Post-desert glow (mainly from sun burn) we boarded the bus to a town the Lonely Planet described as ‘like an airlifted nightmare from North Korea.’ The town in question was Jiyuguan. And it was actually great. Yes, the streets were broad and straight and lined with concrete blocks of bland, but as night fell, the place came alive. We ate gorgeous piles of lamb kebabs, played in some huge fountains and then partook in an outdoor roller disco. We made trains, crashed into unimpressed teenagers and I even got a kind of roller-date, escorting a Jiyuguan lady round the rink like a pro. Some of the blokes took notice and invited us for some beers. Turns out we had to pay for them all. At the next club they took us to they tried the same trick but we weren’t biting. It got quite awkward and then they left. We snuck home a different route in case we bumped into them. You have to watch for the roller-neds it seems.
Next up we headed south to Zhangye, a similar proposition to Jiyuguan but more Tibetan. We took another minibus into the hills where some hanging monasteries perched in some cliffs. After exploring the tunnels and temples we hit the hills. Five hours later we were faced with some massive waterfalls pouring off the mountains and a quickly diminishing amount of daylight. Scrabbling back to the ranch as the sun set was tricky but great fun.
A big shout out must go to the german bloke we met in Dun Huang at our campsite. Three days later, and heading to the hills near Zhangye in torrential rain he popped his head out of a taxi and got us a nice dry ride to the nearest guesthouse until the rain passed. Brilliant!
A second shout out to the Chinese biker gang who stayed with us in the hills. We had to gambei some truly atrotious beijou but they were good guys!