Taking the rough with the smooth.
I managed to put aside the disappointment of yesterday and started doing so with an early start. I once again rose to see the sun come up and also get some more great views of the mountains I’d passed yesterday.
I knew I was only in for a short ride to of around 100km to Zhangye but was obviously very conscious not to make the same mistake as yesterday in leaving late. The first task of the day was to get back on the 312. The owner of the truck stop directed me to the G30 Expressway which we were beside. I tried to point out to him that bikes are prohibited on this road but he seemed to say to me as it was so early in the morning nobody was going to mind. He was very insistent but I decided that it wasn’t a risk worth taking and backtracked a kilometer or so to find the 312.
It was a beautiful crisp spring morning and I passed many children of varying ages on their way to school. Curiously they all seemed to be carrying shovels. Perhaps this is part of the national curriculum in China.
You can just about make out the snow capped mountains of Qilian Shan
With the low morning wind in my favour I made light work of the remaining 25 kilometres to Zhangye. Looking back in retrospect I’d have not been able to cover this distance last night so it was by grace that I came across that truck stop.
I didn’t bother hanging around in Shandan and instead headed straight for Zhangye eager to make the most of my half day of riding. I arrived there before noon and quickly set about scoping out a decent place to stay.
I ran into the first foreign tourists I’d seen for a long time, a Swiss couple and they told me about the pretty shabby business hotel they were staying in. They did also point me in the direction of a decent bakery where I promptly went and devoured a couple of delicious pastries. I’m sure the girl working there was slightly confused; 3 foreign visitors in the space of half and hour.
I managed to find a decent hotel after twenty minutes of riding around. The woman at reception seemed friendly enough and I did my best to make her laugh and even managed to negotiate the price down. I got my keycard for the room and proceeded to take all four panniers up three flights of stairs and return for my bike. It was ten minutes later as I lay down on the bed feeling quite pleased with myself that I got the dreaded knock at the door.
Two people, a man and a woman were in front of me and I knew exactly what the problem was. It was the same problem I’d faced in Shangluo. This hotel was not permitted to accept foreigners. I played dumb and pretended to not understand in the hope that they would simply tire of trying to explain to me and let me get back to resting; this was never going to happen.
Once again the man explained to me that because I was a foreigner I was only allowed, by law to stay in a 5 star hotel. To me this seems like a completely ludicrous law and I was naturally a little more than peeved. Nevertheless I knew there was no point in arguing. I did however make my displeasure clear to them without saying anything as I waved away the man’s insistence to help me back downstairs with all my things. Yes, stubborn, yes perhaps a little childish but I felt it necessary to show them how disappointed I was.
I understand this regulation, I do but the problem I have was that for the second time on this trip I’d checked in and moved all of my stuff into the room. If they had told me at the beginning then I could reluctantly accept it but to inform me of this some twenty minutes after checking in is, in my opinion thoroughly unprofessional. Perhaps it was my mistake for not asking the question of whether foreigners can stay there in the first place.
So I was back out on the street. The upside to it was that I’d texted a Chinese friend about finding the address of a bike shop in Zhangye and she’d replied with an address. Luckily the bike shop in question was just around the corner from the hotel so I was able to go in and pick up a new pump.
After another couple of rejections I eventually found a hotel that would take me, they didn’t seem too friendly and after making photocopies of nearly every page of my passport and disappearing with it for half and hour I was finally allowed to stay. The room was nothing special and had certainly seen better days but at least it had hot water, a bed and Internet.
My initial plans to have a restful afternoon in Zhangye had been somewhat scuppered by finding a place to stay and by 3 o’clock all I wanted to do was get some food and rest. As I head further and further into the desert I’m guessing there will be less and less places to stay and perhaps it is a good thing that I will be able to enjoy the hassle free situation and solitude that comes from sleeping out in the wild.
Alarm set for an early start I took my second hot shower of the day and hit the sack.