We had a long drawn out climb over the the next couple of days as we approached the Kunlun pass, a pass of 4768m about a day and a half ride from here. Until a bit after the pass we would be riding along the Trans-Tibet highway, and although we weren’t entering Tibet proper the region of Qinghai (the province we were currently in) that we were going to cycle through is part of the geographic plateau and most of the population there would be Tibetan. In fact Qinghai was traditionally a province of Tibet named Amdo.
The scenery we were riding through this morning was pretty arid by and large. As we get higher ther should be more flora and fauna around, but despite the somewhat desolate atmosphere it was still an entertaining ride. Not least for the scores of army trucks that passed us in each direction, each identical with a crew of two or three soldiers waving out at us. We couldn’t figure out if they were swapping out companies, bringing in new vehicles or just parading for the sake of it.
We ate lunch at a small trucks top that stood alone in the otherwise empty sandy mountainscape. The place was run by a Hui family, which is a Muslim minority in China whose people would have originated in eastern China (as opposed to the Uighers who are from Central Asia originally). The young cook was very excitable and very excited to have foreigners in his restaurant and called us in after our meal (red fried beef noodles) to take his photo with us.
After lunch we entered the Kunlun National Park Area. We hadn’t noticed it before, but now we started seeing many, many motorcycle tourists pass us, Chinese presumably. Most of them sped by (I’d say we saw over thirty that day alone) but one couple in a car stopped and talked to us for a while.
Since this is a popular tourist area there has been some effort to provide some sights for tourists along the national park. We weren’t going through the whole park, but we did arrive at one of these tourist areas: a reconstructed Taoist temple. Nothing about the building is historical, except perhaps for where it was built. They claimed that an older temple stood here at one time. The new, despite being a completely modern fabrication is still quite striking, set as it is in cleft of two peaks surrounded by the bare rock walls.
We knew that if we cycled just a little bit longer than normal this evening we would arrive at a rest stop where we could find hot cooked food. We’ve really been enjoying the food since arriving in China, compared to Pakistan and even Iran the variety is immense and affordable. And it beats eating instant noodles for dinner. The rest stop we had expected to arrive at in the early evening ended up being a bit farther away than we anticipated. With the temperature dropping and the road continuing to climb we were extremely tired by the time we eventually found it. But what a place – they had got food and even wifi, all the way out here. We ate more than our fill than traipsed across the road into the empty field where we fell fast asleep.