Labrang Buddhist Monastery.

Rather than visit the city of Lanzhou the Anglophone group opted to visit the nearby Buddhist monastery of Labrang at Xiahe. This proved surprisingly hard work.

The road from Jiayuguan to Wuwei was straightforward, however beyond here things got difficult. The only practical method of navigating is to get Patrick to ask the way in Chinese, however because Patrick does not drive and is not used to navigating from a map the results are often unpredictable.

We still do not know how we got from Hakou to Linxia. We do know it involved a three hour wait in a 5km traffic queue opposite several trucks carrying bees, a 20 minute ferry crossing of the Yellow river and an appalling road not on any of our maps.

Unfortunately the ramp onto and off the ferry was too steep for Kon-Tiki and great care had to be taken to avoid damage to her LPG tank.

Because Kon-Tiki was having alternator problems and needed to get a punctured tire repaired Les, Margaret and Patrick opted to stay in Linxia for a few hours whilst the rest of us drove on to the monastery, a distance of "about 70km". Unfortunately the last 30km of the 100km road to the monastery turned out to be "under repair". (The term "under repair" in China needs clarification. The final 30km of road to Xiahe used to be a narrow, well surfaced road running between tall trees. It may have been too small for the expected traffic. Sometime ago (a year or two?) the old road was ripped up and new cuttings and embankments bulldozed, many of the old bridges were demolished. Realizing that it was now impossible to drive to Xiahe an off-road obstacle course was then "constructed" over the earth works suitable only for 4 x 4 trucks. Construction, by hand, of the new road then began. It may be finished in two or three years.)

Mog, Womble, Bigfoot and K-Nine made it to the monastery by about 17:00 on the 29th where we are parked in the grounds of the Monastery Guesthouse ($1USA per van per night). Alas by the time Kon-Tiki made it to the start of the bad road it was getting late and they decided not to risk the road in the dark and returned to Linxia.

During the night of the 29th it rained! The road is now impassible (at least to Womble and K-Nine) so we are stuck here and Kon-Tiki is stuck in Linxia. Luckily GSM (cell) phones and SMS (text) messages work well in China.

Labrang Buddhist Monastery in the rain.We have taken the opportunity to tour the monastery, eat Tibetan food (everything here is "Tibetan" in style) and repair Womble.

Unlike all the other Anglophone vans Womble is a conventional coach built campervan with a wooden floor and insulated aluminium clad walls. Unfortunately the builders of Womble did not expect her to be driven over Chinese (or Georgian) roads and the walls are falling off, literally. Carl and Clive have spent the last two hours with an electric drill and 50 very large screws trying to re-attach the walls to the floor. Maureen will now no longer be able to see the ground in the gap between the bathroom wall and the floor!

As far as we know the French are expected in Lanzhou on the 1st of August where they should collect spare parts that have been sent from France. We may meet up with them in the next few days.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2002-07-30.