Monday, December 2, 2013

Qinghai lake

There is really nothing going through that road, except buses. So I hitchhike a bus. The mountains are high, we go over endless prairies over 3000 meters high. On my map there are two sinusoidal roads. The first one goes up, the other one should go down. It doesn't. 3000 meters appearently isn't high enough, the road climbs to 3700. The Kyrgyz don't manage to build roads on that altitude, the Chinese have not only excellent roads but even a pay toll there. But oh my god, I was scared yesterday at 2500m, should I panic now? Let's rather keep calm and enjoy the landscape, the lake will be lower. And I'll find a solution to sleep, I'm a resourceful guy.
The lake is lower, yeah. At 3200. Higher than Son-Kul. It's situated inside a huge high plateau. It's a combination of taiga and mountains, I wonder what the temperature will be there...
The lake
The driver lets me out in front of a hotel. He knows that I have no money for this but appearently it's not a problem for chinese people to leave people at 3200 meters of altitude in winter. The most important think is not to see them die, signing death sentences that's ok and an integral trait of chinese culture. I am starting to think that Xinjiang is the most hospitable province of all and that is a very scary thought (I have been in 3 regions so far, Xinjiang, Gansu and now Qinqhai).
I start looking for places to sleep before it gets dark. I get refused at a first house, I am politely asked to put my tent outside their land. Nobody's going to help me, fine. I don't need your permission you heartless chinese people! I don't need you to invite me, I will invite myself. The houses are sparse around the lake and the terrains are huge. There are a lot of mud houses with nobody in them. They are like the ones owned by the poorest families in Kyryzstan. A room with a stove and an elevated bed. Just a bit more than a Yurt. Here they are situated on the other side of the properties, barely visible from the main houses and unused. One of them really has a stove, I can make a fire and sleep on the elevated bed. I should be able to fight any col temperature. There is nothing to fuel the stove but fortunately I find some coal in another mud house.
Mud houses

That's it, problem solved.
Anyway, I go to that hotel, just for the sake of trying. Turns out it's a youth hostel and it's completly empty because it's winter.
"Hello, I am a traveller bla bla bla, can I stay at your place for free?" says my tablet.
"ok." says the lady.
The hostel

I get a room, unheated but with a whole lot of blankets. I should keep quiet, however. "The authority" didn't allow me to stay for free, I have to pay.
Actually, the chinese government wants to have a precise record of every night a tourist spends in the country. That's why, at every hotel, they enter my passport number into their computer. So most importantly, I have to register. And if I register I have to pay otherwise the registration is not valid.
But the lady takes a risk.
"I admire your courage, she writes. That is why I want to help you. If someone asks, just tell them you payed 20 yuan."
Maybe the people are not so bad, maybe they're just afraid to go against the government's regulation. "The authority" is scary.
Next morning it's cold, freezing cold. I try to hitchhike but nobody stops. These are people from villages, they should be more used to help each other than people from cities. But no, they see a human being in freezing cold of 3200 meters and they just pass by. Some of them stop and demand money. Only the tenth car that stops takes me for free. I am freezing at that point, my fingers are numb and I pretty much don't care where they take me.
I also notice that these people don't understand a whole lot of chinese mandarin, they speak a weird different language which is unlike mandarin and also unlike any turkic language. The inscriptions on buildings I pass are also in a weird script. Unfortunately, these people are so unhospitable that I won't have the chance to get close enough to them to learn about their culture.
Strange person

My mission today is: leave this province and if I'm lucky enough, get to Ninxua Hui, autonomus region of the Hui people. A nicer brand of chinese perhaps? I really hope so.