China Motorbike Expedition Part 2: In search of the source of the Yellow River

In the first part of our journey we started all the way from Yunnan past Sichuan until we reached Qinghai. There we firstly came across Amne Machin, a holy mountain in tibetan Buddhism.

After Amne Machin we enter the Tibetan high plateau on our way to the source of Yellow river. Thousands of yaks grazing these steppes as well as the Kiang, a never domesticated wild donkey that is endemic on the plateau. They are defending their large territories by kicking and biting.

These days the stock farming increasing so much that Tibetans have four times as much yaks as ten years ago. The graslands provide not enough food and desertification is a serious problem.

Tashi delek! Lonely as we are this shepherd is glad to see other human beings.

The overwhelming vastness of the country is both mind-blowing and frees the mind. It is different to ride the motorbike on fourthousand meters. The world is more round here and it always feels a bit like flying.

Eling lake near Maduo. We are coming closer to the source.

This mountain, located between Zhaling lake and Eling lake, is stated as the spiritual source of Yellow river. The geographical source is west of Zhaling lake. A few rivers are feeding this lake, then the water is heading towards Eling lake and along Amne Machin into Maqu. The river is flowing through Inner Mongolia and at last empties in the Yellow Sea (Bohai Sea). From here following the river it is 5,500 kilometers to the sea.

The stone marking the source.

The aim and the beginning.

Nobody knows how old these ruins are. Our way upstream the river is also a way back into history. The legends tell that Yu the Great (2200 BC) was the first who controlled the waters of the Yellow river by building a system of irrigation canals and, by dredging the riverbeds allowed ancient Chinese culture to flourish along the Yellow river. The upper Yellow river area is the cradle of Chinese culture.

Today agricultural irrigation extending so much, that the wetlands are in danger and the basin of the Yellow river at Maqu is drying out.

An awesome team. Without our Tibetan tour guide Sonam we would have missed so much on the road. He liked to tell the local legend, a bet in his home town, between to men, one searching for the end of Yellow river and one for the source. They argued, who would have to search longer. Whereas the one searching for the source came to where we are now, the other is still searching for an end. Thanks to Sonam we also reached the source of our longings.

On our way back this wilderness shows its dark side.

Continue Reading Part 3.