Today is the 13th of August.
I sit under our tarp at the side of the street and just finished the noodles we had for lunch. Pure nudes with salt. There is not much food left in our bags, some compressed army cookies, some rice and some noodles. We haven’t had bread for days and didn’t pass any proper shops where we could get real food. The only thing we can get here is instant food. I guess because of all the truckers, they only need instant food and so the shops are full of soups, chips, meat-snacks, cookies and other stuff, but no vegetables, no fruits, no bread.
Since two days we haven’t passed any shop any more, all the snacks and instant stuff we bought at the last oportunity are empty and so we are really running low on food. Not much choice what to have for lunch then.
We are about 300 km from Golmud, thats about 2-3 days cycling. Until then we won’t pass any big villages, only Gansen, a small place where we hope to refill our empty pockets a little.
We left our camp at the riverside on the 11th of August quite late. I had some minor repairing to do on my bike that eventually got a some what more difficult task through loosing an important part in the sand. But I fixed it and we began cycling at around 10 o’clock. We didn’t know how high the pass we were about to cross would lead us. Since the landscape got somewhat more boring again we hoped for the pass to appear after every corner. We were disappointed many times. A positive effect was that we got there quite early for we didn’t know how much more accent we had to expect, we just rode on until we reached the pass. About 1100 hight meters in 4 hours, quite a record for us. We had lunch at the pass, ate our last bread with cucumber and enjoyed a beautiful view over the high-plateau that spread in front of us.
After the first 30 km had taken us 4 hours, we rode the next 30 km in less than one hour, enjoying a nice downhill-tailwind-good road-ride.
Then we had to cross another pass, bought some food at the shop I mentioned above and had a very impressive view on a huge mine. We didn’t know what they where mining for but it looked very strange. Huge hills steaming and dusting, the cloud that came of the mine could be seen up to the horizon and colored the landscape in the lee side of the mine in a white-greenish-blue color. On top of every hill there were this little machines that probably filtered the stuff the miners got out of the ground. They looked like little alien ships or UFO’s that had landed on a greenish-blue planet and and were just getting ready for liftoff again. The spotlights around these machines and the dust their engines blew into the air made the scene complete, Hollywood-like.
We settled near the mine for we expected it to get a even more impressing view at night than it already was. Well, we didn’t see in the end for we went to bed while daylight and slept through until the morning.
Our breakfast was rather thin, an army cookie each, a milk drink, coffee and some canned oatmeal. Although there were strong winds we were hunted down by Mosquitos, even when riding these next generation mosquito flew air strikes against us. Paul had to take care of his knee for his bandage had fallen of. Giving up the fight against the flying army I tried to distract myself from being the breakfast for this useless beasts and googled what kind of mine we had left behind. I didn’t want to believe the results I got. It was an asbestos mine. This stuff that we have removed of houses in Europe by special teams for it is so toxic, we just have passed millions of tons of it. Here, it is blown around by the wind and spreads all over this area, the people working here don’t even wear gas masks ore else. How can this be?
We left the area as fast as possible and managed to complete our good-morning-sprint of 30 km in record time.
At a gas station that per exception in deed had gas (most of them are build and then stay empty for unknown reasons) we got some gasoline to clean our chains with.
When looking at our Rohloff In-hub-gear we both noticed that they were loosing oil, what a shock. They were one of the most expensive and important parts of our equipment. They are supposed bring us to shanghai. We looked the problem up in the guide book of Rohloff and relievedly noticed that by ascending up to here the pressure inside the hub had probably grown and loosing a little oil is quite normal then. Then we reached another spectacular industrial area.
After passing a somewhat bigger checkpoint by riding through it high speed and ignoring the policeman that screamed something Chinese after us we entered a huge oilfield with thousands of pumps, hundred of towers drilling for oil and a complete city build only to give housing to the workers. Imagine that picture. A huge plateau, sandy and salty ground, surrounded by sharp rocky mountains.
It again looked just like in a sci-fi movie.
The pumps sucking the blood out of the earth like huge insects, hundreds of huge tanks filled with the liquid gold we need to keep mobile, black fume clouds rising up into the air, in between thousands of little men dressed in red making the pumps work and the oil flow. Very ironically, many of the pumps could have needed some oil for they were making noises like an old door.
I didn’t have to google to know what they are pumping here and so we left the oilfield and entered the next bizarre area. A salt mine. Huge artificial rectangular lakes which were partly dry and white as snow, partly light blue like very salty water looks like. In the background huge hills of this white material piled up to the sky. This area is indeed very salty so that’s how I came to the conclusion that it might be a salt mine.
By the time we had passed this area we already had driven 120 km, so time for a place to sleep. The only thing in our way was a little pass of about 500 hightmeters. It was worth fighting our way up there with the last power we had. We found the most beautiful place to camp that I’ve ever camped at.
Imagine a landscape with prairy-like round hills, now and then a dune (yes, we are back in a desert-like area again) and some sharp rocks reaching up into the air like statues. On top of one of the round hills we put our tent, 360* view and perfect sunset . Our tent stood in a krater like hole, so we were protected from being seen but could see everything.
We showered in the ice cold wind that blows up here at 3300 meters every evening, had rice for diner and fell asleep immediately. What an exhausting and interesting day.
After the spectacular sunset we didn’t want to miss out on the sunrise. So we got up at 5:00AM, again no bread, only oatmeal and army cookies. With sunrise we left the beautiful place and took an off road shortcut down the hill. Quite an experience with a 60 kilos bike. The ground was pure sandy but so steep that it felt a little like snowboarding down a powder-snow hill.
The first pass was done only one hour later, from there we had a smooth ride downhill and although the sun was shining it was still very cold. We reached the crossing where we had to go left to Golmud, and again, entered the desert where I sit right now under a bridge to escape the merciless sun. This time the desert is way more impressing than the previous. Huge dunes that seamlessly go over to rocky hills, red rivers which are many kilometers wide but only centimeters deep, little oasis’s that have clear water to drink from.
At the first oasis we fill up our water canisters and then as quick as possible escape the millions of horseflies that already saw their diner secured.
Again we have to cross a pass at about 3500 meters and again we see nothing but sand for the rest of the day.
Sometimes we play a game that is about estimating distances.
This time. ” how far do you think the telephone-mast is from here”
Guess by Paul: 15 km
Guess by me: 12 km
Reality: 35 km
Distances here are really tricky.
We raised the tent in the middle of nothing, surrounded by the far away mountains and, after fixing our xxx flat tire, (I have stopped counting) quickly went to bed with only a few noodles and a army cookie.
Breakfast was at half past four because we wanted to avoid the strong wind against us that builds up during the day.
We found another little instant food shop, refilled our water and had a soup for second breakfast that was so hot that we both could hardly eat it and when finished both were wet from sweat. The Chinese behind the counter enjoyed our suffering with a friendly smile, he obviously knew that this soup is one of the spiciest.
It was a long time ago that we had met non-Chinese cyclists on our tour. The two Russians came towards us on mountain bikes packed with food completely. They looked a little like a mobile market.
Their plan was to cross the mountains off road with their bikes, 30 days supply was stowed on their bags. We exchanged the websites and after having a little chat both went our own way again.
Now it is 3:00pm, the heat is about to go back again and we can ride further. Tomorrow we will hopefully arrive In Golmud.
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