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Published: June 30th 2013
The ride from Jiayuguan to Yumen was the toughest day since I started this trip. So far I have always chosen the smaller roads over the expressways for obvious reasons. First of all, bicycles aren’t allowed on the expressway (although in China, there is always a way to go around the law) and in addition, smaller provincial roads are (from my experience) more scenic, quieter, less traveled and they take me though lovely villages that no one knows about. So from Jiayuguan I followed the 312 road heading towards Guazhou and I did expect a lovely ride. It turned out to be an amazing challenge.
First of all, the road took me uphill the whole time; not a huge incline but enough to make me press hard on the pedals. For the first few hours I went through some very bare landscape, desert like, with tiny yellow thorny bushes growing here and there on grey sand. It was windy on the plateau and I remember messaging Becky to tell her that this wind was breaking my morale. I reached the old town of YuMen around 2pm and stopped for a snack (chocolate and bread + a Red Bull) and a
bus driver and a few locals told me there were at least 80km left to ride to YuMen New City. I usually ride around 20km an hour and I thought that it would be okay to cover the distance in 4 or 5 hours. I plunged downhill for 20 min and crossed some villages with green fields of corn and potatoes everywhere and it was so nice, I thought the ride from there on would be extremely pleasant and relaxing after a tough windy morning but… the smooth road quickly disappeared into a sand covered bumpy dirt road and the wind got much stronger. At some point I was going so slowly that I swear I could have walked faster than I was riding with my entire luggage on. I should have taken pictures but (just like the other day when I rode 200km in the rain) I had other things in mind that taking photos. I should have though. On top of this, the sun was shining hard. I implored the sky to give me a break. I swore at the wind; I yelled; I spat dust. The wind blew hard for hours, and worst of all, YuMen didn’t
appear. It seemed like there were always 10 or 20 more kilometers to ride before I could get there. I stopped to get a drink at a gas station and they told me I had 20km more to go. 20 km farther, a farmer told me I had 10 more to do. And when I reached the industrial part of the city, I had another 10km to reach the city center. On the sandy road I passed a group of freshly graduated university students who were all walking by their bikes as the wind was blowing so ferociously. You can’t imagine how pleased I was to get to YuMen around 8pm (in this part of the world the sun goes down at 9pm and rises at 5.45 in June). I entered 3 hotels but they all refused me (no license to welcome foreigners). YuMen was built between 10 and 5 years ago. Every building is brand new and massive. The avenues were all at least 3 lanes-wide. Everything was so modern and clean but only 1 hotel would take me. Prices were high of course (200yuan) but I had no strength to set up my tent and my entire body
was covered in dust. I forgot to say that although the road I took was really bad and bumpy dozens of trucks full of gravel used it and lifted clouds of dust every time they over took me (and honked their horns). Believe me when I say that shower felt amazing that one night!
As I entered YuMen a lady on a Giant (Taiwanese) bike stopped me and told me that I could stay with her friend who loves cycling. It turned out her friend was out cycling that one night so I ended up taking the room at the expensive hotel but he and his cycling buddies paid me a visit at the hotel around 11pm and he did invite me to stay over at his place the following night. I hadn’t planned on staying an extra day in YuMen but I was exhausted after the hard 150km facing headwind and I was thrilled to get to spend some time with local people, especially with people whom I had things in common. Thank you Jiang XuBo! He cooked lunch for me, took me to dinner with his friends and to a local festival/market in a neighboring village, and
gave me his bed while he put his camping mats on the floor in the living room. I left YuMen a few days ago but we still communicate almost every day. This is exactly the kind of experience I expected to have on this trip.
Here are a few pictures of the road from Jiayuguan to Yumen, and of the time spent with Xubo in YuMen Shi. Good memories!
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