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June 12th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China,highlights

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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 / ??: 150m
Descent / ??: 450m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: dunno

Yesterday I ran out of juice for my GPS. All my batteries are dead. And I left my battery charger in my hotel room in Shanshan. Dumb. So no data for the last few days. I’ll have to work the distance out on a map.

I didn’t get away from the road construction HQ until 8am this morning. I wasn’t concerned; the day looked to be a cooler day. Plus, the men would not have me leave without having breakfast with them.

It would turn out to be an eventful day. One of the best of the trip, perhaps. And it was my birthday.

As I pushed away from the HQ, I had a slight tail wind, and refreshingly green scenery on either side of the road.

Unexpected green on National Highway 312 near Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China Unexpected green on National Highway 312 near Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

The wind from last night left in its wake a beautiful clear day. The clearest weather I’ve experienced in China. I resolved to enjoy it while it lasts; from reports from other travelers, skies like this don’t last for long!

With a fresh mind and fresh legs, I was actually enjoying skating. I may be getting back into a positive frame of mind. The three weeks rest in Shanshan has done wonders.

It took no time at all to get to Sandaolin. Like most cities along this National Highway 312, the city itself was about 2km south of the highway. I stayed on the highway and picked up some snacks to take with me on the road for lunch.

Dry land near Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

What greeted me just outside of Sandaolin was a birthday present I couldn’t have wished for in a hundred years. The two-laned highway (National Highway 312) I have been traveling on so far will one day be one side of a four-lane expressway stretching the breadth of China. In places so far I have seen the construction of the other two-laned side of the future expressway. Today, I spent a whole afternoon on a not-yet-open-to-vehicles three-laned (two-lanes and a lane-wide shoulder) super smooth recently completed expressway. From Sandaolin all the way to Hami, it seems, this southern side of the future expressway is not open to cars, but is perfectly paved and super smooth.

Brand new expressway all to myself between Sandaolin and Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

It was booodiful. A slight downhill, with a slight tailwind…wonderous. It was the same flat desert that I had seen previously, but I was feeling great. On one section, where I did not have to push because the gradient allowed it, I just sat down on my board and relaxed. I kept this up for about 5km. Luverly.

Why stand? (Just-completed brand new express way not open to cars between Sandaolin and Hami, Xinjiang, China)

It got to about 12:30pm and I decided it was time to catch some zs and take the rest of the avo off and wait for the heat of the day to subside. I spied a nice looking culvert and set my sleeping mat up and scoffed down some of the snacks I got from the store in Sandaolin.

As I was just starting to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, I could swear that I could hear water running. I thought for a moment I was going to be washed out of my culvert. I rushed out and looked towards the hills to the north. No clouds. As clear as can be. Upon further investigation, there was an irrigation water race just a few meters from the culvert I was in. The water was running clear and fresh. An opportunity not to be missed. Five days without washing; this is a God-send!

Cooling off on the way to Hami on National Highway G312 in Xinjiang, China

Cooling off on the way to Hami on National Highway G312 in Xinjiang, China Cooling off on the way to Hami on National Highway G312 in Xinjiang, China

I stripped off and jumped in. I rinsed out my clothes; I knew they would dry in minutes here in the desert. Just great. I spent the rest of the afternoon dozing and reading, with a cool breeze floating through the culvert, listening to the water running in the irrigation race.

By and by 6pm came around and it was time to hit the road again. By this time the road and everything around me had absorbed the sun’s heat, and everything seemed to ooze heat from their very pores. Even these kangaroos would have been sweating if they could.

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

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

But as the day wore on, things started to cool down. It was about 8pm when I noticed a curious development ahead of me. A monstrous cloud of dust…

Massive dust storm heading my way about 35km west of Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

Cars and trucks entering the dust were enveloped and could have been plucked from the earth, and noone would ever have seen them go.

I hoped I would not suffer that fate, and just kept skating towards the mammoth cloud. About 1km before the cloud, my tailwind died down, and for a few moments, there was complete calm.

Those few moments over, the easterly gale hit with force. With 500m to go to the dust, the wind increased in force. I pulled over to the edge of the shoulder of the empty expressway and sat down behind my trailer. All I could think was…this is awesome! What a birthday!

Sitting out a dust storm west of Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

The main front of the dust storm passed within a few minutes. It blotted out the sun completely, and not until much later in the day was the setting sun able to pierce through the dust for a last showing.

Setting sun obscured by a dust storm west of Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

After the worst of the dust had blown over, I got up and skated another 500m to the nearest culvert for shelter from the wind. I decided to sit the wind out for an hour or so, and then carry on. I stuck my orange flag in the dirt outside the culvert as an indicator of the strength of the wind. Why get up to check the wind, when I can just glance outside, checking the wind from the comfort of my own culvert?

Sheltering from the dust storm 30km west of Hami on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

By and by the wind died down enough for me to carry on another 10km or so eastward. I passed by a toll gate (once again receiving the bewildered looks from the gate keepers), and stopped just at nightfall in a small shelter off the side of the road.

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    Permanent Link     Comments (6)

Comment by Cornell — June 15, 2008 @ 9:57 am | post a comment

Happy Birthday To You! All the best from Canada.

Concrete Kangaroos in China? Odd?

Comment by christine — June 15, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | post a comment

Happy belated birthday. What a cool thing to discover that water race and to have the desert wash away for a minute. The fresh road all to yourself and the wicked storm… such cool things.

my daughter is in germany on an exchange program from the US. she turned 16 on june 11th in a foreign country. i missed her horribly and can't wait for her to come home. i bet i know how your mum feels, knowing it was your birthday out on the road.

but your adventures and stories are a gift. not just to you but to your readers.

good luck as you continue.

Comment by Dave — June 15, 2008 @ 5:56 pm | post a comment

Happy Birthday!

Comment by Aunty Les — June 16, 2008 @ 1:34 am | post a comment

Those blue skies with the green pastures must have been a relief after so much borwn, bporwn, and more brown! Was the water in the race hot or cold?

Comment by Lee — June 19, 2008 @ 2:24 pm | post a comment

Hey Rob, just catching up again… What an awesome, awesome birthday! God is very creative. (In case we weren't sure from giraffes.) Was thinking of you but didn't get to post.

So glad the break has made a real difference!


Comment by Patrick — June 20, 2008 @ 10:16 pm | post a comment

Happy Birthday Rob,

sounds like you had quite a good one!


Patrick & the McInnis Clan

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