Lanzhou to Jingning
We have definitely experienced the nicest riding so far (except maybe the 50km down hill into Turpan) in all of China over the last few days. Now that we are in the Gansu province, far from the Taklimakan and Gobi deserts, we’re getting into some mountains, hills and vegetation. The landscape has provided some good long climbs and we had one yesterday that was 10km from bottom to top, tight corners, fast descents and some amazing topography. Leaving from the huge city of Lanzhou and heading to the big town of Jingning, we have been riding through a world heritage site!! We have been witness to thousands upon thousands of very impressive man-made terraces cut into the soft and nutrient-rich mountainsides. The mountains all around look like hundreds of layers of pancakes stacked on top of each other, all slightly offset. These terraces which have been manually cut into the sides of these mountains over the last two thousand years or more and have provided the local villagers with fertile and flat land amongst all the steep terrain to farm a variety of different crops year round. Along with the cultivated hill sides another feature that stands out are the hundreds of caves that have also been carved into the sides of the mountains providing sheltered homes high in the hills.
We had the pleasure of staying in our third home stay of the expedition last night in a small small village. The home stay’s claim to fame in the village was of being that of the only building with heat. The coal heat took the sting out of the air, but you still wouldn’t consider it warm inside. I’ll take the cold any day over the heat, especially the heat of Turkmenistan. One cool feature of the town was the ability to harness the sun’s heat with a contraption that looks like one of those old huge satellite dishes but just a little smaller. They were all covered with small square pieces of mirror (there were 50 of these things around the village) and sitting about four feet above the dish-like contraption, held up with a piece of rebar, were tea pots, one per dish. The light and heat of the sun was magnified and came to a focal point right on the bottom of the pots and boiled the water!!! I put my hand under the pot and it took about three seconds to start burning my hand. I was very impressed.
Another beautiful day of riding today – good climbs and scenery and a comfortably cool temperature. We will soon be in the long awaited ancient city of Xi’an where the famous terracotta soldiers stand guard and where we will have our last double rest day.