Taboo Town

Nicholas Quirke was enjoying the sensation of being an outlaw as a view that laowais were not permitted to see slowly emerged on 5 October 2020. The scene of the mountains as the sun slowly began to rise was spectacular and he looked forward too getting the day started and seeing the landscape they had missed driving in the dark the night before. Over a simple breakfast another westerner appeared who had experienced same problems . He was an Australian living and working in Nanjing and the police had told him he was not allowed to stay even though he had residency. They left quickly at 7.30 as asked and headed towards the road the had travelled the day before to reach one of Qulian mountains range highest peak. First they stopped just outside of the hotel to photo the mountains from a viewing platform. A sense of urgency and doing something forbidden got hold of him and they hoped that the police did not drive by and see him. They were heading for Binggou Dayan mountain, thee highest with an altitude over 4000m and it meant driving back over some of the roads they had taken the previous night. What had been dark foreboding shapes in a snow storm were now part of a beautiful mountain vista of fields and ravines. It was good too to see the rough quality of the roads they had been driving on and see why it had been so utterly uncomfortable and slow. Vibrant autumnal colours gave way to mountain streams, craggy rocks and eventually a peak and shrine at 4120m shrouded in cloud and snow. The temperature was -3 degree and to his surprise, aside from the large numbers denoting the altitude, there were vendors selling hot baked sweet potatoes. He had forgotten to pack cloves and desperately needed to hold something warm in his hands and the warm snack was exactly what he needed. He wandered round the shrine and then the obligatory photographs with the oxygen cans they had bought to counteract any altitude sickness they might endure were taken. He also used the hand warmers his sister had thoughtful packed for Siberia and never needed to utilise. The eventual destination was Zhangye a city in Gansu province but the journey there took them back through Qilian where they stopped and bought twisted dough and warm soya milk and along the plains north of the Qilian mountains. They stopped at a working Gelugpa monastery, A’Rou temple established by the Rou tribe in 1943 in the foothills of after roaming the Qinghai Lake region since 1783. It was unique way of building temples by nomads and had once been the largest tent temple in the world. It was fascinating to see the temples that had grown up around the encampment and the variety of worship practices. A second temple was hard to locate and instead they continued along the road through the alpine scenery, autumnal meadow and abundant pastures set against some stunning alpine scenery and blue skies. They stopped twice on the journey to revel in the scenery and explore a temple they discovered built into the rock of the . Once the dramatic scenery was left behind and the road was a more mundane regular scene they settled into playing games in the car to keep them amused and awake. It was a relief to check into a hotel where his presence wasn’t taboo and to celebrate his liberty they set off to investigate Zhangye’s famed night market where he was treated to local cuisine, including drinking dough water and eating noodles which he had to slurp from the bowl as the locals did. The hotel was 5km from the market and he was excited to see that the town operated scooters rather than bikes and they sped their way back to the amusement of many locals. With the promise of more awesome scenery the next day he was able to get a satisfying sleep

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