Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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
Start: Hillside above Sailimu Hu, Xinjiang, China
End: Khorgos (Huoerguosi), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 90 km
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.)
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
End: Sailimu Lake (west end), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 25 km
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
End: Sailimu Lake, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 116 km
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
End: Sand-dune, beyond Jing He , Xinjiang, China
Distance: 125 km
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
End: Somewhere after Kuitun, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 120 km
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.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
End: Near Kuitun, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 122 km
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
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
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
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Start: Dabancheng, Xinjiang, China
End: Urumqi (Wulumuqi), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 81 km
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.
Friday, May 19, 2006
End: Truckstop beyond Dabancheng, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 64 km
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.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
End: Culvert under the G312, west of Turpan, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 47 km
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
End: Turpan (Tulufan), Xinjiang, China
Distance: 6 km
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
End: Petrol station strip, Turpan turnoff, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 141 km
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
End: Qiketai, China
Distance: 202 km
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
End: Sandaoling, Xinjiang, China
Distance: 86 km
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.
STOP THIS CRUEL TRADE!
END LIVE BEE EXPORTS!
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.
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!
Saturday, May 13, 2006
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See what big wheels I have? And what steep hills I climb?