July 15: Lanzhou, China
8:15 We are about to leave Lanzhou and will drive about 500 km before finding a place to camp near the far Western end of the Great Wall.
8:34 Traffic on the Gansu Expressway was light so our exit is much faster than our entrance. Rod’s playlist is playing on the truck’s stereo as we head down the highway. I’m very happy to listen to Dwight Yoakum – especially Rod’s favourite song, “100 Miles From Nowhere” – but two of the others have just put on headphones. Rod is Australian but he lived in Colorado for 15 years where he ran a high-end restaurant in Aspen, Colorado called ‘Cowboys’. He’s obviously a fan of country music. We’ll get along fine.
14:38. We arrive in Feng Cheng. This is obviously a one horse town. I didn’t drink bottled lattes in North America but when no other caffeine is available, I can stomach Nescafé Iced Latte. My life has been reduced to a series of simple pleasures – things like single-ply toilet paper (instead of rough paper napkins), an inflatable pillow (instead of t-shirts and underwear in a plastic bag), and bottled water (instead of the perfectly good but warm water from a tank on the truck).
14:56 We arrive at the wall. The final stretch of road is very rough and I have visions of snapping a torsion bar suspension bracket, as we did when driving over similar terrain in Mongolia with a different truck. We’re looking for a Dragoman truck that is headed in the opposite direction but it doesn’t appear that they’re here yet. The wall here in Feng Sheng is in “as found” condition. It was always a mud wall along this section but obviously there’s been some erosion over that last 1500 odd years.
19:10 The other truck arrives just as we’re ready to sit down to dinner. Rod has made scalloped potatoes, stir fried asparagus and broccoli, and we have some reheated duck that purchased last night in a market. After dinner we walk to the other truck and sit around their campfire for a few hours with beer, rice wine, and cheap Chinese gin. Two of the guys on the other truck are grad students from Virginia. They are studying ‘textile engineering’ and they have talked their school into paying for their 90-day trip along the Silk Route. The catch is that they will have to give a 20 minute presentation when they get home. Nice one, guys.
23:20 I’m laying in my tent when I hear some of the others returning to their nearby tents. I’m going to take a wild guess and say they might have polished off the rice wine and cheap gin. I don’t see us leaving on time tomorrow.
July 16: near Feng Cheng, China
7:00. I’m up and my tent is down and packed away. I don’t see much movement from the other tents though.
9:00 I help Rodney take his tent down and pack it away. It appears that someone has puked all over the bag that holds his tent pegs. What could have happened there, I wonder?
9:11 We are about 5 km from camp on a paved road when Duncan has trouble steerng the truck. We pull over and it only takes a minute to determine that we have snapped a leaf spring on the front-right wheel. Thankfully we have a spare one onboard but still, this is going to be one of those days.
9:18 A guy walks up to the truck and indicates that a nearby restaurant also houses a mechanic’s shop. I can see an air compressor from here and when I listen closely I hear a pneumatic tool.
13:30 We’re back on the road. Three guys worked on the truck for about four hours and the bill came to 500 yuan. No doubt it’s a profitable day for them but we’re quite happy to pay about $95 and not have to jack up the truck and use hand tools to remove a number of parts before even getting to the spring.
16:00 We stop at a small store to buy vegetables and pork for tonight’s dinner. The shopkeeper uses an abacus to tally up the sale.
16:30 We arrive in the Rainbow Mountains. I could go into great detail about the terrain but will post a few pics instead. I’m lazy that way.
19:20 We camp on the edge of a cliff overlooking a dry riverbed. It’s a dead-end road so only a few motorbikes pass by all evening. Rodney whips up a little dish using the meat and veg we bought this afternoon. Life is good. Hell, even ‘Great Wall Dry Red Wine’ is tasting pretty good right now.