7-Day Cycling around Qinghai Lake
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Day 1: Xining Airport/Xihai (D)
Pick up from airport of Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province (China's largest province, excluding the 3 Autonomous Regions which are technically not provinces), you will be met and greeted at the airport. Upon arrival, you will board your safe and comfortable bus and will drive directly to Xihai, about 100 km to the northeast. As you gently ascend to a higher elevation, you will see the landscape change from urban blemish to rural grasslands and you will soon come to the vast Jinyintan Pasture (over 1000 sq km), a typical high-altitude grazing land. It was this very spot, with its variety of beautiful summer flowers, which inspired the late Wang Luobin, renowned composer of Chinese folk songs, to write his award-winning classic "In a Place Far Away".
When you arrive at Xihai, you will first check into our 3-star hotel. Then you will pick up your bicycles to do a small tour around this cozy and tranquil town (its name means "western sea". A brief visit will not only serve to orient ourselves but will allow you to adjust to the high altitude.
During your sightseeing, you will pass by some deserted factories which are worth stopping at for pictures. This site, situated innocently in these remote grasslands, was once the secret facility where China worked on developing its first atomic bomb. Back at our hotel, and after a delicious supper of local delicacies, you will be ready for a sound sleep in the clean mountain air.
Day 2: Xihai / Qinghai Lake fishing base (B/L/D)
Road condition: paved, light traffic, a dozen hills, each with a gentle gradient
Distance: 76 kilometers
Distance: 76 kilometers
After an early breakfast, you will verify your equipment, and then strike off westward towards Qinghai Lake, accompanied by your support vehicle. The morning's scenery will be that of endless grasslands, punctuated here and there by evidence of an ever-encroaching desert areas of dry, scruffy terrain dotted with occasional sand dunes. You will choose a scenic place to eat your packed lunches, carried by the support vehicle. Later, in the afternoon, and after several uphill and downhill sections, you will suddenly see the Lake, shining on the western horizon like a ribbon of shimmering silk!
On your descent, the landscape will be totally different. As you start to cycle towards the lush sea of grass, with its interwoven patches of summer flowers, you can imagine yourselves cycling out onto a living, vibrant painting, created by Nature herself. Still, distances are deceiving at this altitude, and only after another 20km of riding will you actually arrive at the end-point of your long day-the Qinghai Lake fishing base.
Day 3: Qinghai Lake fishing base/Qinghai Lake Tent Hostel (B/L/D)
Road condition: paved; heavy traffic, but flat for the first 25km;several small uphill sections for the remainder
Early risers will be able to see the sun start to illuminate one of the most beautiful landscapes in western China. Qinghai Lake sets on a high plateau, with the Tibetan mountains in the distance. On their first morning, visitors like to wander along the shore before breakfast, enthralled by the high-altitude tranquility of the lake itself, which stretches endlessly to the horizon. After a nourishing breakfast, you will start your clockwise ride around Qinghai Lake. Your morning's ride will first follow the fairly-busy national road, but even so, in June and July, the wild rapeseed flowers are in bloom, blanketing the landscape with shades of yellow and gold.
There is little civilization around most of the lake, so you will stop in a quiet spot along the way to enjoy your picnic lunch and to allow you to recharge our energy with toast, fruits and chocolate. In the afternoon, your path will lead you away from the traffic, onto a quiet road alongside the lake. You will cycle in an area of peaceful tranquility until you reach your stay for the night, a rustic, but comfortable, tent hostel, situated just by the lake.
Day 4: Qinghai Lake Tent Hostel/Bird Island(B/L/D)
Road condition: paved, light traffic, flat or downhill for the most of the time.
This is the day for photographers! You will leave your tented camp in the morning, and as you cycle along in the soft morning light, the pastoral scene will include un-tethered cows, sheep, horses, and even yaks, nonchalantly munching on clumps of ripe, lush grass. The white yurts are similar to those seen in Inner Mongolia, typically dot the landscape. You will make a small detour away from the water to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in the small village of Shinaigai, after which you'll head back to the lakeshore to see one of the highlights of the trip-Bird Island!
It's been said that if Qinghai Lake were the crown of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, then Bird Island is the jewel in the crown! Qinghai Lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia. In April of each year, as the ice melts across the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, thousands of birds from southern China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the Indian subcontinent arrive to lay and hatch their eggs. Over 20 species have been noted, including Bar-headed Geese, Ruddy Shelducks, Brown-headed Gulls, cormorants, egrets, and sandpipers. Stately Griffon Vultures glide overhead, minivets frequent the scrubby bushes, and Mongolian Larks sing from the grasses. Even the rare Black-necked Crane and an occasional swan have been seen!
Bird Island is one of the wonders of the Tibetan plateau, a photographer's challenge, but an ornithologist's delight. This special site, with so many birds, so close, and normally only associated with remote mountain cliffs, attracts many visitors during the summer months.
Day 5: Bird Island/Quanji /Gangcha (B/L/D)
Road condition: paved; heavy traffic for the most of the day; first section is 10km, varying between flat and uphill;the rest of the road is flat and/or downhill
Distance: 65 km
Distance: 65 km
After breakfast, you will make an unhurried walk from your hotel to visit the Shatuo Lamasery, home to the Red Hat branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Its first building was constructed in 1665, but there have been several additions. The buildings now include a 300-square-meter prayer hall,18 rooms and dorms for monks, and a mansion for the living Buddha. After your visit (about 1 hours), you will start your cycling tour again along the west bank of the lake for another 25km, then you will ride on the National road again and bike to Quanji, where you will have lunch and also visit the local market to buy fruit.
In the afternoon, ride to Gangcha, where you will relax a bit and take a shower before wandering around this little Tibetan town with its various ethnic groups. After supper, you will be able to relax and enjoy an amazing sunset over the seemingly-endless lake.
Day 6: Gangcha /Xihai (87km, B/L/D)
Road condition: paved, several uphill and downhill sections.
Distance: 87 km
Distance: 87 km
This morning you will be up before dawn to see a bit of Gangcha itself, with its traditional yurts, beautiful prayer flags, and mysterious praying stones. Then you will make an early start on your bikes, leaving Qinghai Lake behind us, as you head back toward Xihai. On the way, you will encounter several small villages where you will see the authentic buildings and day-to-day activities of the local people. After a picnic lunch, you will again pass through the most beautiful natural grazing grounds outside of Xihan before your arrival in the late afternoon. That night you will enjoy a feast in a local restaurant to celebrate our great accomplishment of doing a "race" around Qinghai Lake!
Day 7: Xihai town/Xining city (B)
After a relaxing morning, you will drive back to Xining, where you will be transferred to the airport to catch your outbound plane.
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