Day 27 – CHINA: Base of Shenri Daban Pass to just out of Balguntay

Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離:84.55km
Time on bike / 走行時間:5h 19m
Average speed / 平均速度:15.8km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離:1090.8km

It is official. The Chinese need to introduce another national law that requires all babies born to be given chill pills. Maybe then China will be a much more chilled out place. Skip to the bottom of this post if you want to find out why I am really hacked off right now.

The day started well with a 900m vertical metre climb up the face of a mountain. It was cold with snow on the ground and in places on the road. Just before the zig zags began there was a small gathering of yurts where I was invited in for milky tea and stale bread for breakfast. This was a welcome change from noodles.

Early morning sunshine towards Shenli Daban Pass, western China / 早朝の日射し - シェンリダバン峠へ向かって

Yurt at the base of Shenli Daban Pass, western China / カザフ族のユルト - シェンリダバン峠へ向かって

I had frozen gear cables and brake cables, so I only had one gear and front brakes that locked up at will. Lucky for me, for the first three hours of the day I only needed one gear (the easiest), and going up hill I rarely needed the brakes.

Um, no, really, it was really, really steep - Shenli Daban Pass, western China / ほんんんっとうにきつかったとです - シェンリダバン峠(天山山脈、中国)

I was secretly stoked at how well my body was coping with the altitude at the top. That was what I was most worried about when considering going this way over to Narat. I had heard many bad things about altitude sickness, and I wasn’t too keen to experience it. However even after being photographed numerous times at the top by rich fourwheel driving Chinese people, I was still feeling fine.

Who said recumbents can't climb hills? Shenli Daban Pass, western China / リカンベントは坂、問題ない - シェンリダバン峠(天山山脈、中国)

Now, those of you that thought that perhaps my brakes and gears would thaw out once I got going, please think again. No thawing action for me until about half way down the other side. This gave for a much more slow decent than I had hoped for, but the road was bad enough that any great speed would not have been possible anyway.

Massive ruts coming down from Shenli Daban Pass, western China. And my brakes were frozen. / シェンリダバン峠から降りて、道路が悪化する - シェンリダバン峠(天山山脈、中国)

I took one hour out for lunch at 3500m, and after being given a watermelon by a passing truck (man, that was a good watermelon), I was on my way with brakes and gears all in order. The valley opened up into massive steppe with horsemen driving unsaddled horses down the hills. The road continued to be unsealed, however it was in good enough condition to squeeze up to 45km/h out of the bike (yes, I was wearing my helmet!).

Wide valley after Shenli Daban Pass, western China / 広い谷 - シェンリダバン峠から降りて(天山山脈、中国)

The downhill lasted all day, however the road conditions did not. For the last two hours or so of riding I was riding on pot holes with bits of road interspersed between them. The bike handles the bumps well however, and loose gravel, while scary, is fine as long as you keep a light grip on the steering. Letting the bike go where it wants (to a degree) is the key to keeping it (and you) upright.

So that brings me to what is putting a fire in my bottom tonight. I am currently sitting in my tent that I put up in the dark amongst houses in a small town. I had originally put the tent up in a nice field next to a river after getting the permission of the owner and two uniformed army soldiers. However, at about 9:30pm (20 minutes before dark), four army bigwig-looking fellas stroll up and start asking lots of probing questions about where I had come from, where I plan on going, where is your passport, where is your official itinerary…

It appears that I had pitched my tent too close to a very small army base. “For our safety” we would like for you to move your tent one kilometre away up stream. I didn’t have much option but to pack all my gear up and leave. So there I was fuming as I biked along trying to find another spot to camp in the dark.

I’m a New Zealander, for goodness sake! What on earth could the threat be from me? I guess all foreigners are suspicious until proven otherwise. Or just suspicious full stop. So there we go. If you see an army base in China, just keep biking. If you can see it from your tent, you are a spy.

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2 thoughts on “Day 27 – CHINA: Base of Shenri Daban Pass to just out of Balguntay

  • Aunty Jenny

    Hey Rob, great to get some pics of you amongst the wild scenery of China. I would seriously love to live in a yurt. Not the material kind that the Mongolians have, but a bit more substantial. I reckon it would be cool. There are places in the U.S that have camping grounds with yurts as cabins. the outside material is some sort of P.V.C I think. The roads look pretty bad. Is there much traffic on them? Are there very many settlements along the way? I guess there aren't any on the passes.

    I'm finding your whole journey fascinating. It's good that the altitude is not affecting you. Does it make it more tiring though?

  • Gurian Ch

    Rob you are amazing. Keep up the good work. I am curious to know if you took a pictur of the house you went in to find the Chernishovs? That could have been our house, Accross the street from the house, was there a big fied of grass?

    Anyway we wish you an injoyable trip during the rest of your advenurous jerney.