Records in the Desert

I wasn’t going to do it, I really wasn’t. I had read Jan’s account of doing 262km between Anxi and Jiayuguan in one day, and was very impressed, but thought it was just a bit beyond me. I started out from Anxi with headwinds, and it was looking like it could be a long day to achieve the 178km I had planned.

But then as I lay sprawled on the side of the road after 60km, having a rest, as you do, I noticed that the wind had swung around, and was now behind me. It started getting stronger and stronger, and suddenly I was easily doing 30+ km/hr. A couple of hours of racing along like that, and suddenly 260km didn’t seem out of the question. The wind got stronger, I kept racing, and when the 100km sign came up, I realised I could make it – so I put the foot down, and raced along to Jiayuguan. I made it to the “Jiayuguan West” exit around sunset – but of course I needed to do another 10-15km along the expressway to the real exit. As I came off the expressway, darkness really falling now, some petty official came running out of the tollbooth to tell me I couldn’t ride on the expressway. Too late buddy! Every other tollbooth they just wave, or sometimes direct me to an easier path to ride through.

260km, average speed 25.0 km/h – easily my best day. Then of course I had to ride around about 7 different hotels before I could find one that would take foreigners. This has been the most frustrating part of China for me so far – hotels that don’t take tourists – they have English signs, even English-speaking staff (very occasionally) – but they don’t take foreigners! Eventually I found somewhere, total 269km for the day. More than 50km more than my previous best. Then went and had dinner from a street stall – a mobile kitchen on the back of a bike, doing Mongolian hotpot-type skewers of various meats and vegetables. Very nice, and I’ve been back twice since, but I felt I deserved another dinner, so went and had another meal at Dicos – a local version of KFC.

I didn’t feel too bad after all that distance – I’ve done longer days time-wise on the bike before – but I was pretty tired. Collapsed into bed, and then did not much the following day. Have been out doing tourist stuff since, visiting the fort at the end of the Great Wall. Was pretty amazing to think that I am now inside the Great Wall – I am into the real China now, after only 1800km from the border. The last three riding days were 209, 162 and 269km – big miles being covered now.

Back on the bike tomorrow, hope to get to Lanzhou in five days, so that I can start the visa extension process next Friday. Hard to say how long that will take – LP says same day service in Lanzhou, but LP is crap – but I was going to spend a few days in Lanzhou anyway. Still trying to work out my route from there onwards, have got a few different options in front of me. Unfortunately it’s looking like I may end up in Xian around the start of October, which is a national holiday week. Will make finding a hotel difficult/expensive. Hmmm. Could start a big train loop from Lanzhou then, so I get to Xian earlier, then return to Lanzhou to pick up the bike and head south. Decisions decisions.

Oh and I got a few Xinjiang photos uploaded too.

3 replies on “Records in the Desert”

wow, great photos. Though not sure if I want to join you if I will end up looking like that! Will you go to Linxia and Xiahe?

David: Hope he doesn’t, the days are getting shorter (rapidly!) now, and it’s getting harder – don’t think I’ll be able to go further, unless I get lucky in Australia next year.

Nic – thought about it, but decided to race to Lanzhou to get my visa sorted, then get moving towards warmer places – the cold has started kicking in here.

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