Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Day 271 - Clock-watching in Khorgos

0 km etc.

In 14 hours time they will let me over the border, inshallah. Yesterday I haggled with the borderfolk for a long time. It really wouldn't be such a bad thing to let an honest man into Kazakhstan 2 days before his visa officially starts, would it?

You must wait here, said the borderman. Khorgos (Huoerguosi, the Chinese call it) is a lovely place, said the borderman. Time will fly here, said the borderman.

I am watching the time flying by, on the tips of growing grass.

Meanwhile, there is always the blossom.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Day 270 - Cycling from Sailimu Lake to Khorgos

Start: Hillside above Sailimu Hu, Xinjiang, China
End: Khorgos (Huoerguosi), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 90 km
Time: 3'50"
Avg: 23.7 k/h
Max: 48 k/h
Total: 13,283 km
Total riding days: 174
Riding hours: 0930 - 1930

Braked down the hillside from the world's most booooootiful campspot to the main road and went down down down an extraordinary green valley (how long it has been since things have been green and lush) full of Kazakhs chasing livestock around on horseback (the Kazakhs, not the livestock), and selling honey and honey-flavoured kvas, back into the hotlands, the flatlands, the really rather drablands of the Xinjiang semi-desert.

(No, I haven't shaved. That's Andrea, a German cyclist heading for Kyrgyzstan.)

An update, of sorts

Sorry, all very quiet here on 2wheels recently, I know. I have been pedalling furiously in a vaguely westerly direction.

I am now sitting in an internet cafe in a place whose name I do not know, not far from the Kazakh border.

More than that I cannot currently tell you. But when I can, you will be the first to know, I promise you.

Hang on in there.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Cycling around Sailimu Lake - Day 269

Start: Sailimu Lake (east end), Xinjiang, China
End: Sailimu Lake (west end), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 25 km
Time: 1'28"
Avg: 17.1 k/h
Max: 46.5 k/h
Total: 13,192 km
Total riding days: 173
Riding hours: 1905 - 2110

For me this has been the most beautiful spot in all of China. They save the best to last.

Green and white mountains, crystal waters, flowers everywhere, sunsets the size of... something pretty big.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cycling from a sand dune to a lake: somewhere beyond Jing He to Sailimu Hu (day 268)

Start: Sand dune, 20 km beyond Jing He, Xinjiang, China
End: Sailimu Lake, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 116 km
Time: 8'27"
Avg: 13.7 k/h
Max: 36 k/h
Total: 13,167 km
Total riding days: 172
Riding hours: 0845 - 2030

Who's been leaving tracks in my desert campsite?

Oh, just a little beetle.

Things were a bit moister 116 km later, with the sun setting over the supposedly salty but in fact fresh enough to swim and cook in Sailimu Lake.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cycling across the northwestern Xinjiang steppe (day 267)

Start: Somewhere outside, Xinjiang, China
End: Sand-dune, beyond Jing He , Xinjiang, China
Distance: 125 km
Time: 8'27"
Avg: 19.9 k/h
Max: 35.5 k/h
Total: 13,051 km
Total riding days: 171
Riding hours: 0905 - 2145

No photos today. Diary a bit sparse too. Must have cycled a bit. Head down, that sort of thing.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Day 266 - Cycling from Kuitun to somewhere in the Xinjiang steppe

Start: Before Kuitun, Xinjiang, China
End: Somewhere after Kuitun, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 120 km
Time: 6'37"
Avg: 18.1 k/h
Max: 40 k/h
Total: 12,926 km
Total riding days: 170
Riding hours: 0920 - 2030

Sad news about one of PG's distant cousins:

Nice highways they build out here.

Squatting technique still needs some work.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day 265 - Cycling Wutaigong to somewhere before Kuitun

Start: Near Wutaigong, Xinjiang, China
End: Near Kuitun, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 122 km
Time: 5'28"
Avg: 22.4 k/h
Max: 36.5 k/h
Total: 12,806 km
Total riding days: 169
Riding hours: 0945 - 2015

Fast, flat, easy cycling, powered by plenty of 5-mao ice creams.

Mao himself, meanwhile, has become a petrol pump attendant.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cycling from Urumqi to near Wutaigong (Day 264)

Start: Urumqi, Xinjiang, China
End: Wutaigong, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 98 km
Time: 5'01"
Avg: 19.6 k/h
Max: 34.5 k/h
Total: 12,584 km
Total riding days: 168
Riding hours: 1130 - 2130

I now have a Kazakh visa.

These people don't.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Days 261, 262, 263: visa hunting in Urumqi

0 km etc.

Went to find a visa at the Kazakh consulate, except that it isn't the Kazakh Consulate, it is the Passport-Visa service of Kazakhstan railways Urumqi representative office, and don't you forget it.

A good time was had by all.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Technical hitch

OK Houston, Abergavenny, Bury-St-Edmunds, etc., we have a problem.
I can't access my blogging software from this part of China.
My cynical mind says that this is because I am in Xinjiang now, which is inhabited by people who don't think they are part of China. The Chinese government, which just wants to be loved, makes a special effort to prevent people in Xinjiang connecting with the outside world, believing that, deprived of the opportunity to love anybody else, the locals will love the Chinese government instead.
All of which explains (a) why I am feeling angry, and (b) why I can't give you the usual 2wheels photofest.
Laziness on my part accounts for the absence of the dull bits - mileage stats, etc.
So, instead, a quick summary: lots of desert, a few mountains, no pikas.
I am now in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, which I could call East Turkestan, but that would probably have the local Boys in Blue (formerly the Boys in Green) (plainclothes branch) round quicker than you can say "Independence for Uyghurs Now!"
The much-trumpeted auto-email-blog-update-notifier thing seems to be on the blink too. Sorry. Will see what I can do. Probably nothing, since I can't access the HS2HTCACM (Highly Sensitive 2wheels High Tech Command And Control Module).
I met a cyclist the other day who knows Ruth/Yellow Gloves! Do you think someone could tell Asmund/Pink Gloves ?
Until the revolution,

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Biking Dabancheng to Urumqi (day 260)

Start: Dabancheng, Xinjiang, China
End: Urumqi (Wulumuqi), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 81 km
Time: 4'36"
Avg: 17.7 k/h
Max: 38.5 k/h
Total: 12,585 km
Total riding days: 167
Riding hours: 0640 - 1240

The wind turned.

And so did the windmills.

Underused word of the week: Receptacle.

Petrol station of the week: this one.

Dangly job of the week.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cycling from the desert to Dabancheng (day 159)

Start: Culvert under G312 beyond Turpan, Xinjiang, China
End: Truckstop beyond Dabancheng, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 64 km
Time: 8'38"
Avg: 7.4 k/h
Max: 16.6 k/h
Total: 12,504 km
Total riding days: 166
Riding hours: 0640 - 2045

Another day, another hurricane.

But a nice little gorge to ride up, a break from the desert, at least.

Oh, yes, that's the Daban City peasant trade market. 2 serfs for my villein, anyone?

It shouldn't happen to a bike...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bike-battling out of Turpan into the desert (day 158)

Start: Turpan, Xinjiang, China
End: Culvert under the G312, west of Turpan, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 47 km
Time: 6'20"
Avg: 7.3 k/h
Max: 23.2 k/h
Total: 12,439 km
Total riding days: 165
Riding hours: 0955 - 2145

Looked out of the window and it looked promising. Turpan, baking yesterday under a 45 degree sun (OK, the sun itself might have been a bit hotter, but you get the picture), was today cool and cloudy. I was privileged to feel the tickle of a dozen raindrops on my nose - Kashgar gets about 16 mm of rain a year, so this was something pretty special.

And then the wind started to blow.

I spent most of the day hiding in a hole in the desert. I reckon the wind was up around 120 or 130 km/h. Moving was impossible, holding the bike upright without being blown backwards was a struggle.

This man, Serge Girard (left), had it easy. He was going downwind. Running from Paris to Tokyo, 75 km a day, admittedly, but downwind, eh? No wonder his beard doesn't grow properly.

Ah well, at least the sun set nicely.

A bed for the night. Those are my toes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 257 - Into Turpan

Start: Turpan turn-off, Xinjiang, China
End: Turpan (Tulufan), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 6 km
Time: 0'30"
Avg: 12.8 k/h
Max: 23.4 k/h
Total: 12,392 km
Total riding days: 164
Riding hours: 0830 - 0905

After a gruelling six k, I go to poke my camera at a minaret, and eat a lot of ice cream. The latter was more rewarding; a photograph of the former follows.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Day 256 - Cycling to Turpan - almost

Start: Qiketai, Xinjiang, China
End: Petrol station strip, Turpan turnoff, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 141 km
Time: 8'03"
Avg: 17.5 k/h
Max: 40.5 k/h
Total: 12,386 km
Total riding days: 163
Riding hours: 0945 - 2045

Tried to stay in Shanshan, but after checking into a very nice little flatlet hotel room, and having a shower and a watermelon, the boss chucks me out for being foreign, strict orders from the Boys in Blue (formerly known as the Boys in Green).

So I try to hack it to Turpan across the Flaming Mountains, and nearly make it. But I take a short cut which turns out to be a long cut ending in sand dunes, and by the time I'm back on the road, I've run out of puff and daylight. So I spend the night in my preferred habitat, a petrol station. Jolly nice one too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day 255 - Riding the road to Qiketai

Start: Sandaoling, Xinjiang, China
End: Qiketai, China
Distance: 202 km
Time: 10'52"
Avg: 18.6 k/h
Max: 39 k/h
Total: 12,245 km
Total riding days: 162
Riding hours: 0645 - 2040

202 km, eh?

Never done 200 before, and I don't think I will again, either.

OK, I know that Asmund does 200 before breakfast every day and twice on Sundays, but he drinks Cherry Coke.

A lot of desert, more wildlife, and some sore feet at the end of the day.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Day 254 - Cycling from Hami to Sandaoling

Start: Hami, Xinjiang, China
End: Sandaoling, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 86 km
Time: 5'10"
Avg: 16.6 k/h
Max: 25.9 k/h
Total: 12,043 km
Total riding days: 161
Riding hours: 1145 - 1800

Trucks come past carrying beehives. A number of bees fail to observe basic safety precautions and are not wearing seatbelts. As a result they fall out, doomed to a sad and rather lonely death in the desert - but before that, they have time to buzz around a bit and try to fly up my nose, mouth, shirt, etc.



From the west, coal trucks chunter past lobbing hunks of coal at me as they go.

And then some unexpected wildlife pops up at the roadside.

Life is rarely dull on the G312.

Pika news

The ever-alert CW has spotted another pika:

I thought my bike was feeling a little heavy the other day... and my biscuit stocks seemed inexplicably low.

From our own correspondent

A.R. writes to say:
I cannot resist asking this question:  I recall reading somewhere that a nineteenth century explorer - possibly Sir Richard Francis Burton (the chap who translated the Kam Sutra in 1883) encountered a community of Tibetan monks who had devised a code or private language through a series of intricately nuanced farts.

This is probably an early 'urban myth', but have you heard of or encountered anything like this on your travels, or any evidence that such behaviour might be within the range of normality? For, although I am interested in and respectful of Tibetan Buddhism, I can't help hoping there's some truth in it!
I will ask my Tibetan contacts, A.R., and get back to you.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Get this

For the hard-core nothing-better-to-doers among you, an experimental new service, brought to you with revolutionary new technology developed in conjunction with the CIA, Nasa, and the Communist Party of China:

The 2wheels blog by email in real-time!

Never miss a post again!

What does it do? Any new post, or comment, on the 2wheels blog, gets zapped straight to your email inbox, instantly, as it happens, and in, like, real time, man.

Why would I want that? Search me.

How does it work? That's a trade secret.

How much does it cost? The 2wheels blog email notification service is being offered at the incredible introductory price of 0 Peruvian zlotys a month. (Terms and conditions apply.)

What's that in Her Majesty's Pound Sterling? Works out at about 0 pounds, 0 shillings and 0 pence, at current exchange rates.

I'm sold. How do I get it? Just send an empty email to, sit back, and wait for your life never to be the same again.

What about the old monthly 2wheels update list? That will carry on just as before.

Can we have a picture now please? Sure, have two.

See what big wheels I have? And what steep hills I climb?

Hami moon.

Day 253 - Hangin' in Hami

0 km etc.

The Hami-ites make the best Cornish Pasties in the world (Cornwall included). Not especially vegetarian, but we all have our moments of weakness.

Meanwhile, here is a small mosque.