Thursday, July 31, 2014

Days 17+18: The last days in China

Day 17

It turned out to be easier than I thought to escape the city and I was out and on the road early in the morning. The first hundred kilometers or so resembled the day before; high winds and arid landscape, but soon I started up into the mountains. After a pretty scary section of high winds racing down a valley  as I wound  my way along the sharp turns, the weather calmed and the temperature dropped. I stopped at a sacred Buddhist mountain site for some pictures and to put on my wind jacket and then proceeded through the most beautiful landscapes I've yet seen.

How can I describe it. I was traveling through a valley between two mountain ranges. All around me was what looked like perfectly manicured lawn covering the nearby hills. This was exactly how I imagined the steppe looked. On the hills the perfect bright green grass was only broken by bike rock outcroppings. On the higher mountains the grass slowly turned yellow and orange towards the top giving them a cartoony look or like someone had painted them. In many places it was hard to believe what I was seeing. In many places beyond the mountains to my right were snow topped peaks or jagged steep rocky mountains.

As I continued it started to get warmer and after a stunning view from a set of switchbacks I arrived at yurt villages with herds of horses and sheep. Here the lawn grass was covered in places by patches of a type of tall thin pine tree. Even under the trees the grass remained pristine with no under brush. The villages were build along a small fast moving brook of perfectly clear water. It was unreal. I stopped in a group of yurts that had a sign in front of them and asked if they were for rent. They were, the price wasn't so bad and I really wanted to stop in this hobbit land so I rented a yurt for the night.

That evening the proprietor prepared a meal of sheep and noodles for me but they gave me way too much. My stomach already small from the previous year had shrunk even more after the illness so I wasn't able to finish all my food. Here they have a much more effective way of convincing people to finish their meal than we do in America. We might say, " there are starving people in China!" but here they just point to the sheep outside and indicate that "his friend died so you could eat." So I stuffed away the remaining mutton and fell quickly asleep a little while later in my giant yurt bed.

Day 18
The next morning I made for the border. I got as close as I could and prepared my documents. After the yurt village the scenery became more urban and wasn't very exciting. So nothing really happened that day.

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