The morning following our visit to Kumbum Monastery, saw us on the road to Qinghai Lake. The bus journey took around 3 hours one way and led us on top of the Tibetan Plateau. With a surface area of more than 4,000 km², Qinghai Lake (alternatively called Kokonor) is China’s largest lake! While early explorers suffered long days on horseback to reach it, the area has become a busy tourist attraction in recent years. We knew that the public bus would drop us at the hectic sightseeing village of Erlangjian Scenic Area, but unfortunately this spot is the only place accessible during a day trip! The village consists of a number of small restaurants, souvenir shops, a quay with ferries, and a quirky museum on the nature and culture around the lake. While the hustle and bustle of the tourists at the shore was not our cup of tea, we used the trip to get accustomed to the high altitudes of Tibet. The lake is situated at about 3,200 m above sea level which caused me a splitting headache. Despite its strong salinity, the water harbours an abundant fauna including the endemic Qinghai Lake Naked Carp. Furthermore, the area is an important breeding and resting site for birds. However, we only saw few cormorants and the characteristic Brown-headed Gull.
We returned to Xining in the evening and I went to bed early to get rid of my pounding headache. I really hoped to be fit on the next day, when we wanted to take the bus from Xining to Yushu, passing through areas with altitudes above 4,800 m! You can read about this epic journey here!