I am lying in my bed, the bed of the hostel room Paul and I checked in yesterday. I am sick. The pizza I ate in the hostelrestaurant was really tasty, I had longed for some western food for so long, but forgot about the risk it brings. The whole night I have been puking. Today I feel better again but am to weak to stand up. I only got up once to haul myself to the public security bureau where they needed to take a picture for my visa extension, I can tell you, it is a great picture;0(.
We are in Xining, the biggest and most modern city since the beginning of our stay in china. How we got to this metropolitan monster that makes us both sweat at its sight and overran us with its chinese blingbling lightshows? It’s a long story, I will try to explain step by step.
Since it is so long ago that I wrote my last blogpost, I have a fading memory of all the facts already. I will try to describe them as vivid as possible. To not let It get boring for you, I will make a summary of the most important facts.
About ten days ago, on the 29th of August we had left the most adventurous part of our journey,so far, behind us. In front of us lay a much better road, still dusty and unpaved but better.
We went to the next town, which was to be the first in days, to make a quick shopping. There was a road leading there but in a huge detour. So we decided to take a shortcut through the swamps which lay inbetween the town and us. It worked out fine since we followed a trail of a motorcycle which had driven there a few minutes before us. As we arrived in the town a girl, who worked there as a volunteer helping to restore the town after the earthquake in 2010, guided us to find fruits, bread and other stuff we needed. This town was very strange. Everyone ran around with this cheap gas/dust-masks. No one shook hands or came near us. They there were many people surrounding us but always in a save distance. It seemed to me like there was some strange disease going on. I informed Paul about my theory and we both trie avoiding contact and left town as soon as possible.
Back to our cycling- business we noticed that against our previous assumptions we would have to climb many more passes close to 5000 meters before reaching Ganzi, where we planned extending our visa. This meant that we would have to make more than a hundred kilometers per day to get there in time. This much is no problem in flatlands, but up here in the mountains with this thin air and bad roads, it is a quite ambitious aim, not to say impossible. Against our experience, which told us to not even try this monster marathon, we made a plan how we could get there in time. This meant that we would have to do two passes today, both over 4600 meters. My lounges already hurt at the bottom of the pass so Paul and I had a discussion about the sense of hurrying like this. It turned out to be quite effective for we decided to try another way of breathing. Paul knew from the time he was still playing basketball that breathing through the nose is much more efficient than through the mouth.
It is quite a concentration-exercise not to switch back again when exhausted and keeping the nose free of dust and slime, but once I got used to it, I felt the difference in a very positive way.
Like this we managed both passes on the same day, reaching the next valley in the twilight between day and night.
To have a better sleep we both took Iboprofen, which is supposed to help against symptoms of the height-sickness and is recommended by a German medical institute.
Just when we had finished dinner two young boys came along. They had seen our fire from their “Jurte” and came to show us pictures of their father dressed as worrier with a watermelon- helmet. It was very amusing and we laughed all together about the funny pictures. It was the first time since very long that I understood the humor of the inhabitants of this country. It showed me in a very nice way that we are all just humans and we laugh about the same jokes , all over the world. This pictures of their father, carrying a broom, standing there in underpants with half a watermelon on his head would have made everyone laugh.
After a while the two boys drive of on their motorcycle and Paul and I went to sleep. In the night Yaks came and gathered around our tent, not caring for the tent-ropes that we had fixed all around to keep our tent upright. This huge animals really behaved like an elephant in a porcelain- store. If a dog would not have barked them back to order, they would probably have ran away with our tent.
In the morning the two boys came back to watch us packing and wished us a good travel.
It had rained all night and the roads where a huge mud bath. Wild dogs seemed to enjoy this mud and in our company started rolling around and playing on the road. We in opposite, knew that we would have to cycle this mud bath all day and where a little more worried about the quality of the road than the dogs.
And it was a hassle in deed. The water ran down our clothes and the mixed with the mud just to be thrown up in this sticky mixture against our clothes again. Our bikes soon looked like the mud bathing dogs and the wheels got thicker and thicker. Luckily the material of the street changed at midday when we reached the foot of the next pass. All along our way we could still see the consequences of the earthquake, whole villages made plain to the ground, most of the people still live in this tents, what Paul and I think are first aid tents from the government.
As we reached the pass we had to notice that it is only the first of three more passes we would have to complete today to stay in our schedule.
The next problem then is water. We find a little river where we can fill up our bottles, but….. As Paul takes a few zips of the bottle he nearly pukes:” it’s ful with oil, machine oil”, he swears. I take his bottle and in deed, the water is undrinkable, we have to throw it away.
Without water we start the ascend to the pass, about 500 height meters, the sun is about to set as I see the reason for the bad water shimmering in many different colours in the last rays of the sun. A few trucks had changed their oil and where now busy with washing their mashines. The little river was covered by this rainbow-colored oil layer. It made me so angry to see this. Not that I was surprised at all. I had seen the way people treat nature around here, they throw their rubbish everywhere and in the next moment enjoy the beautiful landscape. The don’t think about the consequences of their behaviour. Not even the shepherd, who’s Yaks where drinking the water from the river had said a word to the truckers, he just stood there and watched his animals drink the poisoned water. If I had spoken Chinese and my short breath had let me, I would have liked to let the truckers know my opinion about their behavior. But it was hopeless to try explaining, so I drove on in my grieve and filled up our bottles as we had passed the toxic source.
We reached the pass in the dark again, totally exhausted and decided to descend a few hundred meters for a better sleep. We fixed our headlights and drove through the dark. From time to time two glowing eyes starred at us just to disappear in the dark when we came closer. Then, of course, Paul got a flat tire. We pumped it up as good as possible and drove as long until it got flat again. Like this we reached the bottom of the valley where we found a quite acceptable place to camp. We cooked dinner and I fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from a long day.
In the morning we slept long and had a late start. Although the weather was sunny and warm we couldn’t get going. It was one of those days when we start repairing a little thing and end up doing a complete restoration of our equipment. When we finally sat on our bikes it didn’t take long until a flood of rain came over us. “Perfect timing” Paul angrily said to me as we put on our rain clothes and began the ascend of the next pass. The road was rocking and muddy and underneath our rain clothes the same climate than outside began to develop. It is always the same. There just is no such thing as waterproof and ventilating clothes, it’s all a huge lie. I’ve had many jackets in my life that were supposed to be waterproof and ventilating but they al turned out to be or sucking water like a sponge or made me sweat like sitting in a sauna.
Enough bleating, I’ve never driven up a pass that consequently and fast. No time for enjoying when the water runs down my chin and drips through my scarf onto my chest just to flow down to areas that should be kept dry while cycling.
As always, passes have two sides. Most of the time there are two different kinds of weather on each side. This time it meant sunshine for downhill, which is an advantage if considering the fact that it keeps you warm while rainy downhill is the worse you can have up here. In fact, rain uphill and sunshine downhill is remarkably better than sun uphill an rain downhill.
As we reached Qumarleb, a small town on our way to Yushu, we were frozen to the bones any way. If they could have, our fingers would have made the sound of cracking ice when we released them from the brakes.
As an surprise there was a telephone-store where we could charge our mobiles with money. Actually this sounds quite simple, but it isn’t. The two young girls behind the counter didn’t have any clew what we want. Even the international gesture, putting money on the telephone, didn’t help. I showed them the charging cards we had used the last time, as an respond I got shoulder -ticking and head shaking: “woa bu dong”, which means as much as ” I don’t understand”. Even when I translated everything word by word they couldn’t understand. After half an hour they told me to come back tomorrow, then another person would be here and I could true my mission again. I nearly flipped but coul hold my self back from showing my anger. At last it was not their fault that I don’t speak their language.
Then a little boy came in with his mobile in hand, said something like “tsching-tschang-tschong”, the girls gave him a prepaid card, he called a number and his phone was charged and he ran off.I stood there a little perplex and nearly missed my chance to act. “I want the same as this little boy” I tried communicating with the girls, they looked at each other and began laughing. Then they opened a box, gave me a card, I gave them 50¥, and tada, my telephone began receiving all this nonsense Chinese SMS that told me how glad they were that I chose their Telephone company. I still don’t understand what went wrong in all my attempts to explain what I want. Next time I”ll just say something like abracadabra, maybe that helps.
We did some quick shopping and left town for the sun already was quite low.
A boy on his motorcycle guided us a little and as he said goodby he showed us his middle finger. Not exactly a nice gesture. But considering that people here often say”goodby” when they see us and “hello” when we leave ( what can be very irritating) this boy had obviously mixed up this gesture with a nice waving goodby. We “waved goodby” as well and found ourselves a nice place to camp, right next to a huge river. It started raining as a soon as our tent was raised, so we cooked inside again, an act that we both thought was uncomfortable before but that in fact is very well doable in our tent.
The next day, first of September, we finally realized that getting to Ganzi in time for visa extension is impossible. We decided that trying to extend our stay on china by changing the flight would be the much better solution. Like this we would extend our visa in the by now near by Yushu and woul have more time to cycle the last 3000 km.
The whole day was nothing but planning, calling airlines, and checking finances. In the evening we put up our tent only 10 km further, but with the good feeling not to have to hurry any more. The night was cold and I once more heard strange noises around our tent. When I looked out of the apsis with my spotlight I saw glowing eyes disappear in the dark. I will never get to now what it was.
Again we got up late, just to notice that our plan we made yesterday gives is time, but not before Yushu. We packed real fast an made the decision to try to reach Yushu in two days, about 120 km/ day.
The valley had a very light ascend for we were riding along a river al the time. The wind in our back and the sunny weather made this 4700 meter pass a joyride. We passed a little town where again we could see clearly the destruction of the earthquake, scar- faces, handicapped kids, huge buildings completely collapsed. A really scary picture. When I looked into the eyes of the children I knew that they had seen terror. But still, they were so sweet and kind, as if nothing had ever happened.
The more we get near Yushu, the more Tibetan it gets. The colorful clothes, golden temples, black eyes as I have never seen them before, prayer flags everywhere and many, many monks.
From time to time there are little paradises that we think might be party-places for rent.
They consist of dozens of little houses, tents, jurts and roofs underneath which pillows and furs pile up surrounded by silk curtains and ranking plants. In the middle of the houses is often a stage which looks to me like the ones I know from western-movies, square with a wooden roof surrounded by coloured lightbulbs. I can clearly imagine the party’s going on there, I would like to be part of it once but up to now we only passed empty such places. But I guess the first crowded one I won’t just pass by. People here are so open in a surprising way. I have had many experiences during this trip when people where intrusive or annoying and disturbing. The Tibetans are different. Although they live far away from western standards and the “rest of china” they don’t seem to be impressed so easily. This again seemed to give them the freedom to treat us like one of them, like” nothing special”. It is such a nice feeling every time I get this broad, bright laugh from one of them instead of the staring unbelieving look I’ve had so many times before. I can walk down the street here without having the feeling to drown in staring eyes from curious people, I don’t have to answer millions of questions, just a hello/ni hau is fine to harvest a satisfied glance or a friendly smile. Children here are so incredible sweet and have an even brighter laugh. Despite, or maybe even because of their recent history they seem to be the most happy people of the trip so far. It makes me happy to see them and I wish I can take something from this positivity home with me.
In the evening we settled at a riverside, a beautiful, meltwater river in which yaks stood nearly completely covered in icecold water to wash out the heat of the day. It began getting cold as soon as the sun had settled behind the snowy mountains, so cold that we had to creep into our sleeping-bags and cook in the tent, that now has been our home for already more than 5 month.
We slept until the sun came up over the opposite mountains an melted the ice from our tent.
Paul woke up because meltwater that had gathered in a bubble over him, dripped on his face and gave him the anyway necessary wash.
Quick breakfast, and a serious decision followed. We would cycle to Yushu today, still 170km to go. This ment cycling the whole day and depending on how far we get until sunset, probably even through the night.
We had to be there tomorrow morning for we feared that as a consequence of the earthquake the community would not have the possibility to extend our visa. Every village we saw still lay in bricks and Yushu might as well.
We passed the up to now highest, paved pass on our trip, 4809 meters and had dinner early while the sun was still up to avoid freezing. When we left our cozy place next to the street it was twilight over the valley. The cold began to creep through our clothes and it was time to prepare for a ice cold ride through the dark of a full-moon night.
Our headlights soon lost power and lost the fight against the much brighter light reflected by the moon.
The night had caught us in its grid and the landscape began changing in a very mystical way. Distances where no more assessable, colors al mixed to a huge black and white picture and in its middle flew glittering – like a bad airbrush-picture on the tank of a Harley Davidson – the moonlight river.
There were hardly any cars left on the street and a oppressive silence lay over the mountains.
Only when we passed villages the dogs began barking and howling. Their voices echoed back from the distance and gave the scene the perfect goosebumps-feeling. But the crown of the scene was still to come.
By this time we were already use to glowing eyes in the dark, for some dogs were not chained and came shooting out of the dark towards our bikes barking, just to run behind us for a while and make us go even faster. We didn’t fear them much for there is a saying in Germany that has revealed it self as true up to now: Barking dogs don’t bite.
We feared the quiet ones growling at the side of the road underlining their eyes with a reflecting row of teeth much more. But those where always the ones being chained.
The hills surrounding us where brighter than the nightsky behind them.
The moment when I saw the monster coming over the mountain dome my heart stopped beating. Then adrenalin came helping the poor thing to start up again.
Two glowing eyes, much further apart then all the other ones before let me guess the size of the head which’s outline against the moonlight was crowned with two mighty, sharp horns, at least 40 cm long. Then the outline of body came to sight, walking upright on two legs with a long fury tail wagging. Paul had not seen the monster yet and paddled on while I froze on my bike like a squirrel that has been spotted by a snake. I nearly lost balance and thoughts like “the devil” or “yeti’s are real” shot through my head. Then the beast made a grunting noise and through this revealed his cover.
For a moment I had really thought that in this wide country a beast like this might exist. But now, as the yak turned sidewards and showed all his 4 legs to me, I was pretty sure again that my head and the flat moonlight had played a trick on me. As the beast began eating grass I was completely relaxed again. No more danger for me.
I admit, this story might be somewhat exaggerated but taking place in only a few seconds this description is the most fitting to explain my feelings, that I had at this moment, to you.
Back to reality, the ride through the night was one of the most impressing experiences. On the one moment it could just have been a ride from A to B somewhere in Germany, but then the little things, like never seen nightsky with millions of stars, the smell in the air that the wind carried over to us from the villages, the occasionally appearing animals that clearly do not exist in Germany and other indescribable details, clarified my actual position to me.
It was very exhausting to climb the pass for we didn’t know exactly how high it would take us. As we reached the top a breathtaking view was the harvest of our effort.
Steep rocky mountains and a winding serpentine street downhill, all enlightened by the moonlight and in the far distance, about 30 km in front of us at the end of the valley lay Yushu, crowning the scene with a misty light-dome that gave me a warm feeling on this icy pass. Although I knew we wouldn’t drive into Yushu that night I felt like I was already there. The last 30km were downhill and easy to be done before midday of the next day.
We had problems finding a flat place to camp. But finaly, after rolling downhill for about an hour and freezing of all our extremities to numbness, we could set up the tent on a old side road. No dinner, we went right to bed, nearly 170 km and two passes over 4700 meters high are enough for one day.
We only slept until nine o’clock for we needed to get to know as soon as possible how it would go with our visa extension.
Although we were only a few kilometers from Yushu the city was invisible. A huge dust-dome hang over it. As we got closer we understood why.
We had thought already that there would be much building going on here, but we never in our worse dreams would have expected such a chaotic place. The collapsed buildings had only partly been brought outside the city to form a huge grave-like hill. The other part still lay there, between them tents and concrete columns rising up into the sky to form the basis of the future city. On every corner women, children and old men were working on new houses, drowning their mud-brick history in concrete, it seems like the houses they build now are made to withstand every earthquake and last forever. In fact, the whole city seemed to grow out of the ground like there has never been something else than ten storey buildings and modern architecture. Only a few buildings with thick stonewalls and impressive roofs, small temples and statues standing in between this chaotic, dusty world of phoenix seem to have survived the catastrophe in 2010 and stand as witnesses of the past.
The concrete-dust was so thick that my eyes began to burn. All these people didn’t seem to mind, they have a bigger aim all together, I could feel and see their will to build up this city again and make it a better place. This city is growing over its previous size and is about to get a modern paradise in the middle of the highest mountains of the world.
Well, as we searched for our hotel, one of many hotels that google had prompted to us, our quest ended up in front of a huge hill from steel and stone where the entrance used to be.
Obviously this information was older than two years and as we ask our way through we find out that there is only one hotel left in Yushu. Hidden behind new but still unfinished concrete-monsters a little hotel stands as if nothing ever happened. We would never have found it if the police had not escorted us there personally through a unfinished building because the road there was blocked by debris.
The hotel looked very fine and noble from the outside, as soon as we entered the room we changed our mind. The interior obviously had suffered damage from years of no electricity and water. the bathroom obviously hadn’t been cleaned in months, behind the door the used toilet paper sticked on the ground and electricity was only available from 20:00 to 10:00. I could smell the humidity o the carpet and soon regretted my anticipation to finally sleep in a bed again. I in fact thought of building up the tent in the room to make it more livable. But at least we had gotten the paper we needed to proof we are not homeless and live in a hotel. This again we needed to extend our visa. I still wonder if the police would consider this room as a residence valid for extending the visa if they had seen this room like this. I, for my part, felt kind of homeless here:0)
We left our stuff there and went on in our quest for visa extension that soon was to take a surprising turn.
“No” , was the answer of the women behind the counter at the “Buddhistic public security bureau” of Yushu. After searching for hours for “the place to be” if willing to extend your visa we had found this little office. It was obviously a provisory place and so our fear got reality. For the service we needed we would have to hitchhike 1000 km to Xining where the PSB could extend our visa within 3 days.
A catastrophe. We went back to the hotel, grabbed the most necessary and valuable stuff, payed the room in advance for 4 days and took of to a quite different adventure.
A little story in between:
A police car stops in front of a kiosk. The policeman screamed something chinese into the store. The owner short time later comes out of the store with two ice creams in hand and hands them over to the fat policeman in his car. The policeman unwraps the icecream an throws the rubbish on the ground in front of the feet of the kiosk-owner. The policeman screams something again an the kiosk owner goes into his store, comes back with a broom and a bucket and collects the rubbish which the policeman has just thrown on the ground. Also he has to put the carpet in from of his shop in a perfect rectangular angle to his door, only when he has completed all this, the policeman begins laughing and drives of, snipping his cigarette in the direction of the kiosk owner.
An Hour later we are at the main-road to xining, waiting for someone to pick us up and bring us there faster than the overnight bus. To succeed in our race we would have needed to be there the next day at noon, which gave us about 20 hours for nearly 1000 km.
That doesn’t sound to bad, one would think. But considering that the road was said to be very bad and partly unpaved, leading over 5000 meter mountains and almost only driven by trucks, the chance of getting there in time was not very likely.
We didn’t stand there too long as the first cars stopped. They turned out to be private long distance taxis which offered to take us for ridiculous high amounts of money. Slowly the taxis piled up in front of us and tried bidding on the ride. But none of them made a good price, they slowly, one after the other took of again. The last one offered us to bring us there for 1800¥, still way to much and so we stood there again at the side of the road, waiting for a ride. Just as I supposed that going back to the hotel and getting back here with sunrise would be better, a truck stopped and took us in.
To our surprise, the trucker wanted to have money as wel, only 600¥ but stil to much. We bargained a little and got the ride for 400 ¥ in the end.
One of us could sleep in the truckers bed accompanied by another trucker while the other was sitting next to him.
Kind of a strange constellation. But according to the driver we would be there in time, so it was the best solution.
The ride was rough because the truck was unloaded and the suspension of an unloaded truck is hard as stone.
The road was not making it better and through the night we saw three heavy accidents. The first one was ambulance that had crashed into a truck, both completely detroyed. The second was a truck that had shot out of a steep curve an crashed into a riverbed lying there upside down.
The third truck was upside down as well, the driver luckily was unharmed.
I don’t know if that was a bad night but I surely didn’t feel so good about the fact sitting in a truck myself any more, also because our driver didn’t seem to give a dam about driving save. He speeded down steep pass roads and took cars in where there was no chance of seeing ahead.
In the morning the trucker woke us up from a restless sleep, we seemed to still be on the road and he asked us if we were hungry. After we had shared all our food with him through the night we surely were ready for breakfast. He stopped his murderous drive at a small restaurant and ordered food. And then the situation began to get uncomfortable. He didn’t pay and left us with the bill that by the way was way to high for a Chinese roadside breakfast. Angry about the trick I went back to the truck and asked him if we would be in time. “no, a few hours later, probably around 18:00 we will arrive.”
That was way to late for us and I got even more angry about him not telling us earlier, he knew that we needed to be there in time. Now we had to change the ride. We asked if we could get part of our money back since we had only driven part of the way. His answer was a simple no followed by the most stupid grinn I’ve seen in a while. I told him that we were on really low budged and we needed the money to get to xining. He didn’t change his mind. I flipped. The sentence ” never pay the ferryman before he brings you to the other side” came to my head and I realized that it was a big mistake paying him first. I called him the biggest asshole I’ve ever seen, showed him my middle finger and slammed the door shut so that all people around us looked at us.
He started the engine and took of.
I’ve never had such an idiot of a trucker taking me along while hitchhiking.
We shared our drinks, even bought him coffee and behaved all friendly. Even the other trucker, who was with us all the time, didn’t understand his colleague.
But after all it turned out to have been just the right decision.
We found a nice family who took us with them for free the next hundred kilometers. They drove quite slow and so we overtook our trucker a few kilometers before they set us out again. then the trucker passed us again, blowing his horn and now showing us his middle finger.
Not soon after two businessman, which were in a hurry, took us along and we speeded away, again in front of the asshole of a trucker. The same scene happened again for the businessman kicked us out at a crossing. The trucker took us in again an we got the faster ride again an in the end were in xining two hours before the trucker had said he would be there, just in time to hurry to the public security bureau an explain our problem.
The women behind the counter was said to be ( source was the Lonely Planet) quite a hard bone and not so easy to convince of delayed visa applications. But as we gave our best in speaking Chinese she began laughing and the ice melted. She understood that it was only partly our fault, and assured us that if we come back tomorrow with all our documents filled in correctly, we would have our extensions on Friday. Yippiyeah.
I am going to make a short chapter from the city of Xining, for I actually saw the stay there as a must, not as something I would have liked to do on my trip.
As the nice couple, which had taken us the last two hundred kilometers to Xining, let us out in the city center, we both were shocked by the walth and normality if this city. Everything looked just so westernized and not at all as the china we had gotten to know so far.
It was much more the china I know from TV. advertisement on every corner, thousands of cars, millions of blinking lights and a hectic crowd running through narrow streets caged in by huge skyscrapers which destroyed every chance of a glance on the surrounding nature where we came from. I felt strange. People ignored us completely for strangers were no unusual thing here. That made me feel even more like a stranger. After the visa issue was done, we found a little hostel on the 15th floor of a skyscraper that to us was kind of a refuge from the world we had just been thrown in. It was like a birds nest from which we could perfectly observe the new China from a secure distance . We even had a little balcony and underneath it was a huge sport arena. Up to know I hadn’t experienced the Chinese people to be very sportive. But now I needed to change my mind. Every morning this arena was crowded by thousands of Chinese people, all doing their personal favorite sport. Some did fight-sports, some ball sports, some just danced over the lawn or did things that I can impossibly define. But all were doing sports. And that every morning. Also the way they did this was really impressing. They also could have done their thing in their flat or house, they could go to a fitness studio or run somewhere through the city. But they all gathered here, young and old, and did their thing together. Believe me, it was such a nice picture that I watched them quite a long time.
And then the schoolchildren recovers the place. Also impressive but even more frightening. Between about six and ten years old, they all wore military uniforms. Then several grownups brought them in position and they marched the arena for hours. A military drill like I’ve only seen it with adults so far. The bright picture I had gotten before, the picture of harmony and peace, it was getting darker and darker again.
We didn’t do much that day, we had dinner at the hostel, a delicious huge pizza, and went to bed.
And that’s where this monster if a blogpost started.
The pizza had something to it that my stomach did not want to digest.
But during the day I felt so much better that taking care of some things like writing was possible.
The next day, Friday the 7th, we collected our visas and had actually planned to check out. But since we had so much more to do we needed an extra day. The problem was that our hotel in Yushu was only payed until that very day and we couldn’t call there for the times at which the reception was open ther was no electricity in town.
The unbelievable friendly stuff of the Lete youth hostel, that provided perfect service, helped us out with our problem. They called a Chinese friend in Yushu who went to the hotel there and payed our room for us. We then gave them the money for the hotel in yushu and everything ran smoothly again.
The next day we did the last todo’s and checked out. We had bought two tickets for the nightbus to Yushu because another 20 hours truck-hiking was not an option for us.
As always, we underestimated the time it would take us to get to the bus station at the other end of town.
An hour before the bus took off we left the hostel. WAY to late. The first problem that occurred was finding a taxi which would take us there. We optimistically walked out the door thinking we would just clap our hands and one of these green Volkswagen-Santana would stop and be glad to take us. But no. Something was wrong here. We decided to walk down the road a little to try our luck on a huge crossing. Nothing. Slowly time was melting away and we only had half an hour left to get there. We began to get real nervous. Since no one wanted to take us we decided to just step into the next random bus which went into our direction. We ran to the bus station and caught a bus which we thought would bring us to a taxi-station I had seen a day before. The gods were against us and the bus took the wrong turn at the next crossing were he stopped at a red light. We asked the driver to please let us out here for we needed to catch a cab to another destination but the driver kept the doors closed. As if someone was fooling us the red light next to us turned green and dozens of free taxis passed us by. We begged the driver to open the door but he refused. Not even offering him 50 ¥ would make him push the button. The lights turned green and we drove another few kilometers in the wrong direction. As the stopped we fled away from our mobile cage and swore on the bus driver. Luckily a taxi just got rid of it’s passengers right in front of us and we sprinted to capture it before someone else did. Explaining to the driver where we wanted to go was the next obstacle in our way. He didn’t understand and seemed to think we want him to bring us to Yushu, only when I showed him our bus tickets he understood. The departure time of the bus was printed in bold letters on the ticket and the taxi driver nodded his had in a way that expressed something like:” we’ll you are far to late but lucky that you go with me, ’cause I can make it there in time”
He should soon convince me that the time my Telephone had calculated to get there was just relative. He ignored red lights, one way streets, horned his way free and cut curves so tight that black rubber lines marked our way out of Xining. It is funny how all the other cars seemed to understand our hurry and didn’t even horn when we nearly forced them of the road. The drivers here are always so aware that this kind of races don’t lead to crashes, they are so used to it that it is an everyday situation for them to avoid a frontal crash with a ghost-driver.
From time to time I compared the time my telephone had calculated with the remaining time and after we had left the inner city behind and fewer stoplights and traffic jams blocked our way I could relax a little.
We stepped out of the taxi at 16:58, the diver new exactly were the bus would depart and kind of cut its way of to make sure it won’t leave without us. We payed him more than double the price for his hell-of-a-drive and stepped into the bus where our beds awaited us.
Actually, it was not real beds, more like a very flat seat. The feet of the person behind me were directly under my pillow, divided by a thin plastic layer.
Luckily Paul ha just bought new socks for he was the one right behind me:0)
All the other people obviously hadn’t bought new socks. The smell in the bus was a mix of feet, farts, and sweat. At the moment I entered the bus I thought of rather putting my earphones into my nose than using them for musical entertainment. The non smoker sign that hang over the driver seat like a Damocles sword and that had made me quite happy at first, soon turned out to be more a part of the usless decoration. As soon as I had taken my place, which was the one directly behind the front window on the right of the driver in the “second floor”, the driver and his companion lit up their cigarettes. The fume rose up like hot air usually does, hovering around the nonsmoking sign like the snake around the aesculap-rod before it mixed up with the other smells and entered my nose. Paul was quite lucky, he had his head right next to one of the few windows, whilst I had about 10 ventilation-shafts above me from which none worked. As the bus gained speed the ventilation luckily got better and soon the 40*C cooled down to a much more comfortable temperature.
After about two hours driving the bus stopped for dinner. Everyone had to leave the bus and we ate in a restaurant to fill up our stomachs before the 18 hour drive. When entering the bus again the driver was just busy with beating up a youngster that, as we found our later, had ignored the rule of taking his shoes of and putting them into a plastic bag before entering the bus. We did our best to followed the rule and got back to our sun-chair-like beds save.
I tried staying awake as long as possible to have a deep sleep later.
I clearly succeeded in that aim but sleeping later was not successful. The beds were way to short and through the area where I had my hips a column of the bus-frame ran from top to bottom which allowed me only one comfortable position. Although I made use of the seatbelt (what was commented by many uncomprehending looks) I nearly fell out of the bed twice and decided that hooking my arm into the rope, that was actually for fixing the curtains, was necessary as an extra security measure. In the middle of the night the bus stopped for three hours and the drivers had a nap. This also was my chance to loosen my tights and sleep a little in a relaxed position. As I woke up again the sun was about get up and the bus driver was loudly argumenting with another bus driver. He was screaming so loud that the whole bus woke up. I must say, he was quite a good driver but he should better work in the day shift than in a bus that is called “the sleeper-bus”. maybe there is a bus somewhere called “the screamer”, if yes, that would be a somewhat more fitting job for him.
The other driver was always smiling but a much worse driver. From my seat in the front-row I could perfectly observe him and really, I would have wished to not have this possibility.
Speeding down narrow pass-streets with only one hand on the steer, the other continuously at a cigarette, at the stereo, in a food-bag, scratching his balls, drilling his nose and maybe from time to time at the output-lewer.
Next to him a unknown guest talking to him and distracting him from what he was payed to do.
It didn’t take long until half the bus started filling up the plastic bags with their dinner again. The smell got worse but the bus driver kept smiling. It seemed as if he was ignoring the situation or even liking it. A few guests complained but caused no change in the behaviour of the driver.
I hater him for his habit and I was not the only one.
Finally, we arrived in Yushu again.
I stepped out of the bus and the earth under my feet was wobbling. It was the same effect as having been on a boat for hours. We grabbed our stuff and fled from the incoming taxi-avalanche that all tried to get the best shot.
On the road we hitchhikers back to town and were taken by two very friendly Tibetans. As the traffic got stuck and nothing seemed to move anymore we decidedly to walk the rest to the hotel.
The tension was rising the closer we came to the room where we had left our bikes behind. As we opened the door and we saw the two beauties standing there, we realized that al was good and relieved from the pressure and stress we had had the last days, we fell onto our beds.
The rest of the day manly consisted of writing blogpost and eating. We went to bed early and stood up late, enjoyed the cold shower in the hotel without electricity and began to work off the last to-do’s. For breakfast we had these noodles that taste a little bit like the German “maultaschen”, a very delicious dish that is the common breakfast around here.
Then we needed to sent a package back to Germany and after running through muddy slums and tent villages for hours we found out that the postoffices in Yushu don’t have the possibility to send packages abroad. Again we went back to the hotel for packing our stuff and decided to stay one more day in order to prepare for the last month.
For dinner we had a whole chicken with noodles and a porks nose chopped and fried in oil. Very delicious. here in china people exploit all of the animals they kill. Nothing is to dirty or sordid to eat it.
As we nearly finished the meal the chickens head appeared under the rest of the noodles. Best for last and probably the most delicious part for them, but for me the idea of eating it was more than disgusting. The people around us noticed our “turned-off” behavior and so, as a polite gesture I forced my self to tear the tongue out of the head and chew this tenacious piece of meat. It actually tasted really good, just my imagination and the head lying there with its eyes staring at me made it difficult to slick.
Now I am back in the hotel, everything is set up for a quick start tomorrow, even this monster of a blog post is coming to an end.
Finally our little 2000 km excursion to Xining comes to an end. Finally we may go on to the final part of tour.
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