In China, May 1st and the week that goes with it are regarded as THE week in which one visits the relatives. Most Chinese go home to celebrate this event with the family. Trains and airplanes are mostly fully booked, passing buses are overcrowded. Many shops sell artificial small trees/flower arrangements.
Nevertheless, we are surprised about all the activities and work going on everywhere. I have read in my travel guide that on May 1st everything is supposed to be closed, that it is absolutely necessary to book the hotel well in advance. But Markus and I don’t really notice that everything is closed. The only difference compared to other mornings is, that we can hear firecracker shooting everywhere. We'll be hearing it all day. But we do not see a single 1st of May celebration. We have to admit; we didn't try very hard to find out where and when something would happen. Rather, we drive through many villages and towns and are amazed at how many people are working, be it on building houses, in the fields, in small restaurants and in various shops. Even in the countless garages, repairs are carried out, wheels are changed and cars get washed. Probably it's like our public holidays, some people still have to work.
After the wet roads of the day before we are happy to cycle on dusty dirt roads, even though we have to wear a dust mask for the first time. Every time a car or truck passes by, we not only have the exhaust fumes on our faces, but a huge cloud of dust. That wouldn’t be good for our lungs at all!
The next two cycling days nothing special happens. We let the countless impressions from villages, towns and countryside sink in. Again and again we see large groups of men watching one of at the board games that is going on in the street. The spectators cheer with the players, give tips, you can really feel how concentrated everyone is. In return, women sit on a bench or a small chair in front of their house, discussing and chatting. But we also drive through villages that seem almost extinct; all entrance doors to the courtyard are closed. That really looks spooky. !!!!!
Before we reach Lanzhou, we drive for the first time on this journey a small pass over 2100 m above sea level.
In Lanzhou we allow ourselves a day of rest, if sightseeing can be considered as such. I already told Markus that on sightseeing days we should better adjust the sports tracker to see how many kilometres we cover on foot! We have a look at the steel bridge built in 1907, which leads across the Yellow River. On the top of hill there is a nice temple. We decide to look at it from the bottom of it; our legs are too tired to climb all these stairs. Instead of it, we take a break in a nice park with a view on the yellow river. We do it like the Chinese and sit down, leaning on a wall of a beautiful complex. An older man sits down very close to us, takes out his instrument and starts playing just for himself and smokes a cigarette. How reassuring this melody is! We continue strolling through the huge pedestrian zone, walk along the river and watch the dancing couples in the park. They seem to be having a great time.
In Lanzhou we meet again Zhen Chen, the young Chinese cyclist. We have dinner at a fancy restaurant. The door to the restaurant, disguised as a library, only opens when you grab a stone lion's mouth - it's like in a fantasy movie. As soon as we are inside the restaurant, we feel like we are in a completely different world: a huge bar with whatever drinks you like, stages for performances and concerts, an excellent menu, wine - everything your heart desires. We spend an amusing evening in best company. Nevertheless - the incredible contrasts we experience in China are omnipresent over and over again.
Today’s distance we have to cover is mainly going uphill, but as a start, we still have a flat stage of 40km. The next 60km we steadily go uphill!
After riding a little bit more than 100km we unexpectedly see a new and above all official camping site, the first in China! The next town, Yongdeng is another 13 km away. We see it as an opportunity to try out our new tent. We ride into the camping site with our bikes and look for a suitable place in the middle of the lawn, which is decorated with many small coloured windmills. We just manage to put up our new and especially bigger tent before it starts to rain. What a wonderful feeling for Markus and me to stay in our new tent, which offers much more space compared to last year's small tent.
Since it is windy and wet outside, we do not cook anything and are happy with a cold dinner consisting of fruits and bread. Afterwards we snuggle up in our sleeping bags. We don't read much that evening. Our hands get clammy, my nose gets cold. I'm even putting on my headband. By now we realize that we are camping at rather high altitude. Moreover, it is only the beginning of May and the temperatures are still fresh. In the morning we wake up, there's ice on the tent. Luckily, wonderful weather is forecasted. Once the sun is up and shining, we let the tent dry in the sun, drink hot coffee to warm us up and enjoy the warming sun. We are ready for the next stage.