So heading from Dunhuang to Zhangye!
All night it rained and still raining when we wake. We go to the station, this works like an airport. You have to show the ticket at the entrance, otherwise you can't get in, pass the bags through a metal detector and enter the strictly controlled gate. You must wait in the all cannot go on the track. so when they open the doors just before the train's departure the usual pushing crowd squeezes us. We get on the train, the seats are assigned, it is full. There are dispensers of boiling water to cook instant noodles or make tea, just like in Kazakhstan. A funny thing is that the train crew trying to sell rubbish all along the trip, set for nail care, lighters, bright toys... we haven't seen anyone buying anything... Through the window we see only desert, so now I'm sure, the famous Hexi Corridor, the road that goes from Turpan all the way to Lanzhou (across Dunhuang, Jiayuguan and indeed Zhangye), this mythological stretch of Gobi desert across the so called Silk Road is just a bare, ugly, polluted expanse of grey rock. Tough way for the merchants centuries ago, and tough still for the wandering touring cyclist. And the Qilian Mountains, that should at least provide some distraction for the eyes, are not visible from here.
If you speak Chinese, however, it's easy to get the information. We go to the tourist information center. In China you often meet people speaking a bit of English but at the Tourist Information Centers is guaranteed that they'll not speak a single word. The clerk, however, try to help us in every way and between doodled bus, game of imitations and other funny things she understand. At the end she calls an agency and we talk to a guy who thinks he speaks English but we do not understand anything. I understand that someone is coming to take us and that the price is 118 yuan. Of course even the mountains have a ticket. While we wait we are going to see the wooden pagoda, which is located across the square, a nine-storey ancient temple with not a single nail. There's of course an entry fee so we contemplate it from outside. In the nearby square two girls practice Thai Qi, finally not only weird gymnastics.
The mountains are really beautiful and very colorful, but in the beginning we have the impression that pictures on the internet were a bit touched up, until we get almost to the end of the path where the colors become psychedelic and the separation between each layer of rock is very sharp, from gray to blue to purple and then yellow and brown. Seems like somebody had put LSD in our water, astounding.
Let's go back to town with what appears to be the last bus at 18, we're really happy to have seen this place, one of the most bewildering things of our whole trip so far.
Let's watch a bit of singing talent show at the Chinese television and go to bed. These are the same all over the world, moreless. There is the story of a railroad worker who sings very well and is very proud to work with the Chinese railways but he misses his mother and homemade dumplings and so "surprise", enters the mother with a big pot of ravioli and everybody eats while crying!
Outside the temple, in the nice square, there's a bunch of musician playing Chinese music, just practicing, we stop and listen.
We go eat some jidan chao fan (rice with egg, resembles what in Chinese restaurants in Europe is called "Cantonese rice"). Very nice after days of spicy food, and then we finally start cycling, headed to the region of Qinghai. We'll arrive in Xining crossing the Qilian Mountain and reaching 4000msl. In Xining we should be able to extend the visa for another month. It can be extended in every city of China (at the office called PSB, public security bureau) but the extension of another 30 days starts from when the request is made so you have to do it when the current visa is due to expire.