Glacier in the desert

Jiayuguan Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 19 › view all entries
Drive to the glacier

I woke up at 5 this morning and took some pictures of the great wall at sunrise.  My driver was waiting for me, so I hopped in for a ride to the July 1 glacier.  This was the same driver from yesterday who's a really nice guy but doesn't speak a word of English so we have a hard time communicating with my lack of Chinese.  First he took me to a local restaurant where he bought me a boiled egg and noodle soup.  He also bought me some bottled water.  Now my understanding was that the glacier was maybe an hour away and you could park pretty close and go up to it.  I nearly wore sandals that morning.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

We drove for three hours over roads that I would not have driven my car on for a foot, much less that many miles.

Rosa and I
  It wound up and around the mountains and I was bouncing around so much I am surprised I don't have a TBI!  But the drive was incredibly beautiful with the desert and the snow capped mountain peaks.  First we listened to some Chinese techno type music, but then the driver got a happy look on his face and switched to a new CD.  Next thing I hear is the beginning of I Swear by Boyz II men.  Then it was Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, and Spice Girls, very surreal. 

We finally reached the gate to the glacier and went in to pay the admission.  The woman there tried to rent me a bladder filled with oxygen, which should have been my first clue.  The driver said I didn't need it, so I passed.  We got back in the cab and drove a mile and stopped.

At the top
  He pointed to this staircase that went straight up the mountain with no end in sight.  So I started climbing.  Now I wasn't prepared at all for a long hike and had no idea this is what it would be.  I hadn't brought my inhaler and the air was so thin up there I could barely breathe.  I had a slight asthma attack on the stairs, so I just started taking rests every few feet.  The altitude and lack of oxygen meant I was incredibly dizzy the entire way.  Across the valley, I could see the driver was walking along the base of a mountain keeping pace with me.  (He was worried about me!) 

About 3/4 of the way there, a Chinese group caught up with me.  Two of the women spoke English- Vivien and Rose and walked with me.

The glacier
  Rose was quick and went ahead, but Vivien and Mr. Chi went the rest of the way with me.  After the concrete stairs, the path was pure mud, then stone steps, then eventually there was no trail at all and we just had to climb piles of rocks.  It was incredibly grueling.  I was happy to see that they were having just as much difficulty breathing as I was.  A half hour before we reached the glacier, my driver was suddenly on the trail right behind us.  How he got there so fast I don't know.  I think he just crossed the valley and walked straight up the hill.  He went with us to the glacier and took pictures.  It took me over 3 and a half hours to reach it.  While the glacier was cool and I got to touch it and everything, I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon.
The glacier

The walk back was much easier, probably because it was downhill so it got easier to breathe with each step.  It only took me a little over an hour, and this time the driver was the one lagging behind.  When I finally reached the stairs I nearly flew down them I was so happy!  But I hadn't had anything to eat since 7am and it was then 3pm.  Luckily the driver had some moon cakes (kind of like a sweet biscuit) which he gave me and more water.  We just sat in the car eating and panting until he felt ready to drive again.  I don't know how he did it, I was so physically exhausted I had a hard time keeping my eyes open if it weren't for the bumpiness of the ride.  I'm amazed he was able to stay alert enought to make it through the very difficult drive. 

He drove me into town and I had him drop me off at a street food market.  I went up to a random stand and pointed at the snails and mussels.  The guy threw together some ingredients and cooked it all up for me.  His wife thought I was hilarious and was repeating every word I said and laughing.  I took it all home with me and ate it in my hotel room, very tasty!

automidori says:
How did you come to know this driver? How much did you pay him? Do you still have his contact number or something? Thank you.
Posted on: Jun 15, 2012
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Rosa and I
Rosa and I
At the top
At the top
The glacier
The glacier
The glacier
The glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Drive to the glacier
Walking to the glacier
Walking to the glacier
Walking to the glacier
Walking to the glacier
The glacier
The glacier
The glacier
The glacier
The path to the glacier
The "path" to the glacier
The glacier
The glacier
The final steps to the car
The final steps to the car
Street marker
Street marker
Street market
Street market
Food at stand
Food at stand
Snails for dinner
Snails for dinner
Jiayuguan
photo by: portia