Crossing a Lake on a Condiment and a Prayer in Golmud, China
China is the world's biggest producer of salt, an industry that is 100% government controlled and has a sophisticated history going back thousands of years. While some foreign tourists make it to this region bordering on Mongolia to see the Mogao Grottoes and Silk Road attractions, few keep going deeper into the desert and steppes where the salt lakes lie. A train traverses the white expanse of Qarhan Lake, but a ride along the Salt Bridge offers a different sort of crossing. More a causeway than a bridge, the road is built entirely of piled-up salt that is flat on top and smoothed to a glassy sheen by pouring water and compressing the crystals. The lake is mostly dry and the views are the stuff of surrealist paintings and photographers' dreams, with the steel-colored road gleaming like a blade, white piles of crystals sculpted by the wind, and row upon row of perfect rectangular oddly colored pools cut into the surface.