Across Continents

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Blurred vision

November 7th, 2010

Pingliang. Why it had merited inclusion in my less than reliable guide book still eluded me. True, it is the largest town along the northern valley route from Dingxi to Xi’an. But that hardly makes it notable. You suspected one of the contributors had made a brief stop there, stayed in the one hotel it mentions. And was short of copy.

Generic town - web

My next stop, Jingchuan, similar but smaller. Pleasant enough. But there’s a sameness with many of these provincial towns and cities. They begin to blur after a while. Perhaps because they’ve grown substantially in a relatively short period. Just a few decades.

Whatever you might think of English county towns or cities like – Cheltenham, Bath or Bristol for example – they are at least different. As befits the varied influences on their development, be that Roman or Regency, or just plain seafaring.

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Shy of the summit

November 5th, 2010

I felt a bit disappointed. Cheated even. Had hoped to summit at over eight thousand feet. A record for the expedition. But expectations of a col had been dashed by a tunnel through the mountain. There were consolations. I’d still achieved over seven thousand six hundred feet. A first. It was just that eight thousand had a nice ring to it. And the tunnel was a challenge in itself. All two miles of it.

I’d left the town of Jingning a few hours after sunrise. Bright and crisp. Soon warmed by the steady switchbacks on the climb east. Then a barely perceptible gradient across a wide, flat valley bottom. Farmers busy harvesting in the last of the season’s sweetcorn and potatoes. Beyond the small town of Longde a more formidable climb. To the tunnel.

Length uncertain. Not even a glimmer from the other end. No place for a puncture. I’d have been content to ride through the tunnel alone. However, a young family wasn’t having any of this. A convoy was assembled. Lorry behind me. Four-by-four in front, its hazard lights on. And off we went. Hoping I’d not encounter a pothole. Or, if I did, the truck driver would be quick on the brakes.

At altitude  - web

Two miles later bright sunshine. Gone, for a short while at least, the cultivated hillside terraces. In their place woodlands. It felt more in keeping with being at close on eight thousand feet.

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