After the rain comes the sun, and we left Gannan in a completely different wheather condition than we arrived in a day earlier. Sunshine and and no wind was a welcome change from the previous three days.
The area we are in now is on the border between Gansu and Sichuan provinces and tibetans make up if not a majority, then a large minority of the population. Apart from tibetans there are also a large proportion of muslims, so it is fair to say that it is a multi ethnical area.
To travel into Tibet province requires a special permit and that we join a guided group which is expensive and takes away a bit of the freedom of going wherever we would like to. Staying in this area means that we can enjoy a bit of tibetan culture and landscape without really going there.
Our first encounter with tibetan buddhism was when we came speeding down a hill and saw a shrine at the side of the road. It looked really exotic to us and we stopped to have a close look at it. Not familiar with the tibetan traditions we didn’t really understand why the shrine was put at that place and what the purpose was.
An hour or two later we speeded down yet another downhill section and arrived into a small village. Even if the village was small it still had a large temple complex. We had made a late start from Gannan and didn’t really have time for any stops, but our curiosity was great and we turned around and went in on the temple yard. A monk came out and invited us to tea in his room which had almost nothing but the most necessary items such as a table, a stove, a book shelf and a mattress to sleep on. Above the monk’s bed there was a large photo of Dalai Lama which surprised me since I thought portraits of him are banned.
The monk spoke only tibetan and chinese but we managed to communicate somehow. He clearly liked that Wej is from a buddhist country and after having had a few cups of tea he wanted to show us the main hall in the temple. We stepped in and found a large buddha statue in the center of the building that was decorated in bright colours. The basics is the same as in a thai temple but the art work and the decorations is very different from what can be seen in Thailand.
As we started late from Gannan we didn’t get very far that day. The aim was to get to the town of Luqu where we knew there would be hotels, but 5 km outside we found a spot for our tent that was too good to miss. We pitched the tent, went to the nearby stream to wash ourselves, cooked our food and went to bed. 5 minutes after closing the tent door it started to rain – that was a perfect timing…. 🙂
It rained through the night and when we woke up it was still raining. Our motivation to get out of our warm and cosy sleeping beds and get out into the rain was low so we decided to sleep another 45 minutes. When we woke up a second time there rain had stopped – good timing again….
The rest of the day offered us two surprises – no more rain and no flat tyres. What else can a long distance cyclist ask for…. ????
In the evening we arrived to the tiny town of Langmusi which is a tibetan alpine looking town squeezed in between tall mountains. Appearantly the town is going to focus even more on tourism since there were constructions of new hotels going on at a lot of places in the center. We found a guesthouse and since it is low season we got an entire dormitory with 8 beds to ourselves.
The tourists who come here are mainly internal chinese tourists and the main attractions are the outdoors. The attractions here are trekking, riding, fishing and all kind of outdoor activities. Most of the buildings are decorated in traditional tibetan way and the town had a very pleasant atmosphere so we decided to stay a day here to rest.
When we had our breakfast at a restaurant the following morning we saw a sign that offered horseback riding in the mountains. When in Kashgar in the far west of China Wej wanted to join a camel riding tour in the desert but since we didn’t know if we had time for it we decided to not do it. Now when we know we have time, we decided to go for the riding trip.
Two hours later we were presented to our guide and our horses. After half an hour of instruction we led our horses out of town. We were told that since these horses only walk on grass they don’t need any shoes which means that they can’t be ridden on the road so we had to lead them for a kilometer out of town.
I can’t remember ever having ridden a horse on my own before but it worked just fine. The guide rode behind us and told us when to turn right or left, but most of the time the horses turned before he told us to tell the horses to turn. I guess it depends on these horses do this tour a hundred times a year….
It was anyway a fascinating feeling to ride a horse surrounded by the tall mountains. It was a wonderful weather with a blue sky, no wind and pleasant temperatures. We went along a small creek that we had to cross over a couple of times and I must say that horseback riding was really exciting and I consider to once I am back in Sweden take lessons to learn to ride properly. The distance we covered with these horses was a lot longer than we would have done if we had walked ourselves – the idea of learning to ride and then travel to Kyrgyzstan or Mongolia to do a longer horse trek has got stuck in my brain.
I know I completely lack the technique of riding properly and I noticed that after a day of horseback riding my body was aching pretty much everywhere. It is funny that I can sit on a bicycle day after day and feel nothing but a few hours of riding a horse made my knees and bottom hurt a lot.
Before going to bed we decided to stay another day in Langmusi and do nothing but sleep and rest. It was a bit cloudy in the morning but in the afternoon the sky got clear again. We felt that it was a pity to not cycle when the conditions were so favourable, but it was very nice to just hang around doing nothing.
After two days of rest in Langmusi it was time to start cycling again, but when we woke up at 6.30 we could hear it was raining outside. Why does it have to be good weather when we stop and bad when we need to cycle???
When I finally went up from my warm and cousy bed I took a quick look out of the window. A black car was parked on the opposite side of the road, but it was something strange with it because it had a white roof. I then realised that it was SNOW….. Well, we are in a mountain region where it can snow anytime and I guessed that this car had come down from higher altitudes where it had snowed during the night. Then I saw that there was snow on the roof of the building next door…..
Apparently it had snowed during the night and the rainfall we could hear from our room was snow mixed rain and this didn’t make us very excited about the idea of getting up on our bikes again. Those of you who have followd this blog from the start know that we have cycled through a lot harsher winter conditions than this when we passed through central Europe in March, but we still felt it was too short between the last snowfall in Bucharest in April and China in September. After a very short discussion we decided to stay another day and hope that the weather will improve tomorrow…..