We took a rest day in Zhangye and found a bike shop to fix our back wheels. Mine was wobbling and had two bent spokes from a little incident a few weeks prior in which the handle of a five gallon bucket bounced up and got wrapped around the axle of my wheel and caught in the spokes. That mess took a while to untangle. I was also concerned about the bump I felt in the back with every rotation. Cody had snapped spoke a ways back and this needed attention. A nice young mechanic replaced our damaged spokes and trued our wheels, bless him, it takes a bit of patience. I also finally found a quality bike pump, the fourth one of the trip and hopefully the last. After this we ate a delicious, massive lunch, did a little food shop and called it a day.
Inspired by the rocks we saw on our way in, I decided to look up the “painted hills of China,” also known as the “rainbow mountains.” They had been in the back of my mind or a while now. Looking back, I must have learned of them from National Geographic magazine at least a decade ago. I had always wanted to see them, but it had never crossed my mind that I would actually get around to doing so, much less seeing China at large, for that matter. Turns out Zhangye is the nearest city to the “Zhangye Danxia Geological Park,” otherwise known as the Rainbow mountains. I mentioned this to Cody, who expressed his own interest to see them and we decided to take an extra day here.
For 7 dollars apiece, we hired the hostel’s car, joined by a German woman who happened to be here in this strange season. It was very cold, and we were happy to ride inside in an hour and a half rather than cycle. Our driver dropped us off and said he would meet us in front of the hotel when we were finished. There was a very developed ticket building/cafe/ boarding area. It was a bitterly cold, short walk. I was wishing I wore my long johns and wondering how were were going to endure the cold as we explored the park. We discovered at the ticket counter that the 15 kilometer loop was accessed by tour bus, and we did not mind at all. The place is very developed, like a Grand Canyon type National Park. The day was cloudy, of course, without a single ray of sun to accentuate the bright colors of the rock, but it didn’t matter. As we were transported to various viewing sights we revelled in how touristic we were and enjoyed the thought that although hundreds of thousands of people have the same pictures from the same angles, that ours are full of snow and clouds. It was plenty beautiful as it was, and it felt nice to realize a small dream that I had never gotten around to chasing. Who would have thought that I would stumble upon this geologic wonder by happenstance, as I was “passing through?” These things happen when you pack so much into one trip, I suppose.
There is some real poetry in these strange translations:
Bells apparently available to purchase and hang during high season. No one braving the cold today…