Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day 249 - cycling from Dunhuang to Liuyuan

Start: Dunhuang, Gansu, China
End: Liuyuan crossroads (G215/G312), Gansu, China
Distance: 127 km
Time: 8'11"
Avg: 15.5 k/h
Max: 22.2 k/h
Total: 111,664 km
Total riding days: 137
Riding hours: 0855 - 1910

Baked beans for breakfast. No toast though.

A good road across flat desert. After two days of desert rain, today is bright, sunny, and the air is super-clear. Once out of the workshop strip, the road runs through an amazing green oasis, bright spring trees everywhere, fields planted with sprouting vegetables. The air smelt fresh and moist and succulent and clean, and then towards the end of the oasis, the wind blew in off the desert to the north and the smell of the air changed, becoming first heathy, then sandy and salty.

Riding the oasis was like cycling through some insane dream of a Swiss clockmaker's workshop. Cuckoos cuckooing everywhere.

The weather in the oasis was perfect, the sort of day when everyone has a ready smile, everything is easy-going. Suddenly back in the desert and I am back in expedition mode, thinking about where my next water is coming from.

And then the desert smelt of dung for a dozen kilometres. Far off to the left a gang of camels loaf about looking haughty even from a distance.

Ponging like that, they have little to look haughty about, in my opinion. I long ago perfected my humble cyclist mien.

The evening was amazing - so often the best time to ride, a beautiful rich clear intense soft light bathing everything, suffusing the desert with deep colours, dark black hills, green grit slopes, red, yellow, orange sand, the road a satisfying black, not a washy grey, the yellow centre line bold and strong.

All the horizons seem to slipping away downhill, as if I am on top of a vast mound or dome. But I never reach the downhill, and I realise that the desert is just flat, so flat in all directions that you can see the curve of the earth, and the distant hills seems half-buried as a result.

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