We have had a great day of driving. The roads were excellent even though the expressway promised by the Chinese guide did not materialise. We have travelled through beautiful hills which were largely cultivated - everything at less than a 45 degree slope is terraced. The sight made me feel that we are really in the main part of China now. We have started to head south.
We saw many crops which are familiar at home including huge green cabbages, maize, apples and pears and others which are less familiar including red and green peppers by the van load. The maize is dried on the roof. Ploughs are drawn by donkeys and oxen. We bought a sunflower head and ate the seeds. We ate our picnic lunch watching a terrace being ploughed by a pair of donkeys.
Pingliang is about the least interesting place we have stayed in. It is a small dusty industrial town on the way to Xian and the terracotta army (tomorrow). However, we managed to buy our postcards in the post office nearby and the hotel has a computer that I can use and a car wash.
P.S. The Furry dice have made it to Pingaling. There has been some mechanical failure on the way with the key component, the plastic sucker having a tendency to come unstuck on extremely bumpy roads. I will trade it in for the cross country version when I get home. If anyone has the part number please send me a message to this site and I will endeavour to source a new one in China. Hopefully though, we have seen the back of the bumpy roads and all will be well :-)
STOP PRESS !! Pingliang not so bad after all!
The following morning, despite an early mist we decided to go up KongTong mountain - 15 km from Pingliang. It is a truly magical place. The mountain is accessed by a rapid hill climb by minibus around frightening hairpins and trees growing in the middle of the road. At the top is a Taoist monastery with buildings ranging from old to currently being built in beautiful hilltop settings. Most of our group decided to head off to Xi'an, but there was a hard core of intrepid travellers who delayed departure to go up the mountain. To brace ourselves for the descent by minibus we had the most amazing herb tea at the top (see photo)