Travel: Beam me down, Scotty
Sunday 11 January 1998
36 4' N 92 27' E
If this is not a prison camp it would make a good one.
COUNTRY AND REGION
This is the Chinese province of Qinghai, on the Tibetan plateau. You are near to where the plateau's northern edge descends into the steppe and deserts of western China.
NATURE OF TERRAIN
Couldn't be more bleak. You are on a stony mountain ridge where it has hardly rained in years.
Nearly 16,000 feet. This is indeed the roof of the world.
Before you die of acute altitude sickness, you are liable to freeze to death. Otherwise you will be arrested for venturing into an illegal zone without a permit.
Dialects of Tibetan. Possibly Uigur, the Turkic language of Western China. Mandarin Chinese will not go amiss in the unlikely event of your being saved by the local mountain rescue service.
TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
President Jiang Zemin is the secular boss, though the locals might prefer the Dalai Lama.
LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS
Expect temperatures below -30 C, with high winds. We are sorry.
REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND
You are actually not far from a southern branch of the Silk Road, where fabulous desert cities from centuries past lie half-buried in the sand. Local natural attractions include salt lakes and glaciers. What a pity if you freeze before seeing them.
GETTING THE HELL OUT OF THERE
It could be worse. You have landed very close to a seldom-used dirt track. If you can follow this in an easterly direction, it is only 200 miles' walk to Golmud, the last city in China connected to the national rail system (you would appreciate the fried noodles if you could make it).
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