We had a great morning and early afternoon of biking for about three and a half hours of actual cycling time, going about 65 km northwest on the country road from Zhangye to Jiayuguan. The weather today was sunny and mild, with only a light wind – a perfect day for cycling! It felt great to be back cycling again – I love the pace that allows me to see, hear and smell details about the countryside that are just impossible to pick up when I’m going by quickly in a car.
The scenery was typical Chinese farmland, with many long, narrow hot houses made of rammed earth or brick, for raising vegetables. Thanks to lots of irrigation projects, the land seems quite fertile – at the expense of the rivers that used to crisscross this region, and are now mostly dry, dusty, riverbeds. This re-routing of the rivers is most obvious in many of the towns we pass through – they grew up around a river, which used to flow right through the center of town. Now they are empty, a mute testament to the urgent need for water everywhere in this part of China.
We then drove the balance of the way to Jiayuguan, the western terminus of the Great Wall, arriving at about 7:30pm. We found a very pleasant hotel, the Jiayuguan Qingnian, as we’ll be here in Jiayuguan for the next two nights.