When I got up, I wasn’t sure whether I would get to the 3000km marker today.
…well eventually I did, so I had to name this post “3-0-0-0”, but if it hadn’t been for that, I could have chosen from these three working titles:
1) “the Chinese dream”
2) “Aaah, it’s a foreign invasion!!”
3) “dead deadly desert”
The first one, called “the Chinese dream” is about the following two pictures:
Okay, you can always say that this is not an appropriate definition of “the dream”, but I think for many people in the countryside, a nice little house like this is at least part of it:
Kind of reminded me of what you see on old photographs of American Suburbia from the 1950s.
I kept walking for only so long, and then I got my second title – “Aaah, it’s a foreign invasion!!”
Well, first it wasn’t really an invasion. It was just these two dudes, Mariusz and Marcin from Poland:
They had been riding their bicycles all the way from Athens (hint: original Olympics), and they were going to go all the way to Beijing (hint: Olympics 2008).
Cool guys. We got some cold drinks in a little shop and I told them about the white yaks in Tianzhu (the white yak, the majestic, and the worm)…
Then I learned that they were part of a large group of bikers, and that there was an even larger group from Paris riding along with them – altogether way more than 100 people, all of them on bicycles, complete with support trucks and everything.
… it was an invasion!!
I told the guys and gals from the village, and they got so happy and excited – more foreigners would be passing through here today than most of them had ever seen in a lifetime:
Then, right after I had said good-bye and good luck to the two Polish lads, the real invasion began.
It was the French group, and it was truly massive. So many people!
Much to my disappointment, most of them seemed too busy to stop for a chat. They just kind of zoomed by, turning into red flashes and leaving me with my confused “bonjour”, and the embarrassed feeling of someone who realizes he is the only one applauding in an otherwise completely silent audience.
…some of them did stop though, and I had an awesome time with them:
Not all of them were from France actually – there were Americans, Belgians, Chinese, and even the occasional German riding along!
One of the Chinese guys was from a part of Beijing only minutes away from Beijing (the first day) – my home, the place were I had started from!
Well, the world is small, I thought.
…and then I found out just HOW small it can really be:
Believe it or not: one of the German guys was actually from Hannover (30km from my beloved Bad Nenndorf) – and he had been to school with my former art instructor Frau Nickel! Isn’t that cool?
I really didn’t know what to say, I was having such a great time:
Since they were planning to go roughly the same route to Beijing that I had come from, I figured it might be a good idea to show them the altitude chart of the complete distance:
Note: the actual distance is a bit longer than on the chart, and the high peak around 1100km is Gufengshan (on the flank), which can be ignored.
When the big rush of foreign invaders had passed by, I was alone on the road again:
…and then the road suddenly changed its appearance, thus providing me with my third title:
Much like that one day before (waiting for Godobi), this was the “dead deadly desert” – only this time it was much larger, and it felt like it was there to stay.
The only shade I could find to sit down and have a nice watermelon was here:
…and every 10 minutes I was forced to scoot over to remain halfway in the shade.
Somewhere around 30km into the walk, when I already knew that I would have to do my dance today and call it “3-0-0-0”, I ran into the tail of the French group:
The two dudes, a Frenchman in his early 50s and a young student from Shijiazhuang (living large in the dust), had been taking it easy that afternoon, hanging out with some folks on the way.
From the way the two were talking to each other, it seemed like they had formed a good team – and both of them were definitely having the time of their lives out here in the desert, riding their bikes under the peaceful blue skies of what some people might call international friendship and understanding.
This is it, I thought, this is why we do these things!
I mean: walking the walk can be fun, and I’m sure riding a bike around the world would be cool too – but it’s the friends that we find on the way who make these things really worthwhile. It’s them and nothing else.
Well, pretty landscapes can be nice too though:
Then I finally got to the magical point of exactly 3000 kilometers. I like to think of it as three million steps:
I parked the caboose and got out the camera – only to painfully realize that it didn’t work anymore! I had dropped it before when I was trying to film the French bikers rushing by, but I hadn’t really paid that much attention to it. And now it was broken, and there would be no dancing clip for the 3000km!!
There had been a dance at 1000km: 1-0-0-0
And there had been another one at 2000km: 2-0-0-0
Just what was I supposed to do now, with no camera to film the 3000km dance?
I thought about dancing just for the heck of it, without even filming. Or taking several pictures of myself dancing, and then editing them into a video after.
But then I got this most awesome idea and turned it into a master-plan: I would just sit here and wait for the next foreign biker to pass by – they would all have digital cameras after all!
…or so I thought. The first couple from Poland/Lithuania hadn’t brought a camera to the trip, the second couple (also from Poland) had one, but then it didn’t work out with my memory card.
Then a single biker showed up: Andrzej Gonski.
Andrzej is a very charming electrical engineer from Poland who is now retired and carries a big smile through the Western Chinese desert. He speaks a bit of English and a bit of French, so I was able to explain my situation to him. The good man laughed for a while and then said he would be very happy to help.
Luckily enough, his camera was more than sufficient for my purposes, and so we came up with this short film, which is called “dancing machine”, and which I am presenting to you in full-length, mainly because it is so good it deserves a complete screening:
…after the party was over and we had said good-bye and good luck, I didn’t have to walk very far to get to a small village called Yuanshanzi:
Sitting in the evening light, looking at the snowcapped mountains in the distance, thinking of all the desert and of all the people, of all the friendliness and of all the dancing, I somehow felt very… content.
I guess happy is a good word too.