Ching Hai Lake is the largest saltwater-lake in China. It was created as a result of tectonic activities in this region. One time or another, it was feeding water to the Yellow River but now it is a closed lake. Although snow runoff keeps supplying fresh water to the lake, salinity is on the rise since salt and mineral deposits at the lake-bottom are seeping out into the water.
The main attraction for the visitors to this area is the Bird Island, a national park for protecting nesting grounds of Common Black Cormorant and other migratory birds. In the Chinese school education, the park has been glorified as a sort of propaganda expressing how deeply China is concerned with protecting natural environment. It is being introduced in school textbooks so elaborately; all Chinese would want to visit the place at least once in their lifetimes.
Next morning, so we did, and as you guessed, we were quite disappointed. The entry price was a rip off and we should have skipped the visit here, but to be able to say anything about this place, one must just see it. The only consolation was that the place did offer a nice view of the lake.
We stayed at Tibetan style tent hotel by the lake for the night. It was owned and operated by a Tibetan family who keeps Yaks and goats as well. We took our dinner at the main house built with bricks and mud, and slept in Tibetan style tent. The main house had a coal burning stove for both heat and cooking. The room was filled with smell of burning coal and I felt a bit suffocating since the oxygen was already quite thin at this altitude.
It rained halfway passed the night and the temperature dropped quite low (normal for high plateau), but there was no water leakage at my tent so sleep was ok although not quite comfortable. Due to the altitude, I was feeling slight headache but it was gone after some beer and liqueur served at the dinner.
Spotted a train heading for Lhasa on Ching Hai Railway. I recalled tans-Australia train, the Indian Pacific that I took more than 20 years ago.
A typical Tibetan Buddhism symbol, Sutra Streamer found near the lake. Each cloth has Buddhism teachings written and it is believed that wind would carry the teachings.
The lake is on the left-hand side with expanding field and big sky.
Dusk at the tent hotel.
Dull thumping noise came from the kitchin and when I took a peek, the hotel's chef grinned at me with an axe raised high. It was too dark to see by naked eyes, but my Nikon D3s did not fail to capture the moment with its high ISO capability.
The chief of the family. He is near 80 years old but in quite a good health. He showed a big interest in one of our traveling member, a woman in 40's, and he was trying to persuade her to stay longer. That's my man! I have to learn the secret from this guy.
Cooking and heating are done with this coal burning stove. They do have electricity and there were light bulbs dangling from the ceiling. What surprised me was that they were LED lights. Since the color temperature of those lights are too cool, I set the Kelvin setting at over 7000 on my D3s for shooting under available lights for depicting tungsten color.
Toward the end of the dinner, a daughter of the owner family sung some Tibetan songs. I was impressed with her rich voice and sound quality although we were at oxygen deprived high plateau.
As we drove on to Lake Ching Hai on the flat road cutting across endless green field under a big blue sky, we noticed a long line of vehicles silhouetted against distant mountain views blurred in hazy blue air. The line became clearer as we got closer and we can now see it was a long line of large trucks. While the air-polluting old diesel engines were shut off, truck drives were squatting along the road smoking cigarette.
In order to find out just what was going on, we continued driving on the on coming lane. After passing perhaps more than 100 trucks, we finally arrived at the source of this traffic jam; a railroad crossing of the famous Ching Hai Railway leading to Lhasa.
For a moment, I thought it was a traffic accident, but there were no damaged train or cars. Wading through on lookers and workers, I finally saw what was going on: repairing the crossing. The workers were in the middle of placing large blocks made of hard rubber for filling the gaps between the rails. When one of the workers who seemed to be the leader saw me photographing the scene, he started to shout at me: most likely to stop shooting. I pretended not to understand a word of what he was saying (well, I really don’t, honestly), and ignored him. After a while, he gave up and went back to his task. The job was done in about one hour and then it took another hour for clearing the jam. We can now proceed with our trip.
Countless trucks form a long line. According to locals, those trucks are for transporting rare metals deposited in Tibetan mountains.
A Tibetan Buddhist monk (in red lobe) watches the repair.
Including those drivers stuck in this jam, nobody seems to be upset.
Since the workers placed the blocks from both ends, the last piece did not fit.
Job is done, finally.
Workers rest after completion of the repair. The rails stretch into the horizon.
Thank you all for fixing the crossing!
Driving further west from Xining, we headed for Ching Hai Lake located at an altitude of around 2,500m above sea level. Road condition was not so bad, except there were numerous road constructions where they dug huge holes for burying drain pipes for snow runoff. Every time we had to pass the site, one or both lanes were closed for a short detour. Since we were driving during the daytime, it was fine, but I would hate to imagine driving at night on these roads.
Although the winter at Ching Hai Plateau tortures residents with harsh weather, it becomes beautifully rush green pasture during the short summer such as this time of the year. Livestock were seen crossing the road here and there as we drove through the countryside. 18-wheelers seemed to be oblivious of those animals on the road and they plow into the pack although they slowed down a little. Miraculously the animals escaped injury, most of the time.
For the first time in my life, I saw “Hairy Cattle”. In Chinese, they are called “Mao (hair) New (cattle)”. As the name shows, they sport really long hair. English name is Yak, and if my memory serves well, globally famous lactobacillus beverage known as Yakurt has its origin in the fermented milk of this animal. Aside from Yak, the Tibetan cowboys drive sheep and goats with help from Tibetan dogs who are quite obedient to masters, but ferocious to others.
By some reason, most of the Chinese trucks are painted in this color. If this were a bull fight, these Yaks would crash into the trucks.
A Tibettan cowboy drives livestock across a road.
Driving west from Lanzhou airport, we arrived at Xining. As soon as we got off the highway and entered the city, I noticed that this is a Muslim city. Unlike the faces I am used to see in Beijing, the people here has distinctive features. European and Slavic flair are prominent on their faces and there are even some caucasian traits in some fair skinned women. There are of course many Tibetans living in this city , but it seemed that Muslim population is more dominant.
By the way, Muslim and Tibetan populations are not so found of each other, it seems. As we all know, typical Han Chinese dominate business and politics anywhere in China. Muslim population is pretty good with dealing with Han Chinese and they are doing good business with each other. Also, some of the Muslim people deal with illegal drug trading. Although they have aquired huge wealth from that business, they do not show it off since they are so used to live simple lives.
However, Tibetans are not so good with business and they feel that Muslims are taking advantage of them. Typical Tibetan village in the mountain area is lined with cheap bricks and mud. Despite the hardship they have to endure, my Tibetan friend in Beijing always welcome me with unpretentious smile.
The person who are guiding us in this city is a Muslim man. He is a close friend of our driver, a Han Chinese who happens to be a local policeman. In this country, having a policeman on your side is as good as having a diplomatic immunity.
Islam Mosque shot with 8mm circular fisheye lense made by Sigma. I must check myself not to use it too often.
Typical Chinese rice liquer, Baichu (84 proof) is sold from strorage pot by weight at a super market. Our driver purchased about a gallon in plastic tank for the road...
A new Toyota has been uncovered!
At the end of last month I took a road trip to China's deep west, Tibetan Autonomous Region where the famous Monky King legend took place. I also visited up stream of Yellow River where the scenery reminded me of Gand Canyon in the US. They are offers such diverse environment; rush green field existing side by side with advancing sand dunes. It was an eye opener experience for me to realize impressive size of China as well as actually witnessing diverse combination of people making up the poulation in this area; Han Chinese, Muslims and Tibetans.
Probably because of curiosity towards me, people are much more photo friendly than those in such big cities as in Beijing and Shanghai.
At a small village when the Muslim villagers found out I am Japanese, they all utterd "Yoshi, Yoshi!" which means "That's fine!" in Japanese. I just had to laugh with them because the phrase is probably the most famous Japanese used quite often in Chinese propaganda movies depicting horrible things Japanese army did to the Chinese during the Pacific War.
I am planning to upload short notes and photos from this trip when I have time.
A two months old kitten sleeping deeply on a sofa after playing hard with me at a Youth Hostel in Xining.
Carpet shop owner in Xining. Lense: Nikkor 55mm / F1.2
As long as the Muslims show obedience to the Chinese government, the money would be available for builiding nice Mosque.
Kids were playing hide and seek at a market in early evening. They reminded me of myself at their ages. Lense: Nikkor 55mm / F1.2