Lanzhou, China (Silk Route Scouting Report)
Four years ago when the back pack from the inaugural Tour d’Afrique was nearing Cape Town some of us started to throw the idea of what next. And so the Silk Route Bicycle tour was born. Fours years on, I am in Lanzhou the eastern gate of the Hexi corridor from which point, for hundreds of years, the real journey into the west began.
It has been ten days since I started my journey in Beijing and even though I am not on bicycle it has been an exhilarating experience.
While most of us by now have heard about the industrial miracle that is transforming China at an immense speed, it is only when one sees it that one begins to comprehend what it really means. New buildings are sprouting up everywhere, new roads are being constructed, everywhere young people are fashionably dressed, but what most striking thing is the energy of the place – as if a sleeping giant has woken up and now nothing will stop him.
Everywhere I go people are friendly and welcoming and each time I mention the Silk Route Race/Expedition I get a smile, a warm reception and eagerness to help.
The timing for the tour could not better. It appears that China and the UN will have major conferences next fall on the Silk Road, its history and its potential for the future.
And though China maybe changing fast it is now more than eager to preserve and in fact reconstruct many of its historical wonders – and wonders they are. From The Forbidden City which I visited on my first day in China, to the Terracotta warriors I saw near Xian to the Taoists and Buddhists monasteries I visited yesterday in Kontong Shan near the city of Pingliang – one of our stops next year. Tomorrow another set of adventures.
So long, Henry