When we opened the curtains this morning we couldn‘t believe it; it was pouring down! And it should keep raining the whole day. After breakfast (there was a Jura coffee machine which made real cappuccino!) Claudia asked us whether we wanted to go straight to Xiahe or drive to the Yellow River dam and try to get a boat to the Bingling Buddha caves with no guarantee that the boat would run because of bad weather. We opted for the latter and were highly recompensed.
Leaving Lanzhou through the south west, we drove through large polluting industries. It was a great relief when we reached the valley of the Yellow River. We passed through green mountain slopes, agricultural fields, some with orange saffron flowers, and gardens. When we reached the Yellow River Dam (Liujiaxia Reservoir) it was still pouring down and it was only 14 degrees. We got warm clothes and rain gear out of our luggage and waited for a while until there came another group and we could board the boat with 40 people. Leaving the harbour we passed by tons of garbage floating on the surface of the lake. The visibility was bad.
The Bingling caves, spanning a period of 1600 years, are hidden in the cliffs of a narrow canyon. There are 183 niches carved in the porous rocks showing Buddhist paintings and sculptures. There is an impressive 25m high future Buddha, (Maitreya), but the smaller Bodhisattvas and guardians are much prettier and more ancient. Further up in the canyon there is a small Tibetan monastery.
Before taking the boat back we had noodles on the deck. The trip back was more interesting, as the rain had stopped and we could admire the colourful rocks and green slopes. I we arrived in Xiahe in the evening entering a beautiful mountain area with Swiss like landscapes, but climbing up to 2950m.