Xining to Zhangye on the G227 – Day 47 on the Silk Road by MGB

Friday, 19 May 2017

Most of the way across China we’ve followed the ‘highways,’ toll roads where you can cover lots of kms without interruption. About 40km out of Xining heading towards Zhangye the highway ends and we follow the often twisting and turning G227 for most of the day’s 336km drive.

▲ The descent from the Dabanshan tunnel.

It’s the best driving road we’ve had since the trip started, a wonderful drive, climbing and climbing, twice reaching nearly 3800 metres, over a thousand metres higher than any Swiss mountain pass road.

▲ There’s a lookout stop on the descent from the Dabanshan tunnel and traders (Tibetan?) who operate stands selling things there crowd around the cars. We line up the cars for a photo and line them up as if they owned the cars. With the men’s hats they look great and, of course, they love the whole thing.

▲ At 3767 metres …

▲ … there’s a pass draped with Tibetan prayer flags, just like you’d find on Himalayan passes in Nepal or Tibet. We’re well above the snow line here, in winter this road is cut off. Then it’s down to Ebao for refuel and lunch at 3450 metres. There are assorted Silk Road memorials including a big statue purported to be of Marco Polo.

After which there’s more up and down, including another pass close to 3800 metres before descending to flat country, although the snow-capped mountain range continues to parallel us to the south

▲ For what must be close to 50km the road is straight and flanked by trees, often poplar-like trees, much like the tree-lined roads of France. At first they haven’t got their spring leaves yet …

▲ … but as we drop lower they get greener and greener. Finally it’s Zhangye, another attractive Chinese town although smaller than other recent cities at just 1.2 million. Zhangye has the Great Buddha Temple with a 35-metre reclining Buddha image, not as big as Bangkok’s 46-metre image in Wat Po, but quite big enough for me and pleasantly dimly lit and uncrowded.