14degrees off the beaten track
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August 22nd, 2006 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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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.

Yurts coming into Narat, western China / カザフ族のユルト - ナラット町付近

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.

Narat, western China / ナラット町(中国)

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.

Closed doors in Aratube (Alatudo) western China

Quiet streets in Aratube (Alatudo) western China

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.

Three Kazakhs and a New Zealander - Alatube (Alatudo), western China

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.

Local biker boys - Alatube (Alatudo), western China

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.

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    Permanent Link     Comments (5)

Comment by Aunty Jenny — August 27, 2006 @ 6:16 pm | post a comment

The photos are so great! You have such a knack for making friends! Good quality to have when you are doing what you are doing.

Comment by Robyn-Jane — August 31, 2006 @ 2:58 am | post a comment

Hi Rob, you are amazing! Such courage and you're so positive : ). Well done!

As far as we know, there are no Chernishovs left in Gurian's village. We think the whole of the Russian community left at the same time – certainly Gurian's parents took all their 8 kids and the wives and grandchildren when they left. It's a fascinating story – you must ask Gurian to tell it to you sometime. Gurian's family and a lot of (if not all of) the others in their Russian village left at the same time as refugees, sponsored by the World Council of Churches. The local official who OK-ed their exit and travel docs, a young family man, was shot for giving the Russians their docs. All the Russians travelled at night by train overland to Hong Kong. This was to protect them – too dangerous to travel by day. When they got to Hong Kong they lived in very crammed conditions in an old hotel near what was the Walled City. Gurian (he was 12/13) and the other young boys went to work, and in their spare time they travelled by bus all over Hong Kong.

Is it easy to hear God's voice in China???


Comment by steve chernishov — September 2, 2006 @ 7:03 am | post a comment

hey rob, sounds like your trip is going good. the 14degrees website is rating high on google. i found this link by looking up chernishov on the second page! cool aye.. :-)

Comment by Rob Thomson — September 8, 2006 @ 3:36 am | post a comment

Robyn-Jane, sorry for the very late reply to your comment. It does indeed sound like the Russian community in Alatube had an epic exodous. As for whether I can hear God's voice in China, that's a tough one. With all the tooting and squeaking brakes around you, it's hard to hear anything!

Comment by Rob Thomson — September 8, 2006 @ 3:38 am | post a comment

Steve Chernishov, interesting domain name change.

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