This section of our ride in China brought the most unexptected and (in my opinion) the most beautiful riding in my time on a bike in this country. For the most part the road conditions were great. Yes it was chilly, (one night it was -10C) and the wind got to us a few times, but worth it.
Cycle Tourist Route Notes: We took the G315 out of Xining and turned north onto the S204 where there were a couple of mountain passes (all sealed). The pass just before Qilan was 4208 meters and totally worth the climb for the 30km into the town. We were only allowed to stay in the “Qilan Hotel” here. (see police escort) Followed the S204 west until it met the S213 which was a dirt road going over another 4000m plus pass. The climb up (northward) wasn’t bad, but the last 20km of the 60km dirt road was extremely rough, slow, and frustrating. It did end at the town of Sunnan which was 70km from the start of the dirt, not 50km like the road sign said. From here to Zhangye was a brand new smooth road.
A full set of photos for this area is now available on our Xining to Zhangye flickr album.