End: Tent, about half way to Budongquan, Qinghai, China
Avg: 9.5 k/h
Max: 28.3 k/h
Total: 10,734 km
Total riding days: 128
Riding hours: 0840 - 2010
A huge, time and space swallowing vastness of a place, I wanted to slow down and enjoy it, but had to take advantage of the reasonable weather; a week-long confining-to-tent blizzard might be around the corner.
A long, slow, 30 km climb out of Qumahe, past a gatepost and the last house, that seemed to say "abandon hope all ye who pass by here" or "watch it" or something; and then the plateau really opened out to an endless plain.
The road keeps to the slightly higher ground to the south of the main, boggy river valley, climbing and descending one hill-shoulder after another; the side-valleys between are wet and get harder to cross later in the day when the sunshine begins to soften the mud and snow and ice.
The rivers are mostly unbridged but manageable - a month later and it could be a different story.
Much of the landscape is utterly barren, bare gravelled earth with nothing growing on it; it looks like a glacier or the surface of the moon. Antelope watch me and fly up the hillsides, their feet seemingly not touching the ground, white tails bobbing; pika fat-bum around, sprinting, scuttling, sending up dust trails like miniature motorbikes.
My back tyre starts to bottom out; I can't find the puncture but stick a new tube in, watched by a pair of long-billed sparrow-types near whose burrow I have set up my temporary garage.
Noodlin' up; not sure what happened to my face.