Today was our first day in the real desert. While the morning was still nice and cool we were hit by a head wind and temperatures in the mid 40s. (It felt more like 60!) It was like cycling into a hair dryer. While riding along I was taking in Sudan - literally. Through my nose, mouth, and ears. There is sand and dust everywhere. And dead camels next to the road. Usually one smells them before they can be seen. I am completely spent today. Riding in this heat seems to take double the effort.
We were a much happier lot today. Weather was good and we all were in camp by 3 pm.
Our camp sites so far were just at the side of the road (literally). The trucks just pull off at a certain point and we pitch our tents all around it. Yesterday it was between 2 highway lanes. Today is next to a truck weighbridge with the muezzin calling every hour. Will let you know tomorrow if/when he is off duty.
By the way the reason I don't update you on the scenery here is simple - there is none.
… unfortunately due to my haste to get into Tibet in my last update I rushed from Shangri -La to Chengdu without elaborating much about the towns in between. The main reason for this though was because I could not find much of interest to see or do in Daocheng, Litang or Kangding. They were just stopover towns on my journey to Chengdu. However I must emphasize that the meandering and mountainous path through these towns was more of the reason for venturing along this route. Robert Persig said something to the effect of , ‘… the destination is indefinite.
... Vietnam was astonishing and the ladies unforgettable. I would've liked to have stayed a week longer as planned but China, and especially the bereaucratically entangled Tibet, beckoned. Getting across the Lao Cai - Hekou border was easier than anticipated, except for the heat and my excessive perspiring and body odour. Though the latter two issues may have advanced my passage through. As expected, all my bags and parcels were opened and inspected. The only query was with regards to the packets of Imana super soya mince I was lugging around.
.. got to the Laos border with no local currency at all. It's always wise to have just a little for contingencies. I was fortunate I didn't need any. Some of the other backpackers on the bus had a problem with the imigration authorities though. They had hoped to withdraw U.S $ at an ATM but didn't get to. As fate would have it we all had to pay the immigration authorities two dollars each to get a stamp out. Some of us considered crossing without getting a stamp out but than the immigration personel on the other side wouldn't allow you in and you may be in even bigger trouble.