We managed to see one thing before leaving Qilian, and that was the sunrise at the top of the mountain. We managed to find a taxi driver willing to take us up there at 5:30am, so instead of charging the usual $40 RMB, he requested an additional $10 RMB. So for the cost of a coke in a North American vending machine, I made someone wake up 3hours before usual work time! Score.
The view up there is AMAZING. Can you imagine, ice capped mountain ranges, with exposed red soil, over-layed with patches of golden yellow fields?? Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t cooperate again and we didn’t really see much of the sun. The scenes were quite amazing, and a lot of photographers were already there waiting by the time we got there in the dark at 5:45am.
Afterwards, we had a bowl of halal beef noodle soup, which is just ridiculously good. Possibly the best noodle soup I’ve ever had! This bowl of freshly strewn noodles in this rich savoury broth costs a whopping $6RMB! As a bonus, this place had a green smiley face for its “restaurant cleanliness” rating as given by the government, the first place we’ve seen this rating so far…
We then took two bus rides over to a neighbouring city called Zhangye, which is located in the Gansu (甘肃) province. We’ve noticed that, sometimes the best scenery lies on the road and not at the destination, and this bus ride certainly had lots to see. The bus route takes us directly through Black River Gorge (黑河峡谷), which had some pretty cool terrain, giving us a feel of whats to come. After a lot of transportation mishaps (city has 500k people, but has a north/east/west bus station?), we finally got to the outskirts of the city to see what we wanted to see, the Danxia landscape.
The landscape is rugged and raw, similar to what I’d expect from a desert, except this national park is surrounded by corn fields! The colourful landscapes reminds me of a slice of cake that toppled over sideways by nature. So far, this was the coolest natural landscape I’ve seen, along with Banff! Well worth the trip up! And to continue the theme, the sun did not cooperate with us and it hid behind clouds all day, so the landscape pictures aren’t as amazing as it could be.
We stayed nearby the park inside a farmer’s house, and it had this strange problem we’ve never seen before. The showers ONLY produced piping hot water….. I don’t know how the sun works in pitch-farmfield-darkness to heat water, but these solar-powered heaters worked like a charm. Another strange fact was, the washroom only allowed for showers, it didn’t have any toilets! We had to walk like 5mins to use the washroom….. Strange strange (first world?) problems.
Note: This is extremely popular place for photographers, and boy did I feel like a noob with my camera. On average the people that arrived there had 1.25 DSLRs, as some people liked to carry two. And if I didn’t know, I thought Canon only produced 1D or 5D, and L glass. Or the guy with a Leica M9 on his neck, Gitzo tripod in his left and a 1Ds on his right. Oh, and I saw a Mamiya LEAF camera. CRAZY. Do I have camera-envy? You bet.