Saturday, 4 May 2013

The winding ways of North West Sichuan

Over the last five days we’ve ridden north west from GanZi to SerXu in the far
north west corner of Sichuan Province. SerXu sits at the head of the YaLong
river, a major tributary of the great Yangtze, from the mouth of which we began
travelling west just three weeks ago.

The last five days have generally consisted of some valley riding, a high pass,
followed by a drop into the next valley, ending each day progressively higher
than we had begun. We have crossed four passes all of which have taken us well
over 4000m.

As our altitude has increased the peaks around, rather than growing taller, have
become closer to us and more rounded in nature, unlike the initial sky piercing
peaks we enjoyed riding beneath. The landscape has widened and become
increasingly stark and barren. With this has become a wildness of weather, and
with that, a greater reliance on the goodness of those hardy folk who dwell in
these parts. While a welcome is not always immediate, warm, enthusiastic and
generous hospitality has always emerged just at the right time…sometimes just
in the nick of time!

Upon arrival we’ve often found towns to initially feel inhospitable and a little
intimidating, but we have learnt to give ourselves time to familiarize and soon
these places become homely. The towns of MaNiGanGa and QiWu with their
rugged character have been the scene of some particularly memorable times
with local people. Our concerns of these areas being closed to foreigners were
well and truly laid to rest as we enjoyed drinking beer with the local Police in
MaNiGanGa. The chief of Police even assured us that all would be well, raising a
toast and declaring that as we have drunk together we are now friends!

We have enjoyed our first nights of camping out and becoming increasingly self
sufficient. Since leaving GanZi we’ve covered around 350 hard-earned kilometres
and are now within 70km of entering the Qinghai province. Between us and
Qinghai lies our highest pass yet at 4700m.

Roads become trails, riding becomes walking

High point to date. Mt HaiZi Pass 4686m

Entering high alpine nomadic pasturelands

STOP! Another roadblock, the locals take it all in their stride.

Here’s why the roadblock. Destruction precedes construction.

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