Fond memories of our time in Dunhuang circulated in my brain as we enjoyed easy riding for eighty miles today. Ernst, the Italian delegation on the Discover Our Earth Expedition, was among several I photographed while on smooth roads in the Gobi Desert.
Our riding day changed dramatically when we crossed from Gansu Province into the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China’s northwest corner and its largest political unit. When we saw tent construction camps, we knew what was coming. The road turned into one with potholes so wide and deep that if filled with water, they would be classified as lakes in Minnesota.
Scores of heavy trucks lumber down this road. One section, totally devoid of pavement, was covered with four inches of dust the consistency of talcum powder. Visibility was nearly zero yet the speed of the trucks was so slow that we couldn’t even keep the clutch out in first gear. Waiting for the traffic to lessen was useless. The truck traffic was continuous. On one hill, I eased around to pass a crawling truck. With an oncoming truck now visible, the very moment that I attempted to return to my lane, I hit a dust filled, camouflaged pothole. My bike landed favoring the right lane. Fortunately, as Kevin has repeatedly advised, we had blown our horns while passing so, despite the dust and the fact that my now horizontal bike was too low for him to see, the driver knew I was there. The truck I had just passed was able to stop just before reaching my bike. I know that God, in the form of my Guardian Angel, maybe an angel named Reinhard, was watching over and protecting me throughout this dangerous situation.
We found out later that one unidentified bump caused Angelica’s top box to bounce off the back of her bike and into oblivion. With it went her passport containing critical visas, bike title, and all import documentation she needs to get her bike out of China. The significant amount of money and her famous pink shoes seem minor compared to the loss of travel documents.
After fifty miles of standing up on the foot pegs, strenuous thigh workout, riding, we returned to decent road conditions. We were then able to find humor in the anomalies such as the dump truck whose driver must have backed up a bit too far and resembled the cars planted at “Cadillac Ranch” in Texas.
Since crossing the Xinjiang border, the occasional English previously found on road signs has been replaced with Arabic. Minarets have replaced pagodas in the landscape.
In the foreground of distant snow capped peaks, dust devils danced on the desert floor, successfully avoiding photographic capture.
Upon arriving in Hami, our first order of business was rejuvenating our filthy gear. The suede sides of our boots used to be black. The tub water is what poured off our suits when sprayed with the shower head.
Alfred, one of our German friends, was in charge of opening beers. Larry & Terry discussed the day’s challenges. We passed the Muslim’s restaurant in favor of Chinese. Since Xinjiang Autonomous Region borders Afghanistan as well as other “stans,” we figure there will be ample opportunities for that type cuisine down the road.
27 Jun Dunhuang to Hami 262 miles
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