Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Riding the Wall

For the last five days since leaving Shandan stud and returning to where we left off, we have been riding along the Silk road. This has kept us within a stone’s throw of the Great Wall for much of the way, and we have sometimes been able to get off the main road and ride alongside it, which has been a thrill. The photo below was taken on a ten kilometre stretch that we rode along.

Zorbee is much improved, so we have brought him back into walking work, and it has been a relief to have our pacesetter back in action. On Saturday we climbed over a stunning mountain pass between snow capped peaks, unfortunately cloaked in mist and icy drizzle so photos were difficult. The small, often rough road was almost deserted, thanks to the expressway which siphons off all the heavy traffic. Bleak grassland was grazed by small flocks of sheep guarded by shepherds in enormous identical sheepskin cloaks which appear to be all the rage among the shepherding fraternity in the highlands of Gansu. Along the side of the expressway strange orange plastic bags were strung up – they turned out to contain wild mushrooms for sale by people camped out in little tents.

Below are Hua and Zorbee in front of the strangely named ‘Cosmetic Mountain’ after the rain had cleared a bit.

At Chang Cheng Kou or Great Wall gap, where the expressway ploughs through the Wall, we stayed at the restful courtyard house of Chen Huai, a photographer and local expert on the Hexi corridor (the area in Gansu through which the Silk Road passes) whom we had met a couple of weeks earlier. Great Wall expert William Lindesay has also stayed at his house, so we were in good company! The horses had a huge grassy yard to roam in and were in seventh heaven.

I am constantly amazed at the changes in temperature as we ride. From the freezing conditions crossing the pass for which I was clad in thermal underwear and several layers of warm clothing, today I was riding in a short sleeved top for much of the way!
We are now just outside Zhangye, which is the last major town before Jiayuguan, so we are effectively about to start the last leg – hopefully we will be able to reach the end of the Great Wall in about a week, all being well.

The other piece of news is that now Zorbee is better, Li Jing has just arrived back.

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