14degrees off the beaten track
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June 11th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s distance / ???????: about 70km
Average speed / ????: very slow
Time on skateboard / ????: very long
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: lots
Ascent / ??: 1025m
Descent / ??: 790m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: dunno

The day started well. Once again I was on the road at 6am sharp. About 30 minutes before the sun began burning a slither of it’s bright mass above the hills in the east.

Sunset over the Tianshan mountains near Hsiyenchi, Xinjiang, China

The morning was calm and cool. I almost considered putting a jacket on, but was warm from moving in a few minutes. The day would turn out to be a solid day of climbing, with fierce, fierce side winds that would ultimately call an eary stop to the day.

Roadside statues near Hsiyenchi, Xinjiang, China

More concrete statues graced me with their presence as I rolled slowly past, across a high plateau.

High plateau 10km east of Hsiyenchi, Xinjiang, China

This road runs in a general south-east direction, and as the road turned slightly more to the east at the end of the plateau, and began climbing, the wind began to blow. Hard.

On numerous occassions I was thrown off balance with the massive northerly wind. It was a stiff uphill also, with trucks going in my direction going so slow it was a tough ask to resist the temptation to grab a hold of the back of one for a pull. I did resist the temptation however; if I was holding onto the back of a truck, I may as well be inside the cab. And believe me, I got plenty of invitations for a ride.

More concrete statues kept me company…

Roadside statues near Chichiaoching, Xinjiang, China

Roadside statues between Shanshan and Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

I was stoked to meet another traveller along the road today. A Japanese cyclist cycling from Shian to Kashgar. The poor guy was having a harder time than me; he had the unfortunate reality of having to continually veer into the northerly gale. At least I had the promise of spending the day veering more and more towards a south-easterly direction.

Another 7km after I met the Japanese cyclist, I was at the top of a pass. A sign at the top told me that I had just skated 18km uphill. That was a tough one. Downhill on the other side, and I was hating life. The road veered south-south-east, so I had a raging gale and a deceptively steep downhill to contend with, with stony shoulders and fairly frequent truck traffic.

A tailwind and downhill, that’s got to be awesome! You might say…but the way the wind was blowing, I had to keep a very firm foot-brake on the road. 15 minutes of these conditions, and my shoes had lost a fair amount of rubber on the soles. I was happy to have the road level out.

Towards the end of the downhill, there was this sign:

Anyone else find this a little bit, um, wrong? (between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China)

Directly translated, the characters mean Green Colour Transit Road. Doesn’t look very green to me…

I stopped at another small store near a toll gate and stocked up on water and food. For the next 40km to Sandaolin, there would be no services, apparently.

The going was still tough. As the downhill petered out, the road veered in a more easterly direction. The northerly gale was till blowing powerfully, and only increased in velocity as the day wore on. I was moving at just over walking pace when I spied a cluster of buildings up ahead. Perhaps it is an inn, I think, and make my way toward it.

It turns out it is an HQ for a road construction contractor working on the new expressway between Shanshan and Hami. I pulled into the lee of the wind behind a wall to the HQ compound. A white collar employee eyes me up and apparently decides that I am indeed of nourishment. He ushers me into the HQ kitchen, and fills me up a bowl of fried noodles. Just what I needed.

“Is there a place to sleep around here?” I ask.

“I’m afraid not,” he replies.

I tell him that I will find a place to set up a wind block with my tent fly. Around the HQ compound is an unusually green grass and tree area. An oasis, you might say.

After finishing my noodles (a second helping is forced upon me, of course), I head outside to look for a place to sleep for the night. The wind has increased even more. Ther is no way that I will be able to sleep in this.

Four workers are struggling against the wind to set up a generator to get the power to the HQ up and running again. It is a simple affair; the bare ends of wires from the generator are wrapped around the overhead wires running to the HQ. I watch as they lean against the wind and get the job done.

Job done, I ask whether any of them know of a sheltered building or something I could crash in for the night. In no time I am invited to stay in one of the workers’ dorms.

Friendly road workers that invited me to stay with them 30km west of Sandaolin on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

I really must be over my brush with travelers’ burn out, because I thoroughly enjoyed the two or three hours we spent chatting. I was interested to learn that Mr. Yan, the man on the far left, earns 50RMB a day (5 Euro). All his food and board is supplied, so that’s all in the hand. So that’s 1,500RMB (150 Euro) a month. Obviously they were taken aback at my US$2,500 a month salary in Japan, but as I tell everyone that asks about that, living costs are much higher in Japan. Still, the discrepancy in disposable income between countries is glaringly obivious.

The HQ allowed me to eat dinner with the men, so I had a second helping of noodles for dinner at 8pm. We chatted some more until lights out at 11pm. I was woken up at around 2am with a ceiling tile in my face. The wind shook one of the false ceiling tiles loose, and it landed in my face, shattering spectacularly. Mr. Yan, who was sleeping next to me, got a second-hand spattering of ceramic, and was equally rudely awoken when I jumped up in a sudden. We removed another suspect tile from the ceiling, shook off the bed clothes, and in 5 minutes we were all sound asleep again, as if nothing every happened.

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Comment by Aunty Les — June 16, 2008 @ 1:30 am | post a comment

Just as well you were in the dorm, ceiling tile or no ceiling tile. With that kind of wind your tent would have been gone forever.

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