a totally different world
as i added China to my Plans i expected it as my biggest challenge on that trip. A new culture, a new language and at the end also a new script… and all at the same time!
No country before let me show that much respect. So i cycled with collywobbles to the Chinese border on this Monday morning.
My chinese vocabulary was extremely limited and so i was at the End after using nihau (Hello)…
The Borderguards were grumpy compared to the kyrgyz and so the „first“ border was the first challenge on that day. You are not allowed to cycle the first 140km behind the border and the taxi drivers (you are obliged to take one) know these. So it was hard work to bargain the price down to the official rate of 100 Yuan (15€}. Together with two other cyclists and a chinese traveller we started to the customs…
Two hours later at 2:30pm we arrive at the „second“ border and there is the first speciality of China. In Bejing it´s Lunchbreak now so also the Customs here are closed. We wait until 4:30pm before they open again. But the Procedure is unexpected quick and so we leave the building 40 minutes later and congratulate each other „welcome to China“!
The City they release us into was totally charmless. Wide Roads, big office buildings and blocks of flats in the background. The cloudy sky was not really helpful getting into a festive mood. I started cycling with Marc from Switzerland and after a night next to the road we reached Kahgar with clear sky and bright sunshine. The roads were fantastic and will stay like this until now. I could count the potholes with one hand…
In Kashgar we checked into the Oldtown Hostel. In the middle of the Oldtown it sounds like a lot of Charme. But as i got to know the next day the whole old town is just fake. With the argument of earthquake protection they demolished the old mudhouses and rebuild them in Brick and concrete. Put an old looking faccade infront and ready is Disneyland… The residents were moved to blocks of flats in the outskirts… development aid the chinese way…
The West of the Country, especially the Region Xinjiang is mainly inhabited by uighurs. Their language is a turk dialect and they use the arabic script. So you are really helpless when you are searching for something with a chinese character… almost nobody is able to read it.
Kashmir gives you a first taste of China. Everything happens on the Street, at every corner the barbecue is sizzling, the baker men are making bread next to the road and the Craftsmen are hammering everywhere. This also happens at night when you can buy and try all kind of food at the night market. This gives a thrill of anticipation for the real china, cause here everything is addicted to meat and eaten with bread.
I especially noticed, first in Kashgar and in every city afterwards, the high number of electric scooters. Almost no motorcycle is clattering… Nice development but highly dangerous cause you can’t here them coming and they ride the bike like a wild boar!
From Kashgar i followed the southern edge of Taklamakan Desert to the East. Along the Highway hords of Village People try to cultivate the Land. With heavy tools and also with pure Manpower they create paddies and irrigate and plant them afterwards. All this with a big Effort, three Generations are choping the ground… fascinating!
what arises from this are beautiful, perfectly arranged gardens and they were following the road and at the end get lost in the desert. This change is visible from every oasis to the next. The desert in the part i crossed was more a gravel than a sand desert. From time to time you can see a dune but most of the time just dust and stones—
It was clear from the first day, but one day it got acute. I got to take a part of the Way by bus cause china is to big to cycle it completely in this short time the visa gave me.
So i went to Hetian, the first bigger city 700km after kashgar to get on the bus. But how to find the Busstation in a city with more than 300.000 Citizens? So i took a photo of the Character in chinese from the guidebook and showed it around. But like in Kashgar almost no one could read the Sign… After one hour i quit the mission and cycled on to the next (smaller) city. Hopefully there it´s easier to find the Busstation. It was, but the only bus for the day was already gone. So i went on to the next town and there i cached it the next day and got to Qiemo in the evening. I had to stay for a night in the city before i could go on to Rouqiang the next day.
I asked for a cheap Guesthouse and was led to the best hotel in the city. After showing me the official pricelist they showed mercy to a poor cyclist and gave me a „cheap“ Room for 23€. All the luxury of the hotel for almost small money… Nice after all that nights in the Tent.
Short before the Highplateau i got back on my bike and cycled up the hill. A 3600m high Pass was infant of me and it went my sporty masterpiece. I climbed up 2000m nd slept up at the pass. The night must be under -15° cause i froze heavily in my normally cozy sleeping bag… and i survived also this and the next day i rolled down into the (surprisingly) desertlike Quaidam Bowl. In Hautugou (speak How to go) i realized that there is no sunday bus to Golmud and so i had to stay in the City for a night. I found out the characters for guesthouse and tried my best to get a cheap room. But at the end i ended in the best hotel in town and they asked for 90€ per Night. After complaining they (again) had mercy with me and led me to a mid class business hotel where the police told me that this city is not opened to foreigners and i am not allowed to take any fotos in the town. After that i enjoyed the luxury again and used the time to write my blog you are reading now…
Next Morning i continued to Golmud and there jumped back onto the bike to finish the last piece of Desert (for this Year) crossing the Quaidam Bowl.
I really was amazed by the desert but after all that time i was done with it. Even when you have wonderful Mountains on one Side after a time they are just rocks… The wasteland of the desert is a big challenge. It went bearable with music. It sounded out of my headphones all the time i was sitting on my bike. I listened to almost everything, from The Streets to Anti Flag, from the Fugees to Johnny Cash, from Sepulture to The Gaslight Anthem… higgledy-piggledy
At the end i was very happy to face the end of the desert and was looking forward to the flatlands, warmth and green Landscapes…
But then i took a wrong turn at the end of the bowl and a new adventure began
But this is the next story following the next days!