Monday, July 21, 2014

Days 10: The road to Qinghai Lake

It's raining pretty badly now and the owner of my hotel is still sleeping so I have some time to write.

I left Kongjie and the rough roads of the previous day and headed for Xining at 8:00am. The road was much better and soon it started winding up small mountains. I was entering the far eastern extreme of Muslim Culture. Many men were wearing a white hat like a short fez and the women were wearing head scarfs.  There were mosques in every village with a very interesting design. Most had domes like Taj Mahal of different sizes and colorful minarets with that layered roof chinese design or somewhat resembled colorful scaffolding. It was nice to hear the ezan again.

Mid morning it started to rain pretty heavily and it was cold so I pulled over in a village beside a man selling live chickens to put on my thermal layer and rain gear. While I was walking back to my dry spot  from the bike I noticed a curious looking plant growing out of the sidewalk next to a tree. I stopped to examine it and indeed it was a huge, albeit unripe, marijuana plant. I turned to the crowd of older white hatted men and gave the universal smoking weed sign and then the crazy sign and they laughed and signed to me that, "You don't smoke it, you eat it."

I pulled out of the village and drove through fields of yellow flowers and mountain covered in fewer and fewer trees. Then the road climbed steeply over a large mountain with large switchbacks. The rain picked up and the temperature fell as I climbed. Soon fog set in and I could only see 50 feet off the road and the car in front of me. Together me and the blue VW slowly wound our way through the switchbacks for maybe half an hour. I encountered my first flock of sheep in the road on the way up. My VW friend stopped for pictures and I went to the top alone. There I found another long traffic jam caused by two trucks hitting each other on a tight switchback turn so I wound my way through until I found a good place to stop. There I met a group of people who were driving these three wheeled cars in convoy somewhere. They were excited and pointed to their flags and banners written in chinese but I couldn't understand them. Then using my motorcycle advantage, I wound my way through the rest of the traffic jam and had the road to myself. Almost immediately after leaving the peak the weather improved and I got my first views of the Tibetan landscape. Treeless mountains and hills covered in grass as far as you could see.

I pulled into Xining a few hours later and found a nice hostel.

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