Days 191 Through 200

Day 191

I'm exhausted. I've been on the road for 191 days. I've been moving from place to place to place to place to place. Recently its been a desolate, solitary journey. Everyday has been a marathon. Each day out here in the desert is a long, grueling hall, with a hot sun, harsh wind, and desolate stretches. It is incredibly exciting, but it also starts to take its toll. I sometimes miss the mediocrity of a lazy day. So instead of my planned ride today, I bought another night, and sat in my hotel room watching TV and using the internet. I need to catch up on the blog, I'm falling waaaay behind.

I tend to usually take my days off in large cities, the regional centers, because there's more to see and do, and more opportunities to get supplies, take care of problems. That being said, the day off here in the small town Guazhou, several miles off of the highway, has been great. I often times breeze past these small places, and its nice to occasionally spend an extra day, see what life is like in small town China.

Day 192

On my way out of town, grabbed a small meal for less than 50 cents, and then a driver pulled up and insisted on giving me some stuff. Alright, all set up for the open road. I decided to stay off the expressway today and try the local access frontage road. Terrible idea. "Broken pavement" would be a nice way to describe the condition of this road, and it was only wide enough for one car, meaning every passing truck forced me off the road and then surrounded me in a thick cloud of desert dust and sand as it slid by. Enough of that, sneaked past the fence, back on the freeway for the rest of the day, beautiful desertscape, which gave way to farmland as I approached the town of  Yumen. Didn't feel like paying for a hotel and also didn't want to deal with another 3 hour search for one of the few places that would actually be able to accept me, so I camped on the side of a hill, near some abandoned farmland.

Today will forever be know as the day I met a ridiculous amount of bikers. There was one stretch at the beginning of the day where I seemingly met about one biker per minute. Just crazy. Also, today I met the only person to date doing basically the same thing I'm doing. They're going from Hong Kong to Lisbon, sounds pretty familiar...

The girl going from Hong Kong to Lisbon

Day 193

The frontage road started out of town today in great, newly paved condition, so I figured I'd take it. Past miles and miles of windmills, through the desert, I ran into yet more bikers out on the road. Usually I just waive and keep doing my thing, but one guy today was very instistant in his arm flagging. He was really curious to what I was doing, and wanted me to wait for his English speaking friend who was biking with him. Sounded great, but ended up waiting about an hour, really kind of put a damper on my progress. Interesting guys nonetheless.

The road soon turned to shit, and I found myself stuck on the crumbly road for miles until it met back up with the expressway. To make matters worse, the Chinese government once again provided me with another obstacle. Getting the visa, crossing the border, and finding hotels had all been met with governmental road blocks. Now I faced a literal road block, in the form of a military convoy. And I may add this was not your average convoy. Quite literally 1000 vehicles, all moving at a snails pace down the crappy road. I have no idea what the hell was going on out here in the middle of nowhere that required so much stuff. Anyway, I was stopped by a solider and ordered to wait until the convey passed. I was stopped for about 65 minutes...

The original plan was to take my time and get into the next city, Jiayuguan tomorrow. Well, the open desert was windy and damp from recent rain, and I decided to be really picky about find a nice, dry camping spot. So just kept biking and biking, and biking. When it got dark, I decided to just keep going until I got to the next town. That took a looooong time. Way past midnight, starving, and exhausted I finally entered Jiayuguan only to find that, once again, almost every hotel could not take me. Finally had to cave in and take a more expensive place, such defeat...

Day 194

I shaved a day off yesterday, and in the process, exhausted myself, so took today off. Also, lets be honest here; I'm really not in that big of a hurry. So glad I did take the day off here, because Jiayuguan has something I have always wanted to see, but didn't know where it was, the beginning of the Great Wall of China. The very very beginning! I've always wondered what happened at the edge of this thing. Why didn't people just go around it? Well, today I got to see it. Sweet.

The Western End of the Great Wall of China

Day 195

Ok, I'm now officially inside Great Wall of China, inside "China proper," inside the area that the ancient Chinese actually thought was worth defending. A bit of a symbolic milestone. The end of the untamed wilderness, the beginning of civilization. So the story goes at least. Out of Jiayuguan, and passed through its westerly sister city, Jiuquan. Its one of China's ghost cities, looks huge on the map, has lots of buildings, but the roads are empty, except for the occasional local bus (which were empty too...). Over a river and through the (artificially planted agricultural) woods, to the desert again we go. Awesome landscape today, biking along the foothills of a small mountain range. Off the road for another night of stealth camping.

Day 196

I don't know exactly why, but I struggled to get the miles in today. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe I was dehydrated, or malnourished. I'm not really sure, but I just felt very sluggish today. Also, the honking. I know it seems like a small thing, but it actually diminished the enjoyment of today. A lot. I realize that complaining about honking may make me sound like a high maintenance, ignorant traveler, but I'm telling you, there is something especially bad about the noise pollution around here. First of all, the convention here is to honk any time you are approaching an intersection of passing someone on the road, even if there is absolutely no danger of collision. As a guy on a bike, I get passed a lot, by everyone really, and every time a car overtakes me on the road, they honk. More or less every, fucking time. That's a lot of honks. Also, the trucks and buses here all have bull horns, like the type on a train, which produce a very loud and discorded sound. Alright, anyway enough bitching about honking.

Made it to Zhangye, a small town, but with an international hostel. Even ran into some Americans.

They really sold me with this description

Day 197

Day off. Spent much of the day taking a nap next to the town's bell tower, really tranquil spot.

Day 198

Met some German travelers yesterday at the hostel who convinced me to go with them to the "Rainbow Mountains" outside of town today. Have to say, I was not disappointed, the mountains do indeed like like rainbows, pretty crazy. Equally crazy, I met a random Chinese girl today who has never been to the United States but speaks perfect English and is going to be an exchange student at the very same university I'm planning on attending after the trip. To top it off, everyone at the hostel decided to surprise me at midnight with a birthday party. Lots of really cool people out here in Zhangye.

Day 199

I spent today on a small desert road biking alongside the Great Wall of China. Tonight, I randomly stumbled upon the nicest hotel room I have stayed at in the past 199 days, and there was an awesome festival going on in town. Probably the best birthday I've ever had.

Day 200

Day 200!!! I've been looking at the riding for this week and spending most of my time getting ready for the 12,500 ft mountain range I am going to need to get over about 100 miles before I get to Lanzhou. I spent so much time worrying about that pass, that I more or less completely forgot about the 8,000 ft mountain that I was hitting today. So I felt pretty stupid when I started riding this morning, only to realize a couple hours in that today was going to be tough, the equivalent of going across the Rockies. Lots of climbing, into different zones of fauna and into freezing temperatures before I finally got over the peak.

Staying tonight in Youngchang, small town China. Out in the middle of nowhere, one freeway exit, one oversized center square full of people dancing to Chinese disco. The type of place you would never feel the need to go visit unless you were forced to, such as myself. Suppose that's the point of this trip right? I rather like it here.

As With Day 98, this is Definitely not Burger King