14 May, 2008

In the desert you can remember your name because there ain't no-one there to give you no shame (Dewey Bunnell 1971).

After 24 hours of even further frustration where it looked like I was going to have to wait a week to purchse a train ticket, the good news is that I now have a ticket to Ulan Bataar in my hot little hands, it leaves at 11.15 tonight and takes 14 hours for the 800km journey. I also have to work out how I return to China once I reach Ulan Bataar (they won't sell me a ticket here in China). I have arranged for the hotel manager in Erenhot to agree to look after the Haobon for me a few days - it'll be parked in the hotel courtyard whilst I'm away.

It's still bloody annoying having to take the train as I really, really wanted to ride through the Gobi desert (I've ridden through deserts on all other continents except Asia). However, I am on the fringe of the desert in Erenhot, and have taken a few offroad rides exploring the local dinosaur diggings (yep, that's the only thing Erenhot is famous for), so I've not totally missed out.

I have also caught up on the news about the Sichuan earthquake. I travelled through Sichuan 11 days before the quake. I saw on TV last night that in one of the towns I passed through (Da Xian) over 200 people were killed so it looks like it was an almost close call. It's interesting to note, in hindsight, that there were landslide warnings on a lot of the roads I rode in that neighbourhod and quite a few times there were BIG rocks (60cm square) lying in the middle of the road that had recently fallen. At other times small rocks actually fell onto the road right in front of me. I guess in any earthquake there is always a bit of a lead up and forewarning.

I'm not surprised to hear about the extent of the casualties as some of the construction in the mountains is very rough and ready. Even so, it doesn't matter where it happens, or how well dwellings are built, there is always loss of life as the Newcastle earthquake and Thredbo landslide in Australia attest to.

I've been reading the Melbourne Age website and noticed an earthquake report from a Melburnian living in Chengdu in China. I recognised his name immediately as an ex-colleague from 20-25 years ago - it truly is a small world.

I'm using the rest of this afternoon to update this blog and hopefully get some pictures up. The problem of course, is that I can't actually see what I am posting. The Chinese government blocks all sites with the letters B L O G in the name so whilst I can edit these posts, I can't display the final formatted blog. In addition, the big challenge has been getting photos online as the links constantly fail as soon as a largish file is uploaded.

Your faithful correspondent....