We started late again today, which is becoming a habit as we follow the lead of the sun. We are still traveling fast though, and it took only a brief stretch of gradual uphill to remind us that we have been walking downhill for about a week now. That will surely change again, though it is nice to be riding the high of the mountain strengthening on these all but flat roads. As we drifted towards the high-rises in the distance, we can see the end of our day. It is Lanzhou, at the edge of the light smog. It feels pretty incredible to be so close to it. Lanzhou represents the first really large checkpoint on our route. This is where we will do our first border run from and back to the capital of Gansu.
It feels almost like we have well and graduated from the training phase of this expedition (to use some outward bound terminology) and are now in full swing. Our systems, except for maybe the mid-winter ones, have all been practiced, assessed, tweaked, thrown out or feel dialed. Not to say they won’t continue to change, or that we have even implemented all our ideas, but we now know some that work and some that don’t.
Finding a place to stay today, we followed the usual clumsy dance routine of hotels we have become accustomed to. Pat went into a hotel to ask for a room, found no one working there, got confused through a miscommunication, finally a manager arrived, we agreed to a price, they asked for our Chinese IDs, we said we had passports, she said the place was too small for foreigners and that we would need to go to a different hotel. That is how well it goes even when using ten words of Chinese and three of which are “I hear you but don’t understand,” and we are still expected to have Chinese IDs. We then continued to another hotel, and this one said they would immediately take us to a police station so we could be registered and then we could check in. We went to the police station where the police asked Paul and Pat some questions while I took a nap in the back of the room. After we went back to the hotel to find we had not been registered, the boss then took our passports and me up to an office to make photocopies of the ID page, visa and entry stamp. Luckily, although I spoke no Chinese to discuss it, I knew what needed to be copied, as this has become a ritual. I quickly found the pages and put them on the copier while the boss pressed the copy button. Finally, with the copies made for registration, we went to our room. Having just enough time passed for Pat to begin to take a shower, we received our accustomed knock on the door. A hotel worker came into the room turning off the lights on Pat in the shower to this time take pictures on a phone of our passports. Having lost some of my patience for this process that had carried on for a while, I handed over the passports and continued the Magic the Gathering draft simulation I was doing with Paul online.
Unfortunately the hotel worker was not understanding all the stamps and visas in our passports then went about taking pictures of every page, inundating the process with around 60 extra photos. Pat luckily came out of the shower to rescue the process. Even with it dragging this was one of the better nights as we knew from the start we would not be sent packing out of the hotel four hours into our stay. Tonight instead we got to settle in and play some Magic.