Queues at Lanzhou bus station
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
Our train arrived into Lanzhou at 07.30 and our first mission was to buy outward bound tickets to Jiayuguan, for 4 days later. As Portia was going to be accompanying us, my task was to procure one soft sleeper and 2 hard sleeper berths. I figured that this shouldn't be too problematic as we were making the reservation quite some time ahead, but i should have known better. All the soft sleeper spots were already taken, so i had no choice but to make Portia slum it with us :)
By the time i had the tickets in my wallet, my watch had already beeped 08.00, which signaled that we only had 30 minutes to travel across town, if we wanted to make the 08.30 bus to Xiahe. This made the only viable option a taxi, which i knew would still be cutting it fine, as the South bus station looked many kilometres away on my map and it was rush hour. The taxi driver swerved in and out at break neck speed though, and we were even dropped off with 10 minutes to spare! The 20 minute journey had only cost us 15RMB ($2.15), which i thought was a very reasonable price.
I raced into the terminal and what confronted me wasn't a pretty sight. The place was jam packed, with pretty much every seat taken and queues snaking back the length of the building. We wouldn't be catching the bus. Julia volunteered to stand in line, whilst i decided to use the opportunity to write my blog. Taking a laptop out maybe wasn't the wisest move, as every child and adults curiosity got the better of them, and they took it in turns to come and sit in the spare seat next to me and look at what i was doing.
45 minutes later, Julia returned with the bad news that there were not any tickets today and from what she could tell for the next few days either. A quick re-evaluation of our options led to the decision that the most sensible choice would be to catch a bus to Linxia, which was halfway and then transfer on to Xiahe.
Julia went back to the ticket window, but this time the lady at the counter held up a pile of foreign passport photocopies, gesturing that we needed to hand these in to be able to buy a ticket! She ran off down the road and got the necessary documents and a little before 10.00 we eventually had the tickets to Linxia in our hands. The bus departed at 10.10 and i felt apprehensive about what the day had in store for us. Had the Chinese government really gone to such measures to prevent tourists from not only visiting Tibet, but any village in China with a Tibetan population?
The 3 hour journey passed quite quickly, as we drove through some beautiful scenery and interesting towns. The further from Lanzhou that we travelled, the more Muslim dominated it appeared to become. Mosques commanded every town and villages skyline that we passed through. Interestingly, many of them had Chinese architecture, making it look as though they could have actually been a Temple.
The bus dropped us off in the centre of Linxia and when i showed the driver the sheet of paper with Xiahe on, he pointed at a bus across the road....