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Published: March 24th 2018
Ma Chenghu Restaurant, Linxia
Just a few of the merry throng that came to see us
Another nice breakfast at Leisa’s café, after another tough night on the “plank” bed, then we set off to drive 392 km down to Lanzhou, capital of Gansu (population ca. 2.5 miliion). Dropping from 3,400 metres to about 2,000 metres, from the mountains to a river valley and a city 4km wide by 25km long.
As we left Langmusi, Christa noticed a (dead) wolf on the back of a put-put. We noticed a yak calf gambolling around, so confirmed our suspicion that the small, remote tent sometimes seen (with solar panel) is the equivalent of a shepherd’s hut, somewhere for the herdsman to stay during the calving period.
The endless rolling grassland is an incredible sight, with prosperous homesteads in villages or isolated, and really strong stocking levels. We passed the watershed again, almost halfway from Waxu to Mage (Luqu). A particularly large model village had very substantial livestock sheds provided for overwintering of stock.
The landscape changed again and again, sometimes with huge alluvial plains tilled as far as the eye could see, other times mountain pasture, or vast expanses of desert terrain, sometimes in itself very hilly or mountainous. At one place we saw a horse
Ma Chenghu staff
There were three, but the one on the right just managed to dodge my camera!
ploughing, and in the adjoining plot the ploughman was operating a wooden plough pulled (with some vigour) by two men.
We ran through an amazing series of tunnels, one was over 5 km long, and were astounded once again at the quality and magnitude of this first-class and far-from-busy highway. The tunnel was almost spooky, as it was equipped with police-siren noises and other effects, like a ginat sort of Ghost Train experience. We came to the end of the Tibetan territory at Qu’ ao (2,180 metres) and the landscape instantly became Islamic. There were huge and very striking mosques by the new time, often as many as four in the one village (apparently to cater for different sects). Some mosques were in Chinese style, others more obviously Islamic, and even the domestic architecture changed. From here on, agriculture involved mostly tillage, very little heavy machinery (none?) but enormous areas relying upon plastic sheeting to conserve moisture. It seems that over the last decade this has been transformational, especially in Northern China, where it has practically eliminated famine seasons.
At Linxia, population 200,000, we stopped for lunch; overwhelmingly Muslim, it is known as “the Mecca of China” and
Tea and flavouring
Tea, rock sugar, Goji-berries and Longan - it seems you add the components to suit your taste, it being a Moslem style of taking tea.
we were lucky enough to go to an excellent restaurant to taste their famed lamb. We were shown into a sumptuous private room, had excellent tea, nibbled at sunflower seeds and were just getting going on the main meal when one of the staff asked if they could photograph us. Naturally we went along with it, whereupon the door opened again and about 3 staff members joined in; this increased, especially after a large party of customers also joined the fun… we think it was an engagement party, the ladies were dressed to the nines. At one point over 20 people were involved, and there was even a passer-by in the street who joined in through the open window until he was repulsed by the staff, who then drew the curtains. All very amusing, luckily we had order a cold collation, so our lunch did not suffer despite this fully ten-minute diversion. The restaurant was Ma Chengu, absolutely first class; lunch worked out at less than £5 a head.
About 60km short of Lanzhou (“lang-joe”) we left the Moslem area and entered the “Chinese” region as we approached the city; agriculture was by now heavily focussed upon horticulture to
Lily bulb fields
They go right to the top, seemingly the more vertical and difficult the better. Irrigation must be a problem?
supply the city residents. About 20km later we were back into dry, desert like terrain, the road running through arid, rocky, pinnacle-rich surroundings. We saw extensive very steep, very high level irrigated terraces which we were told are used for the cultivation of lilies; this is a very valuable crop, the tubers are a delicacy and exported world wide.
We checked in to the Jinjiang Railway Inn at Lanzhou, 200 Rmb per double per night (about £16), and it seems to suit our purpose. Off now to explore (6pm).
We actually left nearer 7pm, walked about a mile down the road then turned left alongside a storm drain, fed by the Yellow River. There was a pleasant, pedestrian walkway beside thedrain and on the opposite bank we could see pleasure grounds. After about half a mile we reached a main road at an intersection with a bridge across the Yellow River and were able to access a lengthy pedestrian walway beside the river itself, dedicated to a 16th
c. savant who had invented an especially successful water wheel. There were numerous reproductions of this and other wheels, some of which were fed by overhead conduits from the main
More terraces, poor picture
However, not a bad picture of this excellent highway.
system. The basic system is powered by the Yellow River itself turning wheels which have buckets attached; the buckets are filled as the wheel rotates and as the buckets climb on the other side they empty themselves into conduits to feed an irrigation system.
We walked on past three bridges and I gather that the third, pedestrianised, was designed by Germans. We passed kite flyers and a curious dance troupe, with a vigorous routine involving umbrellas, performed to the rhythm of an enormous drum. There was an enormous multi-storied restaurant a bit further on, but we felt too hot and disheveled to use it, so crossed the river by the German bridge. We had been told that the area was packed with restaurants but the only one we could see charged £60 to £200 for a bottle of wine and seemed to have a Chinese opera singer on tap. We re-crossed the bridge and found something more suitable in a Moslem night market, then walked back, home before11.00.
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