en fin,,, China. 2012-06-15
2012-06-15 > 155km / 1523hm Partly by truck from the Kyrgyz border / mostly sunny all day/ 27°C / day 52
First thing in the morning I went to buy some food stuff for the day and to the money change trailer to get some CN-RMB Yuan for my last KG Som’s. During the night a large number of trucks had lined up in front of the border gate. Being on a bicycle I could go straight to the check-point. The formalities on the Kyrgyz side were done very quickly even though I had to go through 6 different passport control stops. Then after cycling for many km’s in what seemed to be no-mans-land I came to a Chinese border marker, but no official border post. All the buildings were abandoned. I still had to cycle at least several km’s to see the first Chinese police guards in a big new building. They were all extremely nice and friendly, x-rayed all my bags and checked some items – especially my soap powder. But then the bad news was revealed, I was not allowed to cycle to the immigration check-point, I had to find a truck which would take me and my bike to the next stop. Most of the drivers would not want to do this because it involved extra trouble for them and they were afraid that the bicycle would be damaged in the empty containers. They told me that the road to there is extremely bad (which was absolutely true!!!) and there was no guaranty that the bike would survive this trip in one piece. Then, with the help of the top police officer, one of the drivers agreed to take me. We tied the bike to the inside wall of the container with as many ropes as we could find, again the police was extremely helpful in finding ropes and doing this dirty job in the totally filthy truck. I really felt sorry for them and their nice clean uniforms. The journey in the truck was an ultimate horror trip. The road was so bad and dusty that I really did not think that the bicycle would be in one piece at the other end of the road, But what a surprise, our ropes and straps had secured it safely and beside the dust and dirt it was all OK. At the immigration checkpoint everything went smoothly and here again the officers were all very friendly and spoke some English. Anyone using the Irkeshtam border should be aware that they are not allowed to cycle the section between police and immigration. And going from CN to KG one has to do the immigration paperwork just outside of Wuqia otherwise the police will send you all the way back to Wuqia. I met a hitchhiker from Sweden who had just gone through this drama and lost several days going back and forth, plus on the weekend and public holidays the border is closed!
I checked in to a hotel run by Chinese w/o internet. There are many restaurants and food stalls along the main streets. In a nearby park some kind of concert and a performance of various dancers had been in progress. The town must have recently been modernized and a lot of new buildings are under construction. I asked a taxi driver for the hotel and he led me to this place free of charge. Later I found a small carwash place and they also cleaned my bicycle from all the dust, free of charge. Wuqia is the westernmost town in China. Like in most places in XinJiang province, there is a strong police presence and one can see combat ready patrols all the time.
Wuqia CN @ N39°43.031’ E075°15.404‘
2012-06-16 > 106km/ total 4701km / 406hm / elevation 1200m / sunny most of the day / 12 - 25°C / Ø 18,2.km/h / pedaling time 5:50hrs / day 53 / arrival at final destination: Kashgar, XinJiang province Peoples Republic of China.
The road from Wuqia to Kashgar is under construction but the old road can still be used, except in some sections where only a terrible detour is available. No more snowcapped mountains close by but several bizarre looking rock formations. There is more and more irrigated farmland as I get closer to Kashgar. Many neat Uigur villages surrounded by small poplar plantations can be found along the way. The houses follow all the same atrium style layout with a big nicely decorated wooden gate. Inside a small garden and an area for family gatherings. In one of these small towns I was invited by the 80 year old chief, to have some chai and fish. The remaining route to Kashgar continues mostly downhill with the last 20km turning into a 4 lane freeway with no set traffic rules and no directions on left or right hand traffic. I check into the old Seman Hotel, which is in the Uigur section of the city.
Kashgar @ N39°28.246’ E075°58.108‘
2012-06-17> 0km / sunny all day/ 30°C / day 54 / Seman Hotel
Today is Sunday, the day of the animal market in Kashgar, it reminded me very much of the life-stock markets in Morocco and Tunisia. There were lots of goats, sheep, cows, some horses, but no camels at this time of the year. It’s a fascinating place and really great to watch all the men trading and negotiating. Then I went to the APAK HOJA mausoleum which was first build in 1640. From there I went to the city bazar / market, the old part of town and to the Id Kah Mosque in the central part of town. This is the oldest (1442) and largest Mosque in Kashgar. Later I start searching for a flight back to Europe and a suitable cardboard box for the bike. In the Chinese part of town I discover a GIANT bicycle shop and the perfect box for my size bike. After packing it into the box I declare my “old-man-pedaling trip” as being completed. I will still stay a few days in China before taking the Hainan Air flight via Urumqi and Lanzhou. I dismissed the original plan of taking the train via Moscow, since it would take too much time to get another Russian visa.