28 July 2013

Hitting The Wall

A couple of weeks ago as we were on the road to Xiahe (day 74, 7th July) I hit The Wall. Not The Great Firewall, I've got around that, and not The Great Wall of China, which I'd camped next to only a couple of days before.
I hit The Wall of Tiredness. After 2.5 months of bouncing around in Daisy, having had near constant movement for that time with 4 nights in one place the longest I'd spent anywhere, my body and my brain decided I needed a little rest. It was right.

For the next 2 weeks (days 74 to 94) I probably wasn't taking in all I could be or making the most of what was around me to see/experience. In a way a shame, but in a year long trip there is always going to have to be downtime - be it through tiredness or illness (as I write this I've got a cold, my first case of lurgy since leaving the UK - not bad for 3 months, 7 countries and thousand of miles).

Some notes...
(I'm aware that these are out of sequence to other stuff, but it sure you'll cope. I've got plentifully of bits to write and post which areas going to mess the sequencing up further, get use to it. :))

Xiahe (days 74-76)
Described as a "one street town", where a lot on the stuff is along the main street, but plenty of interesting back streets. A cool little place, although one I didn't make the most of as I'd just hit The Wall.
Tibetten Buddhism pilgrimage. Lots of temples, monks and more prayer wheels than I thought any one place could needed (not that I've ever thought about it).
Monks seemed very interested in us, possibly due to the few western travellers who comes here. (That said, I saw more European faces in this one town in 3 days than I had in a couple months - about a dozen).
Fantastic tour of the monastery, which you should do if you get here, with a very bubbly monk asked our guide. Stunning buildings and amazing decoration, but photography is forbidden inside the temples.
Listening to hundreds of monks chant is awesome - a sound which I could listen to for hours, but alas we weren't allowed to stay long in that part of that temple.

Lanzhou (day 78)
The first "big" Chinese city. Whilst Kashgar had bits which were big city, this is the first "proper" big city in China and the biggest city since leaving London. Not so much a culture shock, more an interesting return with with a Chinese twist.
The first McDonalds in months and I'm sure there was a Starbucks too - an unwelcome return to the western (global) brands.
Olly's first haircut in years. Wouldn't have missed witnessing (and documenting) this. Hysterical doesn't come close; had issues in holding it together at times. :)
Excellent night market, full of great food. Very busy (hard to move) the later it got. Very good "Chinese burger" (chopped pork & peppers in a fresh bun - for 70p).

Xi'an (days 79-82)
The Terracotta Warriors. They are as good as you think they are and if you are anywhere near Xi'an you need to make the time to visit them; you'll want about 1/2 I day, assuming you use one of the on-site guides. (she was the best of the attraction guides we'd had in the journey so far.)
What is particularly amazing (other than the whole thing) is that the Chinese have stopped excavation of the site (many years ago) as, probably among other reasons, once the statues are exposed to the air their paint fades within about a year. For a country who has a (well deserved?) reputation for not give much thought about the preservation of old things, it is very surprising that they've left a lot in the ground - there really does see to be a want to preserve this site for generations to come.

Yanan (day 83)
Sleeping in a cave houses is a new one for me.
In the middle or nowhere and had better Internet access than in some majors cities.

Pingyao (days 85 & 86)
Tourist hell. Avoid.

Wutai Shan (days 87 & 88)
More Buddhist temples, monks, nuns (don't worry, I didn't know they had Buddhist nuns either) and endless Chinese tourists - some tourists and some pilgrims to the temples, to which the placement is specialist.
Random find of a morning - a lot of nuns working on building site, clearing and cleaning-up bricks.
Amusement: watching one of the ever present tuk-tuk like delivery bikes full of cement drive (bounce) up hill. Fluids + overfull delivery bike + hill + uneven road = less cement being delivered than expected.
(sides note: the delivery bikes areas like bigger tuk-tuks, where I've seen them be used to transport people, food, rebar, animals, and pretty much anything else you can think of.)

Jinshanling (days 89 & 90)
Back on the Great Wall, but where this bit looks like what you'd expect /what you see in pictures, just with a *lot* less people.
Great placed to watch sunset.

Being (days 91-94)
I'll write a separate entry for Beijing.