Today we continued to celebrate Paul's birthday with Vivian here. She rented a car, and we drove off to another national geological park in the area to see more amazing desert formations. Vivian explained to us that in China we were not in a desert, that the deserts are sand dunes. She instead called the area something along the lines of empty mountains. It all comes back to lumpers and splitters (whether you lump categories or differentiate between them). America lumps the desert. China splits. The desert is broken into four ecosystems in China. The place was empty; we ended up having a private bus drive us to each overlook and just sit there until we decided to move on to the next. Each bus there only had two to three people in them.
After leaving, we drove a short ways from the park before we pulled off to explore a canyon we had spotted on the drive in. We walked uphill on an ice river for a short way before the canyon dried up and split off. We then followed the branches usually choosing the most narrow ones, exploring as deep as we could into one side canyon. We managed to find two slots we could scramble up in off-width climbing fashion (my favorite style of climbing) and got to what appeared to be the last slot before the canyon topped or cliffed out.
Unfortunately, the sun was about to set so we turned back knowing it would be a slow climb up to the top, and that we didn't have our headlamps with us. As we reached the main canyon again, we followed it further, the giant walls of it awing us with every turn as we followed mysterious tire tracks to nowhere down this road. It was my favorite day of the expedition so far. We spent five hours exploring that canyon, but I wish we could have had a week there. Every side slot from the main canyon looked like another adventure to be had, and besides the tire tracks, there were no signs of humans anywhere, a different experience to have in China. I felt at home again within those canyons; exploring the world and just following the flow of water that has long since passed.
I wonder if my sense of home has changed since living on the road for the last two and a half years. Home is less a place for me and more of a feeling. One of comfort, freedom, and familiarity. That was what I felt today finally being back in a canyon.
Distance: 0 km
Total Distance: 1326 km
End: Zhangye (张掖)- Silk Road Youth Hostel
Written by Timb