Riding through the small oasis settlements beyond Yumen has been very enjoyable as the countryside is quiet and unspoilt and the people friendly but curious. Below is the crowd we attracted at a lunch stop! However we also had our first brush with officialdom. At our first overnight stop Sandaogou we were approached by a very earnest and polite young policeman who required us to sign a registration form – the first time it has happened since I started riding! Then at the next village we were met by a posse of local officials who wanted to examine our passports, know where we were going, how long we were staying etc – I suspect they were just nosey.
On Wednesday we stayed at Bulongqi, where there are the ruins of an old city which French and Cable estimated must have held at least 50,000 inhabitants. All that can be seen now is a ruined citadel and the remains of the old city wall. Unfortunately we found no sign of the treasure which lies buried beneath according to local legend. It would have come in handy. The following day I had planned a slight detour which turned out to be an excellent decision, as it took us along a deserted gravel road for miles through an extensive area of wetland inhabited by a variety of birds, some of which we recognised (herons)and some not. But it was a long and weary day’s ride with no welcoming inn at the end, so we were very grateful to find shelter in the building below, courtesy of local farmer Mr Chen. The black mats are actually cotton seeds spread out to air before planting.