The weather camp up trumps again today as I headed out of Pingliang and towards Jingning. It wasn’t long before I’d left civilization and was back out into the wild. I’d already decided that tonight I was going to pitch the tent down again. Finding a place to sleep in Pingliang had been a bit of a hassle and I just didn’t want to have to go through that again.
The weather was good so my pace was slow as I made sure I took time to take in the scenery of this very harsh landscape. Today was also the day that I had to ride through yet another province that of Ningxia. Much like that of Gansu its landscape is mountainous and somewhat barren.
The riding was getting slower and slower as the day progressed largely due to the steady incline in the road. I’ve come to the conclusion that these hills are all about getting to the top not how fast you get there.
I passed my ‘Chinese friend’ on the side of the road once again, he seemed to be having some mechanical problems. When I asked if all was well he merely smiled and waved me onwards. By now the road was really beginning to steepen and cut back on itself. I looked rather nervously at the mountain range ahead and prayed that there must be a passage between the hills.
The map on my GPS indicated a large grey section which I assumed was a huge tunnel burrowing its way through the face of this massive mountain, I wasn’t wrong. A large yellow sign with Chinese written on it blocked my way. You didn’t need to be able to read Chinese to realize that this was a diversion. I waited for a few minutes to see what the other cars were going to do and my worst fears came true when they all started to veer off and start to make their way up the windy road. One car did go through but turned back a few moments later. With that I clipped in and started the torturous climb to the top. The state of the road indicated that it wasn’t used that often. However the steep climb was offset by some simply glorious scenery. I think the pictures describe it best but if I was trying to compare it to something in the UK it would probably be that of the Scottish highlands. As is always the case the pictures simply can't do this type of place justice.
The climb took what seemed like an eternity and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d have been the tunnel in ten minutes. That said I wouldn’t have got to experience the wonderful views without that diversion nor have a great sense of achievement once I got to the top. Once again I’d pushed my body pretty hard in getting there.
At the top was some kind of memorial to Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army and plenty of Chairman Mao memorabilia. Once I’d taken some photos I was eager to get back on the bike and enjoy the ride downwards; and what a ride. The road snaked gloriously through the valley. I was obviously high up as the parts of the mountain that didn’t get the sun still had some snow left over on them.
I’d intended to ride to Jingning but when I finally rolled into Longde it was around 4:30 and I was still some 40km away from my intended destination. Once I was back on the 312 I was blessed with some good fortune. I was now experiencing my first real strong tailwind of the trip, this coupled with a slight decline meant that I was soon flying my way along the road. I think I must have covered a distance of about 35km in an hour.
I found a good place to camp just off the main road but behind a line of trees overlooking a beautiful lake. I say good, it was certainly good in terms of view but when you mix hot weather and a close proximity to water you also get flies and as I went about setting up my tent they swarmed around my head. I delved deep into the panniers and located the insect repellant and having bathed myself in it they were soon finding some other poor soul to bother.
I settled down by the lakeside with my spaghetti but as I’d been a little late in arriving setting up camp had been a bit of a rush. As a result I couldn’t locate my ‘spork’ (spoon and fork in one in case you didn’t know) With the spaghetti cooked and getting cold there was no other option but to get stuck into them with my hands! I’m learning to do away with the some of the necessities of everyday living.