Three days in the desert 1

Sorry for not writing the last three days. This has been pretty tough going…


On Saturday I started walking at noon. The weather forecast was grey and as I walked Northwards the clouds got thicker and it started raining. Sometimes it rained so heavily that I used the umbrella. My motto so far holds true though. Rather rain than scorching heat.

The walking was hard because I had ten litres of water, and 2-3 kilos of food. My rucksack is very lightweight and with the extra weight it’s pushing the limit of how much it can support. The walk was a slow climb and after about 23 kilometres I was totally exhausted. Although it had rained quite a bit, it was still really hot, and I was drenched in sweat. I donated a quarter of a litre water to wash off most of the sweat.

As I set up the tent, I saw lightning in the valley below. I hurried, only to see that I had no mobile phone connection there. It wasn’t tempting to seek higher ground to get the coverage either, as the thunder storm was closing in.

The lightning lit up the inside of the tent and at times I thought I was at a disco. I fell asleep quickly.


There was sand all over the next morning. It continued to rain till about one o’clock, sometimes pretty heavily. Luckily I had the mp3 player and started listening to The Dragon Runner. Thanks for the gift Trude! I got up and started walking before two o’clock. I had been thinking a little about snakes because the inner tent was open to get ventilation. But as I lifted the groundsheet, I saw a scorpion taking shelter from the rain! Got some pictures of it. From now on, I am going to check my shoes before putting them on and be a bit careful when handling my tent and rucksack.

The day was very humid, but luckily the sun didn’t break through. My rucksack was 2-3 kilos lighter, but still a pain! I started eating the dried Yak meat. It is tasteful, salty and very dry.

The Great Wall was easy to follow and at places was an astonishing structure in the nature. Many places it was situated at the bottom of hills on the enemy side. The watchtowers were often up to a hundred metres from the wall and always in high places, so they had a good vantage point into enemy territory.

After 21 kilometres, it got dark.  I set up the tent right next to the Great Wall. It was a great camp site, but once again I didn’t have mobile phone coverage. I had to run up a hill close by to send off my position and get a weather forecast for the next day. Thanks John and Trude!

The forecast: Sun all day and about 31 degrees centigrade.


I got up at sunrise and started walking at 6.30.It had been an uncomfotable night because the inside of the tent was really humid. The outside was completely wet too.

The first 2-3 hours of walking went quickly. I remember finding some shade given by the Great Wall and thinking it would be the last shade for the rest of the day. That was at about ten o’clock. It quickly got very hot and soon I was walking at a much slower pace trying to control how hot I got. I took breaks more often.

At this point I was hungry and thirsty. I had more water, but wanted to be a bit conservative using it, as I didn’t know when I could get more. I thought it was time to find some shade and take the midday rest. Then I saw some students in front of me and walked up to them. The were out on a field trip for the day. They offered me some fresh watermelon. Mmmm – it went straight down. It was exactly what I needed. Something sweet and wet.

The students left for a mountian close by and I went on. Ended up just by the Great Wall sitting under the little umbrella. Not the best way to get away from the sun. It was way too hot to walk. . I drank more water and Ice Tea. Once I lay down taking the sleeping mattress over my feet and the umbrella over my upper body. This enabled me to rest, but it also meant I sweated a lot more than sitting up. After a couple of hours of this uncomfortable and enforced rest, the clouds started rolling in. That made it bearable for me to walk on.

At this stage I was down to 5 litres of water but plenty of food. In the heat, I eat too little… I looked over a valley full of wind mills. By my own judgement it looked about two to three kilometres wide. The GPS though told me it was ten kilometres wide. Nice to know.

I started walking, but soon had to rest. By this time every rest was ‘costing’ me a whole litre of water. I knew that this would be the last day I would manage without getting more water and eating a proper meal. I felt very warm and said to myself: at the next possible road, you go somewhere to get yourself balanced again.

About half way across the valley, I saw a number of buildings. It was the service buildings for the maintenance crew of the wind mill. I walked in and asked a guy if there was a shop, and there was! So I can get more water now. I feel pretty lucky, because without the shop, or a road with traffic on it, I would only have had water for another half or at most one full day. There was even a place to stay!

Weather forecast for tomorrow: 33 degrees centigrade. That’s two more than today. I’m off for an early start tomorrow too… 29 kilometres today.

One thought on “Three days in the desert

  • Brother Jon

    Hi Robert,
    I take it that you found some telephone coverage out there, otherwise you couldn’t send the blog….. You probably sent off a GPS way-point signal this evening, but it has not come through, there is no email with your coordinates today.

    It’s interesting news about the wind turbines you saw. When we were together in Gansu province we saw some wind turbine blades being transported on big lorries, but never saw them in action.

    Speaking of green energy…. One thing that made an impression on me in China was the common use of mopeds powered by electrical batteries. Some places there were more electrical mopeds than the petrol based counterparts. Clean, practical, fast and silent! Can’t say I have ever seen such mopeds in the UK or Norway. Why, I ask myself, are there so few electrical mopeds (if they exist at all) in Norway, where electricity is cheap.

    Oh, you’ve got me going now….. Yeah, and what about gas driven cars: why are there not more gas driven cars in for instance Norway, the third largest gas exporter in the world?
    In Wuwei city, in Gansu province, we often used a particular taxi driver. He was a good guy, drove safely, and was patient with us. He is looking forward to next year. Why? Because then he can fill up his car with cheap gas. Gas? Yes, gas. His taxi already had installed a gas tank, ready for use. Next year the gas pipeline from Turkemenistan in central Asia to close-by Lanzhou city is complete, nearly km 2000 away (and on to Wuwei? I cannot remember any longer). Robert and I saw this line. Nice! JiaYou. Enjoy the drive.

    As the saying goes: “where there is a will, there is a way”.
    In China, there is a (governmental) will. Already 10 years ago, the Chinese had built domestic gas pipelines measuring km 12,000. That’s 6 times the length of Norway. In the interim 10 years, they will have laid more.
    Admittedly, China has a long way to go to make their industry greener, but they are on the move, and do not make much political fuss of it. Some other countries appear to be content raising fingers at others and patting oneself on the shoulder.
    (Just making a point….)



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