Taking the Tourist Route

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October 27th 2016
Published: October 27th 2016
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The group are split in two for now so lots of space on the truck. Woke up to a frozen fly sheet on my tent - we thought we had left that behind but it seems not. We have travelled on the expressway toll road so have made good time. The decision was made not to stop at Xining (capital of the Quinghai region) but whilst driving past we were astonished at the massive building development of high rises all around. More than you could possibly imagine. We have also seen a number of ghost towns along the way, built we believe for future generations of Chinese. Who knows? We have encountered quite a bit of Chinese beaurocracy so far that it is anyone's guess.

Mid afternoon we arrived at Liujiaxia Reservoir on the Yellow River (more of a burn umber colour than yellow!) and took a 50 minute boat ride to the Bingling Caves. We had no idea what to expect but it was amazing. There are 183 niches carved into the rock faces with sculptures and paintings in them, and a series of catacombs. But the most stunning of all is a 27 metre height statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. So our chance to act as real tourists and take loads of photos. As we were late back to the truck we got permission to camp in the car park. That would have been fine if we hadn't woken to pouring rain that turned to snow. As we hadn't been able to peg out the tents, most people had water inside their tents and some wet bedding. I was lucky with only a wet tent to contend with.

After a chilly morning truck ride (lots of snow) we got to a hotel (yay) in Xiahe with rooms with underfloor heating - bliss - and hot showers - more bliss. Our guide (Tom) took us to the local monastery for a tour. The Labrang Monastery is home to 500 monks and has 3km of rotating prayer wheels around it which are spun by pilgrims. We also saw some prostrating pilgrims there. We were able to go inside some of the buildings and saw more Buddhas - the rooms lit by yak butter lamps. It was quite surreal, but really glad we had the opportunity to see it. One more bush camp before 3 nights in a hotel in Chengdu. We have lots of plans when we are there as it is Tom's home town, so he has some treats lined up for us (Chinese Opera and Giant Pandas to name a couple). Also time to catch up on the washing.

By the way I can confirm that yak meat tastes a lot like beef, as we had some this evening at the restaurant, but I wouldn't suggest you go out of your way for chickens feet - vastly over-rated. But not surprisingly my chopstick technique is coming on in leaps and bounds. No option otherwise you go hungry especially when we go out as a group.

And as a footnote - the fleece lined rubber gloves were amazing for taking my tent down in the snow this morning!

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