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August 31st, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Kazakhstan

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Distance / 距離: 31.89km
Time / 時間: 3h 57m
Average speed / 平均速度: 8km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1895.3km

English Summary: Definitely worth a visit. Absolutely stunning. But don’t come on a fully loaded touring bike. The access roads have regular sandy spots that cannot be cycled through. Lots of pushing.

入り口のおじさんによると、コロラド州のグランドカンヨンの次はシャリンカンヨンだそうです。僕はグランドカンヨンを見たことがないけど、このシャリンカンヨンは間違えなくすばらしいです。地球が割り切ったように広いカンヨンが地平線まで続く。カザフスタンにくることがあればぜひ見にきてください。

Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan / カザフスタンのシャリンカンヨン

しかし、くるときに絶対に自転車でこないでください。道路が、道路が。ありえません。砂浜に走っているようです。いや、走っていません。自転車にのって走れないのですよ。地面がやわらかくて、進めない。あまりにもやわらかいところは降りておすしかありません。しかも今日は昼から強い向かい風があります。今でも吹いていて、テントが揺れています。今夜寝れるのかな・・・

On the road to Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan / カザフスタンのシャリンカンヨン

Dark skies on the way to Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan / 暗い空(カザフスタンのシャリンカンヨン)

ちなみに、炭酸水、飲んだことありますか。僕は前飲んだことがなかったけど、カザフスタンにきたら、買う水はそれしかありません。そして、おいしいんです!普通の水はもう飲めません。炭酸水は炭酸のジュース見たいな感じだけど、水です。相当リフレッシュな感じです。

そして、炭酸水のほうがかなり安いです。炭酸水の1.5リットルは60円で、普通の水は500ml50円です。へぇ~。

Campsite on the way to Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan / シャリンカンヨンへ行く途中のチャンプ場所(カザフスタン)

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August 30th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Kazakhstan

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Distance / 距離: 69.93km
Time / 時間: 6h 35m
Average speed / 平均速度: 10.6km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1863.4km

The Kazkakh’s generosity and desire to make me feel welcome became legendary today. I received:

- A full sized braized cooked chicken
- Four small loaves of bread
- 2700 Koktal, the equivalent of about US$23
- A pair of sunglasses to replace my broken ones

I was also offered two 1.5 litre bottles of mineral water. Those I declined because I already had 3 litres on me. That is not to say that I also declined the other things. It’s just that the ones that offered the chicken, bread, money and sunglasses would hear nothing of it. And they were drinking vodka. Especially the large fellow with his arm around me:

Very generous blokes (at the turn-off for Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan) / やさしいカザフスタン人たち

I tried last night to sleep in my tent without actually pitching it. Therefore I was woken many times with the mosquito net in my face. The reason for not pitching the tent was because I couldn’t be bothered since it was unlikely to rain, and I just wanted to see what it would be like. Due to the lack of rain through this area, I think a bivy bag would have been more than sufficient. Just something to keep the ants and buzzing mosquitos out.

Being woken by the mosquito net also meant that I was only running on half power today. That was not helped be a gutsy headwind in the afternoon that is still blowing now. Although that same wind did help keep my temerature down in this very barren, desert-like terrain.

Gravel road to Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan / シャリンカンヨンへ行く砂利道(カザフスタン)

By the way, I do wish now that I had accepted the extra 3 litres of water. I only have 2.5 litres on me now, and I am not sure when I will be able to get more tomorrow. The heat really sucks it out of you…

Massive (on the way to Sharin Canyon, Kazakhstan) / 広い(シャリンカンヨンに行く途中)

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August 29th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,Kazakhstan

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Distance / 距離: 102.26km
Time / 時間: 5h 52m
Average speed / 平均速度: 17.4km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 1793.4km

English Summary: Well, I didn’t really know what to expect from Kazakhstan. All I had in my mind was Ali G’s Borat and Edward Genochio’s experiences of being robbed (sorry, can’t seem to find the link to his blog entry on the subject). The Kazakh people however are very friendly, but in a way much different from the Chinese. Very easy going, they often remind me of New Zealanders.

カザフスタンでの初日です。第一印象は、時間の流れがゆっくりです。中国にいるときになぜか一日があっという間に終わるけど、カザフスタンはなぜかゆっくりできるような気持ちが沸いてきます。周りには人が少ないからかな。

土地は中国と違って、まだ発展していないところが多いです。畑や牧草地の変わりに壮大な荒地が多いです。

人はね、白人が多く、何もしゃべらなかったらニュージーランド人みたいなオープンな感じです。というのは、みんなはロシア語をしゃべります、僕はまだまったくわかりませんので、しばらくのコミュニケーションは手振り身振りになりそうです。そして発展途上国のわりには町がとてもきれい。ゴミは少なくて(中国は多かったよ!)中国でよくあるくさい便所のにおいはもちろんない。

Run down rest stop on the way to Tasqarasuw Town, Kazakhstan / 古いレストラン(カザフスタンのTasqarasuw町へ行く途中)

なかなかいい感じです。

Kazakhstan sunset near Tasqarasuw / カザフスタン夕焼け(Tasqarasuw町の近く)

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August 28th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China,Kazakhstan

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Distance / 今日の距離: 3km
Time riding / 乗っている時間: 20m
Time to cross China-Kazakhstan border / 中国・カザフスタンの国境を超えるのにかかった時間: 10h 30m

No joke. It took 10 hours ad 30 minutes (11 hours and 30 minutes if you include the one hour wait before the gates opened) to cross from China to Kazakhstan today. I was let through the gates to the China departure processing buiding at 8am, and walked out of the Kazakhstan customs building at 6:30pm.

It took the longest on the China side. Both sides had very bad crowd management systems in place, and people would all try to cram through the same small gap to get through processing, all at the same time. If people just chilled out and lined up, then I’m sure things would go so much smoother and quicker. The border staff utilised scowls and rude remarks as their method of getting things done which didn’t help much either…

My situation was complicated as I had a big clumsy bicycle to contend with, which meant that I inevitably ended up at the back of the constant scrum.

Unfortunately cycling the 500m or so from China to Kazakhstan is strictly prohibited, so I also had to endure 2 hours on the bus to cover that 500m. I witnessed the same behaviour amongst the bus drivers as I did the people trying to get out of China. It is is a ‘if you see a gap, go for it, even if there are four other buses also going for it’ behaviour. There was a Kazakhstan border guard directing traffic, however as soon as he let one bus through, the remaining three buses would try to zoom through the one bus sized gap while the guard couldn’t see. Absolute chaos. Once again, if the buses ust lined up orderly, things would have gone so much more smoothly.

Due to the novelty of the utter chaos, the 10 hours did go fairly quickly, and I was euphoric to be on the road in Kazakstan. I only went about 2.5km from the border before turning off the road and riding behind a small hill to set up camp for the night.

Tent site just after the border in Kazakhstan / カザフスタンの国境の近くのキャンプ場所

Just as I was thinking to myself ‘I hope noone comes along’, two guys on horses some galloping by. The younger of the two can speak basic English, so we are able to ascertain that I am from New Zealand and am cycling to England. They take off suitably impressed and return 20 minutes later with a watermelon for me. Fantastic.

So basically, I am just absolutely rapped to be in Kazakhstan. All apprehension has faded, and has been replaced with a sense of freedom for what lies ahead. More of the unknown.

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August 27th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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English summary: Very interesting area here. For almost 100km, the road was lined with corn laid out on the roadside to dry in the sun. Border is closed today, so I have set up camp right at the border for the night.なかなか面白いですよ、この辺。一日中僕が走っていた道路の横に人がトウモロコシを乾燥させていました。100km近くほとんどずっと乾かしていました。そして干すではなくて、路面に直接にまいて、薄くのばして乾かすんですよ。

Drying corn on the roadside in Yining, western China / イニング市の道横でトウモロコシを乾燥する人たち(中国) コルゴスに着いたら、もう出国時間が過ぎていましたので、早速出国の門の前にマットと寝袋を敷いて寝ました。途中でおきたのは一回だけでした。なんと野良犬が僕の足をゴミと間違ってしまって持っていこうとしていた。向こうが僕に蹴られたことで大びっくりしたみたい・・Friendly border guard at Khorgos border crossing, China-Kazakstan / フレンドリーな出国管理人

Needs a little more time before he's ready to ride a recumbent (Khorgos, western China) / もうちょっと! 

 

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August 26th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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So here I am in the net cafe in Yining updating like crazy. Hope you enjoy the action.

From here I head towards Kazakhstan. I expect to be in Kazakhstan tomorrow. Lots of apprehension as I head into the real unknown. At least up till now I have been able to fudge my way using Chinese characters scribbled down on a note pad…

My next update will probably be from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I will be there a few days to get my Tajikistan visa. I expect that will be in no more than two weeks.

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August 25th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離:74km
Time on bike / 走行時間:4h 27mm
Average speed / 平均速度:16.7km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離:1574km

A fitful sleep in the brick kiln due to flapping bats and scratching mice began a day that would end in me discovering that I no longer had a camera.

It was pretty much flat all the way to Yining from the kiln, so I took my time to take plenty of photos and video on the way.

I arrived in Yining at around 3pm, and headed for the center of town for lunch. While I sat eating nan bread and honeydew melon, a crowd of at least 20 people crowded around looking at the foreigner and his bike.

After lunch two Uighyr guys spent at least 45 minutes walking around with me to find a cheap place to stay. Most of the places we went to would not admit foreigners, and we were frequently told to go to the expensive hotels in the middle of town. We did find a reasonable place in the end, at 25RMB a night for my own room.

It was when I was sorting out my luggage when I discovered my camera was missing. Only the case remained. I usually attach the camera case to the bike on one of the panniers so that I have easy access to it while I am riding. Silly me, I had not been vigilant enough to remove the camera every time that I left the bike. I think that the camera was pinched while I was in one of the hotels asking about rooms. Gutted. It was a jolly good camera.

So the mission for today was to find a store that sold digital cameras. The net cafe people directed me to a camera store down the road that sold them, and an hour later I walked out with a Canon Powershot A540. They did not stock the Powershot A700 that was stolen, but the A540 seems to have most of the features of the A700, apart from the 6x zoom. The A540 has a 4x zoom. Also, the lense on the A540 is not as large as the A700. I’m not much of a cameraman, so I doubt I will tell the difference. Hopefully insurance will cover some of the cost.

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August 24th, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s Distance / 今日の走行距離:124.64km
Time on bike / 走行時間:6h 57m
Average speed / 平均速度:18.3km/h
Total distance to date / 現在までの積算距離:1519.9km

Woke at 6:30am for an early start to Yining, however the motel owners were not up, so I napped until 8am when I heard movement from inside the house. The owners give me a hearty breakfast of rice porrage (really yum and lasting energy for the day). Out of town by 9am, stop for watermelon at a watermelon patch at 10:30am and don’t get away until 11:30am. Wonderfully friendly Kazakh folks.

One of the many roadside watemelon stands, Xinjiang Province, China / どうろのよこのすいかはんばい

Very contrasting landscape today. On my left is a lush valley with a fast flowing river, on my right is desolate rocky hills. There were many fishermen along the river trying to sell me fish as I passed. Most of them kindly understood why I didn’t fancy carrying fish in my panniers.

Land of contrasts

Generally downhill and a tailwind all day, apart from some slow uphills halfway through. I was nervous buying watermelon in a town on the way for tea. I was half way through getting across the fact that I wanted a watermelon when I noticed a police officer eyeing me from about 700m away. The watermelon seller also noticed (they appeared to realise that this was a closed town), and just gave me the watermelon for free and told me to leave quick. Legendary.

I ate outside of town near a bridge, and seriously considered sleeping under it. In the end I gave up on that idea and ended up sleeping in an old disused brick firing kiln.

Cozy bed in a disused brick firing kiln - between Tuargun and Yining City, western China / レンガのトンネル窯が今日の寝どころ(トアルグンまちとイニング市のあいだ)

Cozy bed in a disused brick firing kiln - between Tuargun and Yining City, western China / レンガのトンネル窯が今日の寝どころ(トアルグンまちとイニング市のあいだ)

My 'motel' on the way to Yining City / ぼくのしゅくはく

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August 23rd, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China,highlights

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I slept like a log last night and was phsyched up to get my blog up to date. Tuargun doesn’t have much in the way of eateries, so I bought some tasteless mutton steamed buns and nan bread and ate some of those for breakfast. Man, how I miss a bowl of cornflakes with milk for breakfast…

I managed to upload a good lot of photos including descriptions before lunch, using a batch resizer recommended by Rob, a recumbent tricycle rider who is riding 25,000km around China at present.

I figured with all the photos uploaded, it was time to take a break before getting back into the daily posts after lunch. The internet cafe owners recommended a place just over the road for good noodles (noodles again). So I nipped over and ordered a big bowl. As I was waiting, a police officer wandered over from the police station next door. Can I have a look at your passport? I handed it over and he took a few moments to flick through it. Without handing it back, he called someone on his cell phone and I caught the words ‘foreigner’ and ‘doesn’t have’. It was at this moment that I began thinking that comething could be amiss with the situation.

A few moments later two more police officers arrive, and my passport gets handed around some more. They ask for my ‘travel permit’. “Um, what is a travel permit?” I ask.

This is greeted with air sucked through teeth and general silence. “Is there a problem?” I ask.

“Yes.” the officer across from me says.

They scribble down in Chinese characters the characters for “foreigner” and “closed area”. By this time I have figured out that I am in one of those infamous “closed to foreigners” areas that I have read about in other travel blogs. How the hang are you supposed to know? I had no issues in Houxia or Balguntay…

They take my passport, and tell me to come to the police station after I have finished my noodles. From here, I’ll write from my diary:

2pm: Currently sitting in police holding room with a guard carving at his desk with a razor blade. I understand that a translator will not be available until 4pm, so I need to wait here. What will happen? Bad idea to go to that restaurant next to the police station for lunch. But I had no idea, so no need to be hard on myself. It would be nice to know the implications of the situation…

3pm-ish: Have been asked some questions such as how much did I earn a month in Japan, when am I leaving this town.

3:30pm: China Unicom guy arrives, he can speak English. Doesn’t appear to be the interpreter though. Just a curious local. Officers trying to ride my bike. I hope they don’t break it. Passport passed about, even to non-police people.

4:15pm: Translator has arrived, a local English teacher. It appears that I know more Chinese that she does English. We move to the ‘questioning room’ and I am formally asked questions that I have already answered informally in the holding room. Large table with pale blue checked table cloth. I am at the head of the table, translator and her cousin who speaks very good English are on my left, officer and pleb on my right. The atmosphere is jovial with a hint of the officer trying to make things seem formal.

5:30pm: I sign and fingerprint my statement. It basically goes that I am in China on holiday, I have been to these places on these dates, and I am in a closed town without a permit. I am told that I must go to Xinyuan, a city 35km away, tonight. I am not allowed to stay here. Once in Xinyuan, I must go to the police station and register there. Am told all towns between here and Yining are closed and I cannot stop there, even to buy things. Am also told that I need to pay a 500RMB fine for breaking the law. I physically do not have 500RMB on me, so it is agreed that I can pay US$60 and 20RMB.

6:40pm: Have been waiting here in the pale blue checkered table cloth room since 5:30pm. Apparently the official bill/receipt for the fine needs to be driven from Xinyuan in order for me to pay the fine. I cannot leave and receive my passport until I pay the fine.

6:50pm: It is now too late for me to go to Xinyuan tonight. I can stay the night here.

7pm: Still waiting. Very hungry

8pm: Still waiting. Apparently this police station only yesterday received indepth training about the law concerning closed towns. According to the translator, if I had been in this town only a few days earlier, I may not have had any issues.

8:30pm: Finally bill arrives, I pay the fine. I cannot leave however, because there are problems with the computer to process the bill.

8:38pm: Finally get the OK to leave, however am called back just as I am leaving the building because I need to re-sign and fingerprint my statement that has been rewritten because some sentences did not fit the protocol for fomat of the statement.

So after more than six hours ‘under arrest’, I guess, I can leave, have dinner, and return to my motel.

I arrive back to the motel and am greeted by the owner who is almost in tears. He explains that he has to pay a fine of 500RMB and do community service for allowing a foreigner to stay at his motel. This is not a rich family. I almost break down crying right there, and am gutted that I have caused this much damage for his finances. It is obvious that 500RMB is a big blow to him. I offer him US$50 (about 400RMB) in cash to help compensate. At first he does not accept, but later accepts to take the cash.

After giving him the cash, I begin wondering why on earth they did not tell me that this is a closed town? I had dinner and a beer with the internet cafe owner, and even chatted with a local court worker in English. Surely they know that the town they live in is closed to foreigners. I don’t have the courage to ask him tonight, however in the morning the next day I asked, and he said of course he did not know. “You didn’t know, I didn’t know, and yet we must pay a fine”. He made a few gestures that described his feelings towards the local authority…

Expensive bit of paper - my 500RMB fine receipt for being in a closed town (Tuargun) in China / 値段のたかい紙 - がいこくじんが非開放地区にはいって、とまってしまったら、ばっきんとして500げんをはらわないといけない

So it was a very expensive day. I leave very early tomorrow morning and head for Yining City. No stopping in towns for 200km.

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August 22nd, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Now we’re talking! Highlights of the last few days:

  • 4200m pass
  • Two 3000m plus passes (both not on the map I have)
  • 170km of rough, rough, mostly uphill in first gear roads
  • Getting really, really hungry and really really sick of Chinese instant noodles
  • Amazing people, amazing generosity
  • Amazing, amazing scenery
  • Cruizing through Mike C’s dad’s birthplace

Hopefully I will have photos up for you tomorrow, and will try to get through all your very supportive comments! They are very appreciated!

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