14degrees off the beaten track
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August 1st, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China (Qinghai)

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Today’s distance / ???????: 57.4 miles / 92.4km
Average speed / ????: 8.5mph / 13.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 45m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5623mi plus 377mi (?) / 9049km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 415m
Descent / ??: 855m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N36° 57′ 32.40″, E100° 53′ 52.40″

I realise that I forgot to describe the Chinese public baths in my last post yesterday.

In China, there are still many public baths where for a small fee (usually only 0.40 Euro), you can take a shower. Some are better than others, but in all cases, they are a great place to have a long hot shower.

Yesterday’s xizou (public bath) was a nicely set up business with tiled partitions. The actual shower room was open, with only waist-high partitions. Of course everyone is naked. Considering the Chinese obsesion with staring, I was naturally a little apprehensive when I saw this open-plan shower room. The previous xizou I had been to had private shower rooms.

There was only one other person in the room, and despite my initial reservations, we were able to have a perfectly cordial conversation. It was almost as if the nakedness was a leveler, where two people could connect without the symbols of status such as accessories and clothing. Too bad nakedness can’t disguise skin colour…

Anyway…had a great shower yesterday. That’s what I wanted to say.

So this morning, the road was still wet, the drizzle still falling. I packed up and hit the road, hoping for more consistent downhill today.

The downhill was not consistent, and I spent a good part of the day going up, it seemed. Only my end of day gain data told me otherwise.

All along this road were locals wandereing in their fields. After the rain of the past few days, wild mushrooms were popping up everywhere, it seemed.

Mushrooms for sale on roadside on Qinghai Highway 204, Qinghai Province, China

Many people had them out on the roadside for sale. I tried to ask how much they sell them for, but the owners of this modest little stand spoke very little Mandarin Chinese, only the local Tib*etan.

As usual, herds of yaks roamed the roadside along Qinghai Provincial road 204. Yaks are either very dumb, or very brave. They heed little to the horns of busses and trucks. They are also very inquisitive creatures. On one occasion I rolled slowly by a herd, and they began trotting after me with noses upturned sniffing the air.

Interestingly, the locals in this area do not seem to distinguish in name between cows and yaks. For both, they use the word nyu.

Qinghai Province Highway 204 east of Reshui, Qinghai Province, China

Unfortunately I did not get to get a good look a Qinghai Lake. To get to the lake would have meant a 50km detour. Not much in the whole scheme of things, I know, but believe it or not, the pressure of my visa is still in the back of my mind. Originally I was hoping to skate around the lake; a distance of about 750km. That will have to wait for another day.

The end of road 204 was at the intersection with China National Highway 315, which goes around Qinghai Lake. I turned eastward at the intersection, and began my eastward skate towards Xining, the capital of Qinghai.

First up was a minor pass of almost 3,500m.

Yet another 3,000m plus pass west of Xihai, Qinghai Province, China

This is where the true downhill began. Unadulterated wondrous downhill. It was a welcome change after all the climbing of the last week.

Just as I was approaching the town of Xihai, the most mysterious thing happened. It was only 6:45pm, but everything started to get dark all of a sudden. I put it down to dense cloud cover, but at 7pm, almost on the dot, everything went seriously dark. Then I remembered what a fellow room mate in O-po a week ago told me. Around this time, there would be an eclipse. I thought he was talking about an eclipse of the moon. But no, a full eclipse of the sun occured today. See the Wikipedia article about it here. Within a few minutes, light was restored and I was able to carry on to Xihai, kicking myself for not taking a time-lapse recording of the eclipise. Truely awe inspiring.

Xihai itself is a mysterious place, for other reasons. It seems to be a brand new city, that should be full and bustling with people, but isn’t. I couldn’t figure out what people do for a living there. There are row upon row of small stores, restaurants, shops…but there seem to be far too many for the apparent population.

Com*munist Party emblims are everywhere, including a massive statue of the late Chairman Mao.

Late President Mao in Xihai, Qinghai Province, China

A weird place indeed…with a rather disproportionate amount of police.

Mysterious city of Xihai, Qinghai Province, China

Hang on, I’ve just now done a web search for Xihai, and it looks like it is a bit of a tourist attraction. Can’t figure out why…

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    Permanent Link     Comments (4)

Comment by rob — August 4, 2008 @ 12:34 pm | post a comment

The full name for a Yak in Chinese is 牦牛 máo niú. just as the word for sheep and goat are the same. 羊 yáng . But a goat is actually called a mountain sheep. shān yáng 山羊,.. these things tend to get dropped, so you never know what animals being talking about until you see one or eat one. Yak tastes great by the way. Look out for horrible looking dried pieces hanging in shops. Its all black and looks rather uninviting.. but just below the nasty looking and rough exterior is a real wild mans treat. best eaten as it is with a knife.

Comment by Aunty Les — August 5, 2008 @ 2:39 pm | post a comment

What's the average height you've been travelling on this past week? Are you in a high plateau with higher mountain passes here and there?

Comment by Rob Thomson — August 5, 2008 @ 6:11 pm | post a comment

Aunty Les, in about a week, I never dropped below 2,900m (Qiling). So I was pretty high. I felt great when I dropped down to Xining! I felt like my lungs had grown a size bigger!

Comment by Stephanie C — August 9, 2008 @ 2:55 pm | post a comment

Wow Rob! That was a one in a million chance of catching a total eclipse purely by chance! You lucky boy!

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