During the last week we have cycled through the muslim province of Ningxia, pitched our tents in a nuclear zone, crossed the Yellow River for the second time and finally arrived the huge city of Lanzhou.
On the way to Lanzhou
We didn’t encounter any problems biking from the town of Dashuikeng to the city of Lanzhou. We had chosen the fastest route, as we wanted to be able to spend at least 4 days in Hong Kong. Luckily for us, a new road has been constructed in an area that our map showed to be completely desolate with no towns or roads at all. This shortened our journey by 60 km.
A lot of new villages have sprung up along the road, and a dike is being built in an attempt to make the arid terrain more fertile.
Many of the Chinese people in this area are Muslims, and we saw several mosques. Both men and women kept their heads covered.
An elderly Chinese man biking
On the way up a long hill we passed an elderly Chinese man on a bike, riding alone on the wrong side of the road. We’ve discovered that Chinese people do a lot of biking, but rarely very far from their villages.
When we stopped for a short break for a bite to eat, the elderly man caught up with us. He was obviously pleased to see us. Eric, who speaks a little Chinese, tried to converse with him. It turned out that he was 68 years old and had ridden all the way from Shanghai on a fully loaded Chinese-made bike, which was in pretty poor condition. It had taken him 3 months to get this far. He was heading in the same direction as we were, i.e. to Lanzhou. The man was very generous and wanted us to share the food he had brought along with him – a few tomatoes, cucumbers and a little bread. We declined, as we had more than enough food of our own and thought that the man would need his provisions more than we did.
We’re guessing that he was some sort of preacher, or maybe a pilgrim, since he had painted a cross on his cap and on the side of his bike bag. He also showed us his large Bible, which was full of underlining and notations. It was worn from use from cover to cover. When Lyngve uttered the word “hallelujah”, his face lit up. But if he had any ideas about spreading his message to the people here, we think he might have difficulties finding any listeners. Most of the people in the area are Muslims.
Early on the morning of May 23rd, halfway through our oatmeal breakfast, we suddenly heard two explosions, one right after the other. We looked up and saw a huge cloud of smoke rising into the sky. At the same time, two airplanes zoomed over us. We didn’t get the connection immediately, but 10 minutes later the same thing happened again. Two explosions followed by a large cloud of smoke. Then we realized what was going on. Two Chinese bomber planes were practising precision bombing, and we had a ringside view. Suddenly this became more exciting. We sat and waited for the planes to come back, and sure enough, they did, not just once, but time and time again as long as we were in the area. And the bombs always fell in exactly the same spot. It took about 15 seconds from the time we saw smoke until the sound of the explosion reached our ears. On that basis, we calculated that the target area was just 5 km from our campsite. Interesting entertainment during breakfast!
Lanzhou is truly a metropolis. One skyscraper after another along the Yellow River. Since the city is situated at the base of a narrow valley, it’s long and slim – about 30 km in length and 2-6 km across. All together, a total of 3,4 million people inhabit the city. We had read that Lanzhou was one of the world’s most polluted cities. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that it was a relatively clean city with a minimum of pollution, at least during the time we were there.
We managed to find a nice, reasonable hotel near the train station and spent two whole days there sightseeing, relaxing, doing a little shopping, and purchasing plane tickets to Hong Kong. The round trip fare to Hong Kong came to NOK 3000.