Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：79.17km
Time on bike / 走行時間：4h 04m
Average speed / 平均速度：19.4km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：1392.2km
Woke late at 9:30am after being woken in the night by cows sniffing at the tent and dogs barking. I’m sure I was ripped off by having to pay 20RMB for a spot to camp on a farmer’s land, considering the place I’m staying in now only costs 10RMB a night. As I pushed my bike up the very steep driveway out of the field I was staying in, an old guy on a horse watched on. Once I was up on the road, he told me that I should get a horse. That way I could climb mountains much steeper than that! Yeah, good on ya mate.
Until mid afternoon today I had a strong gusty tailwind that helped me keep the pace up down the valley. I zoom into Narat and head down a side street to where some locals were drying wheat by the roadside. They were all very interested to hear that my friend’s father had been raised in Narat, but was now living in New Zealand. The most common question was ‘How on earth did his family manage that?!’. Seeing how most of these people live, I began wondering the same thing.
I spent about two hours with the locals chatting and cleaning my bike. They insisted I have lunch there, so I was treated to my favourite (not) spicy noodles for lunch again.
I was pushed by the wind downhill to Alatube, where I stopped for watermelon. Many more Kazakh and Uighyr peoples here than in Narat. So I ask around to see if anyone knows of any Chernishovs living in the area (Mike Chernishov’s dad was born in Alatube). A couple of people appear to know of someone with that last name, so lead me to a house down a few side streets. They leave me as soon as we arrive, so I walk through the open gates into the courtyard.
Nihao! I say loudly. Or at least intend to say loudly. Instead it ends up being a mutter. An old Chinese guy of at least 80 years old comes out of one of the doors, and is surprised but curious to see a bearded foreigner in his courtyard.
“I am a New Zealander. Is your name Chernishov?” I ask.
“You’re a New Zealander?! Welcome to my home!” he says, and then calls his daughter.
The three of us spend about 30 minutes to ascertain why I am standing in their courtyard and the fact that no, they are not Chernishovs. I am offered watermelon, which I had to refuse due to the fact I had just devoured a whole one just 30 minutes prior. They wish me luck for finding a Chernishov, and I carry on out of Alatube, convinced that there are no longer any Chernishovs in Alatube.
Mike or Gurian, do you know if there are any Chernishovs left in Narat or Alatube? I guess I should have asked this question sooner!
Just out of Alatube I am crossing a bridge when I notice three guys in the muddy river below splashing about. It’s hot, and I need to cool off, so I jump off my bike and join them. I can now say that I have been in a muddy river in western China naked with three Kazakh men (also naked). It was a great chance to wash my clothes and body after almost a week without a wash. My now clean clothes dry within a matter of minutes in the dry heat.
Further down the road about six local kids leading their goats through the fields stop to talk and look at the bike as I am eating noodles and nan bread for tea. They are all on bicycles, so ride with me for some way once I get on my way. Really a very friendly bunch of peoples in this area.
I arrive in Tuargun town at around 9:30pm, and am intending on riding through to find a campspot on the other side of town when I spot an internet cafe. According to the owner, it has only been open 5 months, and is a roaring sucess because it is the only one in the district. So I decided to stay two nights here to get the website all updated.
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：123.96km
Time on bike / 走行時間：8h 09m
Average speed / 平均速度：15.2km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：1313km
English summary: Ate raw instant noodles again for breakfast. Perfect weather, spent most of morning on dirt tracks next to the main road because they were smoother. Another big 3100m pass that was not expected, afterwards dropped into a beautiful lush valley with clear water stream, horses grazing. Made a mad dash for Narat at 8pm with 60km to go. Didn’t make it, but had fun dodging big potholes in the halflight of the evening. Overcharged for a spot to camp on someone’s land.
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：64.63km
Time on bike / 走行時間：5h 24m
Average speed / 平均速度：11.9km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：1189km
Well, I guess I was going to have to cross this pass, even if I did have a more detailed map, but it would have been nice to have known about it before time! The bad road continued up and over the pass that did not exist.
From my diary:
Freaking noodles again for breakfast. Need to get some rolled oats or something for breakfasts. Don’t care about the weight. Cold, two pairs of woollen socks to avoid cold toes. Crawl up to open fields, and I am certain I am at the top of the pass. Meet a group of eight motorbikers while I am pumping up my tyres in preparation for the downhill that would not apear until two hours later.
I was very happy to find a store near the top of the pass that stocked biscuits and pears. A great change after a few days of only noodles. The road I was on today was really half built. Those going this way in another two years time may find a beautiful sealed road. I would thoroughly recommend it, when it is sealed.
Lunch is instant noodles. I tried to mash them into a paste so that I could just gulp them down, but I had no luck. The same plain noodles that I have to chew. Ugh. The road after lunch continues to be very bad. Many potholes and rough tracks for detours where they are building bridges.
The scenery however is magnificent. MASSIVE steppe with huge mountains on either side of the huge valley. A town I stop in at dinner time has a store with rice, so I am very happy to order a double helping. I can’t believe it when the owner refuses to let me pay.
Camp site is in the middle of the massive steppe. Beautiful quietness.
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：32km
Time on bike / 走行時間：4h 12m
Average speed / 平均速度：7.6km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：1124km
English summary: Still hacked off with China. Loud tooting Chinese drivers, unreasonable Chinese military…but there are some nice Chinese people. A road construction gang insisted that I join them for lunch. It was the same spicy noodles that I had eaten for the last five days, but hey, it was free and the company was appreciated.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：34.04km
Time on bike / 走行時間：4h 45m
Average speed / 平均速度：7.1km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：1006.2km
English summary: I am surprised not to be feeling the effects of being at 3200m at present. I am currently camped in an old yurt site in my tent. Rain today made progress slow. I didn’t want to sweat too much and get just as wet from the inside as I would from the outside. Road conditions have been varied. Bumpy sealed road with loose gravel sections. Very steep with me barely being able to keep 5km/h up in places. Bike is very stable however and can manage down to about 3.5km/h without falling over.
解決方法はひとつだけです。汗をかかないことです。これを実現するために、自分の普通の力の３０％くらいしか出しては行けない。南極（South Polar)やほかの極端に寒いところへ歩く人達もこのやり方を執行するらしいです。英語では「Polar plod」といいます。日本語で直訳すると「極地でとぼとぼ歩く」となるかな？とにかく、寒いときには雨が振っていなくても、汗をかかないことに気を付けないと行けません。
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：46.14km
Time on bike / 走行時間：3h 55m
Average speed / 平均速度：11.7km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：972.2km
Today began early. About 2am to be exact. My stomach woke me up with cramps, and my bowels were screaming for the loo. I passed two lots of fairly loose ones before my stomach decided it was time to bring whatever it could find in my stomach up and out my mouth. By that time there was nothing to bring up, so I had three very unpleasant dry reches.
Mild stomach cramps and diarrhea have lasted all day, however they seem to have died down in the last few hours (it is now 8pm). Lack of apetite continues however, although that could be contributed in part to the fact that all people eat around here is noodles. The lack of variation doesn’t exactly do wonders for my appetite.
The cause of all this mayhem is unknown. I ate the following yesterday:
- Pork steamed buns and rice porrage
- Some trailmix of dried fruits and nuts
- Mutton fried rice with tea
- Half a honeydew watermelon
- Two packets of instant noodles
- Some more trailmix
Apart from the tea that came with lunch, I only drank bottled water.
- I do remember while eating the melon, part of the unwashed skin went into my mouth.
- I haven’t been too vigilant with washing my hands before eating. Perhaps my dirty hands contributed to it.
Basically, the fact that I could not eat much at all today made today a generally unpleasant day of riding. I had a three hour sleep in the middle of the day after lunch because I was feeling crook. After that it was all uphill through a very narrow gully. Nowhere to relieve my angry bowels.
Houxia is an interesting town though, as has been most of the area that I have cycled through today. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and therefore ended up on a small rural road through farming land. It was like stepping back in time with clay brick houses and little children (some only seemed five or six) leading cows through the fields.
Houxia is a friendly town right in the middle of the mountains. It’s existance is due only to the massive dirty industry that they have here. I’m not sure exactly what is being made, however there is a building that looks like a foundry building and a big coal powered power generation station.
Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離：52.76km
Time on bike / 走行時間：5h 06m
Average speed / 平均速度：10.3km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離：926km
English summary: I find myself in a small town in an overpriced hotel. It’s the only hotel, so I guess that’s why they can charge 50RMB a night. Interesting scenery getting here though. Massive plains, and a mix of Kazakh, Uyghur and Chinese peoples.
Today I should be able to pick up my Kyrgyz visa. Then it will be off over the Tianshan mountain range to a small town called Narat in the middle of nowhere with internet access. Mike C’s dad was born there. I expect that my next update will be in 10 days or so from a city called Yining.
Till then keep chilled.
I was supposed to pick up my Kyrgyz visa today.
I was told to come and pick my visa up today.
As I left the consulate, the guy at the counter double checked by saying “See you Monday, yes?”.
Today the Kyrgyz consulate was closed.
Today some more of those overly inquisitive city dwelling Chinese lot decided it a good idea to sit on my bike when I was not on it. That promptly caused the stand to break. It also caused one of my water bottle cages to break.
I have decided that Chinese people generally need to chill out. Too much honking of horns, overly energetic and intrusive interactions, too much arguing.
Maybe I just need to get out of this city. Chinese cities are madness.
So I be staying at te Xinjiang International Youth Hostel. Nice place. Their computers allow access to Flickr. That’s why I could upload some pics.