Saturday, May 06, 2006

Day 246 - on the bike to Akesai

Start: Huahaizi, Qinghai, China
End: Akesai (Aksay), Gansu, China
Distance: 109 km
Time: 6'02"
Avg: 18.2 k/h
Max: 47.5 k/h
Total: 11,457 km
Total riding days: 135
Riding hours: 0745 - 1600

If you feel nature calling on your ride across the G215 desert highway, save it for KM 280. Out in the middle of the desert, about 100 million miles from the nearest person, place, or thing, they have built this:

The most beautiful, clean, shiny, spotless public convenience in the eastern hemisphere.

It is really quite the most extraordinary thing, for want of a better expression.

You would think it is just another mirage, except that you can go and bang your head against the walls.

Whose idea was this? Perhaps Asmund is planning to ride this road next year, and he's sent out a crack team of Norwegian hygiene engineers to prepare the route for him?

Or maybe it is the work of some recluisve philanthropist, wanting to make a non-ostentatious contribution to humanity.

A long slow slog up to the Dang Jin pass, though in fact the road somehow slices through these imposing snowy mountains without climbing above 3648 metres.

And then an incredible downhill, finally off the high cold deserts of Qinghai and Tibet, and down into the low-altitude deserts of Gansu and Xinjiang.

On the way down, an SUV from Shanghai stops, and its occupants very generously give me their day's chocolate rations.

(Asmund would not approve. He will not even take water from other vehicles, on the grounds that this is cheating. I do not quite follow the logic. Is it OK to take water from wells? Taps? Shops? Or do you have to tow your own glacier or iceberg around with you and melt water as and when you need it? Fine for Norwegians, I guess...)

In Akesai, I am invited to spend the night in a mutton-drying shed.

This proves to be a mistake. Most smells you can get used to after an hour or so. Not so drying rancid mutton. I was still retching when I woke up the next morning.

Those are half-dried pieces of sheep hanging from beams, up above my bike. The smell was indescribable.

If, like me, you are trying to become a better vegetarian, a night in a place like this might help. Along with bivvying in a hut full of boiling yak hooves, this sort of thing helps to dull your primitive carnivorous urges.

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