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Archive for June, 2006

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Slacking In Tumung

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Although the amenities at our bing guan are sparse here in Tumung (and I just learned the name of the town from someone looking over my shoulder as I typed), we’ve taken an extra day here. The ungodly heat and dust-kicking wind sealed our fate, and since we’re making okay time now, we’re justifying our stay.

Here’s the alley with where we found the internet cafe.
(Rob and Marsh; photo shows a dusty little road in the town.)

                                                  Cafes down here.JPG

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The Butt That Beckoned 1,000 Trucks

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Helen of Troy, whose beauty launched 1,000 ships, certainly had it goin’ on. What she lacked, however, was a lilly white butt that, when bared and flapping in the wind so as to get down to bidness, could beckon a thousand putt-putt trucks, motorcycles and even a bit of foot traffic.
Apparently my behind is like a shining beacon tower in the fog, for it not only compels people to crawl out of the dry desert Earth, but trucks appear on roads that weren’t there whenever I drop me skivvies to relieve myself.
So if you ask me then, launching ships that are already in the water is no big feat.
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Bad News Good News

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Unable to shake our internet jones, we decided to pop into the cafe one more time before hitting the road this morning.  So while we’re here, I thought I’d share our recent news.

The bad news is that we’re facing many days of hiking in 90+ degree heat.  Another disheartening thing I learned last night is that the World Cup ends July 9th…GACK!!  I couldn’t believe this sentence came out of my mouth last night (and I’m compiling a list of the top ten things I never thought I’d hear myself say, which I’m sure will contain more than just ten), but when Ig informed me of the iminent end I blurted, “Oh my gawd!  What’re we gonna do without football?!”

Wow, I’m even shaking my head at that one as I write.

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Playing The Tourist

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Arriving in our check point cities and other small towns where we’ve taken breaks has been very much the same.  A few kilometers out of town, Ig will start trying to convince me that we’ve actully reached town and can hail a taxi to a bing guan. 

“Look!” he said once, pointing to a sign completely in Mandarin.  “That sign right there says, ‘No foot traffic beyond this point–catch a cab!'” 

Unable to convince me as of yet, the unflailing Ig perseveres and keeps giving this tactic the ole’ college try.

When we reach a hotel, I usually fall into bed and sleep for a few hours, whereas Ig showers up and flips around the tube.

Then we spend the entire next two days sleeping, watching the World Cup and gorging ourselves.  Well, okay, I gorge myself until I’m sick, and Ig merely picks at the junk he’s bought.

At any rate, we don’t ever have the energy to get out and explore, but we decided today we’d play the tourists.  Unfortunately I have no tube socks or Hawaiian shirt, so my crazy tan lines and camoflage tee had to do.

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I Think I’m About To Be Sick

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

After getting out my camera and hooking it up to the computer to add photos to the last page, I’m sitting here fighting tears; there’s only one photo on my memory card, a picture I took from the hotel window this morning.
When I tried to take the photo, there was a message on the camera screen that I’d not seen before. Having left my instruction booklet in Beijing to save weight, I had no idea what was going on when given the y/n option. I chose no, but the camera refused to take a photo. Several tries later, I chose yes, and then the camera obliged.
I apparently erased all my photos.
Gone are all the photos of the Wall in desolate areas. Gone are all the lonely mile markers ranging from 2900k to 2400k. Gone are the photos of Ig going over our maps using chopsticks as pointers, Ig clipping along in front of me, and Ig next to a shepherd covered in sheepskin from hat to shoes. Gone are the photos of a kind young man who found us beds to sleep in on a cold night when I was sick and there was no bing guan in the village, and gone are the photos of an ancient mummy I took in the museum he looked after. Gone are my photos of the communist murals showcasing happy families with Mao’s little Red Book painted on village walls, and erased forever is the lonely ancient shepherd who we came across at his hut in the desert who seemed so excited to see another human being that he couldn’t stop touching us.
That said, I’m off to be a total chick and have a good cry.

Map Madness

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

With our iminent departure from the Hexi Corridor coming up (Hexi Corridor…sounds mysterious, dudn’ it?), The Ig and I have gone over our maps several times.
It doesn’t matter how many times we go over them, there just doesn’t seem to be an easy way to Zhongwei. By easy I mean a straightforward route with towns once a day or even every few days.
Hiking the railway would be the shortest route, but short doesn’t necessarily mean easy; fenced-in, unevenly spaced and awkward, the last time we followed the tracks they were elevated without a wide enough space to walk on either side. If we take the tracks this time, it means popping up into Inner Mongolia for a day or two into the desert with very few towns to get water and food.
If we follow our beloved 312, it means going out of our way and adding a few extra days.
Although we have three different sets of maps, not one has proved to be accurate. Our Chinese map has been the most reliable when it comes to marked bits of the Wall. Towns on the map, however, sometimes seem to have vanished from where they’re supposed to be, and sometimes we’re surprised to find bustling little towns not even marked.
We can’t trust our maps, and we certainly can’t trust ourselves, so we’re gonna be wingin’ this next bit.
The plan is to take the tracks out of Wuwei for a day or two and then hit Road 308.
In a country of over 3 billion people, we’re sure to find help if we need it, especially on the roads. And if we happen to need help and can’t find anyone around for miles, all I have to do is try and releive myslef, and someone is certain to show up. Trust me on this one, as I speak from experience.
Physically we’re ready; new blisters are minor, and we’re in much better shape than when we started.
Our mental states are questionable to everyone (ourselves included), and although we’re in good spirits, we decided to take an extra rest day here in Wuwei before we start this next long slog.
With the Triple Dog Dare up my sleeve, hopefully we’ll be able to report at least once more from Gansu Province after leaving Wuwei. I’ll drop another post tonight after we check out the town a bit, and after that we’ll catch ya from Ningxia, where it’ll be one provnce down, four to go!

Additons

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

I finally had some time to make some random photo pages.  Check ’em on the right, and when I have more time (possibly tonight, but I’ve already been here for four hours) I’ll get more up.

Enjoy!

All Points Bulletin!

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Calling all cars!
Calling all donkey carts!
Be on the lookout for a moderately padded butt, last seen somewhere between Shandan and Wuwei!
That’s right, I’ve arrived in Wuwei only to look in the mirror to see that somewhere after Shandan, my ass went on the lam. Although I’m one of those people who always thinks they could lose 5 more pounds, I’m quite upset about this loss. Besides looking better with a little pack on yer back, it also provides comfort. It’s no wonder then, that sitting in the dirt keeps getting increasingly uncomfortable.
The Ig is fast losing his stomache as well. Far from wanting an APB on it, it’s something he’s not at all upset about.
As long as we’re on the subject of our bodies, we’d like to introduce you to a hot new trend we’ve started; melanin art. As you can see below, our coolness of creation is bound to set off crazy tan lines the world over.
(Rob and Marsh; first photo shows Ig’s tan legs and lilly white feet. Second photo shows white marks on my feet from my sandal straps…here we come NYC!)
Foot Art1.JPG

Foot Art2.JPG

Schoolyard Crush

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

About 10k East of Zhangye The Ig and I experienced the most fun we’d had on the road since starting. A few weeks later it still holds as tops, so I thought I’d share a bit.
As per the norm, when Ig and I stopped for a break by a cooler filled with cold sctuff, we were not long without a small, curious crowd milling about.
We bought a couple cold waters and sat beneath a tarp in the shade as the usual questions were asked.
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
You idiots do know we have buses here, right?
Would you like some beer?
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Oh How I Love The Triple-Dog Dare

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

At the moment The Ig and I are a mere 27k away from our second check-point city, Wuwei. If we weren’t so old and lazy, we might stop hiding from the scorching heat for a moment and try to make it there tonight. As it is, however, we’ll wait out the heat for a bit and reach Wuwei tommorrow; we’re both tired from a sleepless night in our tents last night, where we weathered out a freak wind storm.
Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke to find my tent lying on my face and the wind screaming outside. As I sat up and emerged from my mummy bag to don my sandals, the words I blurted were far from Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. I went outside, and with airborn sand stinging my skin, restaked my tent.
I climbed back in, happy to be out of the elements. I took off my sandals and flopped back down, only to find the tent laying on my pillow again. What I blurted this time wasn’t nearly as sweet as what I’d spat the first time.
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