The walking has already become a part of daily life for us now, and not every day is filled with flair and pizazz. However, it was still a significant day; today we arrived in Lanzhou—the capital of Gansu Province. Lanzhou was—and still is, I guess—a sort of bottleneck city for the Silk Road, as most of the land-based trade network that has existed within China since the late Han Dynasty passed through Lanzhou before heading west. Likewise everything from “no man's land” to the north and west came here before it had options to go elsewhere within China.
Lanzhou was one of those cities that defined the edge of civilization for China for a very long time. It was the last big city before life was known to be nomads and horse lords, deserts and desolation, and even surrounded by a bit of mystery and strange tales of western empires. Lanzhou is also significant for personal reasons; Lanzhou marks the first checkpoint on our long journey since it is from here that we must do our first border run.
What is a border run, you ask? A border run is similar to a beer run, but instead of popping over to the store and back for a few brews, we hop a flight out of China for a stamp in each of our passports then come back to where we left off. In our case, our visas state we can stay for 60 days at a time before doing one of these border runs. And domestic flights happen to be very cheap in China compared to countries like the U.S. So we plan to save a bunch of cash by flying within China to a border, cross on foot, and after re-entry (and the collection of that all-important circular red stamp), we hop a flight back to Lanzhou to continue the walk. If this sounds like a lot of hassle, that's because it is, but not as much as our usual registration ritual that happens most nights. Tonight we were escorted to a local police station by the hotel owner after we checked in where I helped explain the difference between the various visas and why Paul has two passports. All this took only 40 minutes, and again, Timb seized this opportunity to sleep at the back of the room.
Fun Fact of the day: Genghis Khan invented the passport by bestowing messengers and emissaries with paperwork that stated they were not a soldier and were not to be harmed. In this way, diplomatic affairs were conducted during war-time across vast expanses of land and quite possibly sparking the expression “don’t kill the messenger.”
Distance: 20 km
Total Distance: 785 km
End: Lanzhou (兰州)- hotel
Written by Pat