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The two passes

Wuwei Travel Blog

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Walking up the mountains...

The next morning we were extatically photographing wintery landscapes; A frozen stream, frost on leaves and so on. Having eaten the usual steaming hot noodles and battled on for 12 km through the usual cold headwinds, we left the river in order to climb over the ridge. It was snowing now. Soon a fine layer erased any trace of spring and we were in the deepest winter with the road continously winding upwards through deeper drifts and with an icy wind blowing the fresh snow in our faces. 

We had put on all our layers and our more or less homemade weather shelters, but to no avail. It was freezing! After a particulary strong gust of wind that put my bike to a halt I decided I couldn't do it. We were 5 km from the pass when we flagged down a pickup truck.

In the snow
Two sunburnt, weather beaten men, wearing fur and smoking cigarettes looked puzzled, as trucks with cluttering snow chains edged their way down and we explained we wanted to go up.  The landscapes now put our innocent winter pictures of frozen streams to shame as outside, in the howling wind, Yaks were burrying their big noses in the snow. Paul Theroux says they look like cows on their way to the opera, sporting long fur coats. But opera cows or not. To us they were synonymous with the high mountainous landscapes of Tibet and we didn't know wether we would be allowed a glimpse of this hidden away world on our roundabout route. But there they were, infront of broken parts of the great wall and a mudbrick village.

Around us high peaks stood crystal clear, uninhabbited and barren.

And more snow
When we were shure we were over the pass we asked to be dropped off; The two rugged men loooked even more puzzled as the road was covered in inch thick snow and ice and Daren and I added our final indispensable layer: Plasticbags on our shoes and raincoats that looked like tents! And then we, just like the trucks, edged our way down. I fell of my bike as it skidded away beneath me, local men shoveled snow away and a truck had slid into the ditch. But none of the accidents were serious and the opera-yaks, at least well equipped for the occasion, must have thought we were all idiots.

The snowline seemed a lot further down on this side and for a while we worried that spring had not yet arrived here. But we saw litlle flowers again, the snow turned into slush and eventually receded up the mountain sides.

The vast valley towards the second pass.
Spring had arrived here too. We didn't have a day off in Wuwei because it took us so long to get there and our visa clock is always present. Instead we continued gliding downwards only to commence our climb up our second pass.

Again the landscape began showing traces of winter with a touch of frost in the air and frozen puddles. To our left the snow covered peaks hovered like dominating peacekeepers over the vast and windblown valley. Villages were far and few between and we had to resort to eating potnoodles. But one village that consisted of about 7 houses had a basketball court. Daren played a game with the locals. Just like he once played a game of football in the heart of the Caucasous mountains.

Daren playing basketball.
The one thing with sport is that it doesn't need a language. Daren has pacified the most drunken, muscle showing russians by throwing football names at them:

"Barcelona! Messi!" answered by "Puyol!" by one muscely guy and "Xavi!" by another suddenly becomes culturally valuable and meaningfull to our day....

In this pass the Horizons become so big the mountains look smaller. But it is a complete illusion and what we thought was going to be an easy pass because we could see it was actually to be a 60km steady uphill. I have taken to walking at times. It started in Yunnan on the cobbles and when the riding becomes rediculous it feels good to have solid ground under my feet. Cobbles and winds and ice have so far been unable to stop me walking whereas sometimes they can stop me riding.

We got there and crossed into the Hexi corridor, to a beautifull descent through enormous open space. To the north lies 'inner mongolia' a grassy chinese provionce, to the south stands the solid gray wall of 4-5000 meter high mountains and infront of us the Hexi corridor, the only way to central asia, stretched out. Behind us stood our pass, constantly looking like it was only 3 km away.

This vastness together with the leftovers of old civilisations made me feel tiny and insignificant. Normally this solitude makes me feel uneasy and I want to escape it but here the awareness of my own complete insignificance made me feel incredibly free. The scenery in this part of the world is just bigger and more powerfull than anything i have ever seen...

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Walking up the mountains...
Walking up the mountains...
In the snow
In the snow
And more snow
And more snow
The vast valley towards the second…
The vast valley towards the secon…
Daren playing basketball.
Daren playing basketball.
Wuwei
photo by: roadtrampz