Header image

Ernst's Velotouren

Bicycle tour 2008 - 2013
First stage Switzerland - Thailand
Part 10: West China part 2, November & Dezember 2008

Good bye Lanzhou. To ride a bicycle in big chinese cities is easier than thought because there are spacious bicycle tracks everywhere.

Pictures: Main road in Lanzhou
After Lanzhou I was riding on my way south through high valleys intensivly used for agricultural purposes. Sometims the road climbed up to heights of 3000 meters. Even in the afternoons the temperature in the high valleys did not exceed the freezing point. It was very cold - even more when the sky was cloudy the whole day.
Picture: November in a high valley (mostly over 2000 m high) south of Lanzhou

It came as it had to come! During my ascent to a nameless pass in the Minshan mountains snow flurry began at about -10° C. At first I enjoyed the beautiful powdery snow. But arriving at the pass slightly higher than 3000 meters it was already snowing very strongly and the road got covered very fast. Quickly and carefully I immediately started the descent to lose height as fast as possible. But already after a few kilometers I became afraid that this could become my Waterloo! The next village was still over 30 km away, and not even the most crazy truck, bus or car drivers were now on the way in the serpentines of the pass.

But I said to myself "be thankful because it could be worse!" So I was thankful - and it came worse. It snowed even more! Icy cold air blowing around me! And a bit later - even as a convinced atheist - I almost started to pray. The situation was really serious and only intensiv efforts to realize mental emptiness and the release of all thoughts about Napoleon Bonaparte and Waterloo saved me from praying.

Picture: Intensiv snow fall and icy cold at a height of 3000 meters in the Minshan-mountains
Frozen stiff and shivering I finally reached a small village with a simple guest house. The caretaker, a little, dear and merry grandmother grabbed my hand without saying a word, took me in her heated living room and offered me hot tea. Meanwhile her husband ignited the little oven in my room and placed an electric blanket in the bed. I am so happy to meet almost every day of my trip that nice and kind people!

Picture: While I was burning at lot of coal at only 9° C in the room the TV set showed flickering pictures of beaches and palm trees in Jamaica.

Picture: Snow covered farmer village in the Minshan Mountains south of Lanzhou
As the roads to north and south were closed due to the snow I therefore was not able to continue on my planned route. So I had to make a big detour towards east to avoid to cross the Minshan Mountain range. But due to the weather I nearly lost my motivation. Just the little bit warmer weather on the next day and the melting snow gave me some new hope.
Picture: Riding out of the high mountains towards east
In Tianshui, roughly 300 km ahead of Xian I was turning again towards south and rode through the lower Qingling mountains towards Chengdu. At least here I had daily maximum temperatures of about 5° C. The way through the Qingling mountains was quite demanding because every day I had to cross several steep passes.
Picture: Crossing the Qingling mountains towards south
Picture: A typical farmer house in the south of the province of Gansu
Picture: Fast descent from one of the many passes in the Qingling mountains
Picture: Two truck drivers from Chengdu who stopped me shortly before Guangyuan, asking curiously about where I am from and where I was going to, and spontaneously gave me something to drink and eat.
Picture: Passing picturesque gorges on the way to Guangyuan and Chengdu
After nine days riding from Lanzhou it seemed that I really had escaped the winter. Finally the daily maximum temperature exceeded 10° C and I already saw the first palm trees and banana plants. But many passes were still to cross until reaching Chengdu.
Picture: The ascent of one of the many passes in the province Shaanxi.
Picture: The little city of Jiange (north of Chengdu) in the dawn
In many places of Sichuan large parts of the cities were destroyed by the great earthquake on May 12, 2008. The survivors and the homeless were quickly accommodated in makeshift houses and tents. Reconstruction of the cities is everywhere running at full speed.

The earthquake had destroyed complete villages and city districts, factories and schools. More than 87'000 persons lost their lives, another 350'000 were injured and more than 5.8 million became homeless. Most fatalities were reported from the regions of the cities of Mianyang, Deyang, Chengdu and Guanyuang. The earthquake was felt even in Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi and Bangkok. Due to this devasting earthquake the people of Sichuan experienced immense suffering.
Picture: In this village at least half of the buildings collapsed. Many of the homeless are still living in makeshift houses or tents (blue roofs).
Picture: Road destroyed by the earthquake
Picture: Buddhist tempel (also here degraded to a museum) on the Qiqu mountain north of Chengdu. Interestingly the historic buildings were not damaged by the earthquake.
Picture: Riding through cedar forests
Arriving in Chengdu my way through western China was definitely finished.
Picture: The center of Chengdu is modern as any city in Europe.
The monks of the buddhistic Mantshusri monastery are making a lot of good business with national and international tourists. And some of them even own cars - what seems to be very welcomed by the Chinese Central Goverment.

In the few remaining respectable buddhist monasteries the monks have to join discriminating political classes, and are strictly controlled by state employed spies dressed up like monks. According to several international NGOs, during the protests in Lhasa in March 2008 many monks disappeared without any trace. Reports of specific killings of buddhist monks by the chinese goverment are well known since long time.
Picture: Temple in the Mantshusri monastery in Chengdu
Next page / Part 11: South China