After a week long ride in the the Qilan Mountains of the Qinghai Province we finally made it to Zhangye where an old South Korean teacher friend (Yannis) and his girlfriend Kelly were currently serving in the peace core.
I had reconnected with Yannis last year when he started asking some initial questions about cycle touring. He had also been posting photos on facebook of his area in China which is why we chose to ride there. The Qilan area (photos in the last post) had been an unexpected, and in my opinion the most beautiful, but hard riding in China I have ever done.
It had been several weeks since Katie and I had had a proper English conversation with anyone so it was nice to sit down with the two of them and talk biking. Yannis and Kelly are planning a bike trip next year from China to Greece. Of course in true expat style Yannis & Kelly put on a feast for us with a couple of other peace core volunteers.
Their hospitality was amazing and we were have so much fun together that Katie and I decided to change our train tickets and stay another night plus Yannis had told us about these sand dunes in the area and I have always wanted to see sand dunes. We had been thinking about going to Danxia, but who could resist playing in the dunes and it was only a public bus ride away. 3RMB (50 cents) The bus comes about every hour – can’t remember the number.
Side note: Zhangye is most famous for rock/mountain formations called Danxia. (read here) We had passed them on the way in to the city and taken a couple of token photos, but to be honest Katie and I couldn’t be bothered paying the 60RMB ($10 USD) each to go into the park. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but to put it in context that was more than we had been paying for accommodation each night and the weather wasn’t the nicest anyway.
So off to the dunes we went on a bumpy bus ride passing through trees and agriculture with snow covered mountains on either side. Sand dunes seemed like an impossibility here, but literally out of nowhere there they were.
Massive dunes, the kind you would think belong in the Sahara, popped out.
What made them even cooler was the fact that as you climbed up the Qilan snow covered mountain range was in the background.
Yannis and Kelly did the token roll down the dunes and of course regretted it later having sand in every place imaginable.
Currently the sand dunes are free to enter, although like everything here in China, capitalism is taking over where ever it can and by the looks of the construction of payment gates it won’t be free for much longer.
This magical day was topped off with a huge feed of my favorite Chinese dish Da-Pan-Ji, or translated big pan chicken. Goodbyes were said and then it was off to the train station for the next leg of our adventure.