Synchronized dancing at playtime. Mary slurpin’ up some noodle soup. Curly roof details.
15,800kms down the line and we’ve made it from Guernsey (or at least Saint Malo) to China! It’s 8.30am and we’re sat in our room at a hostel in Urumqi, a huge and surprisingly cosmopolitan city isolated like an island in the middle of a huge desert (a desert island) of north-western China. We now have twenty three days left of our thirty day China visas and in that time need to cycle 1900kms east (with no more days off the saddle) from Urumqi to Lanzhou where we’ll hopefully arrange a further thirty day extension before heading south. We’ve been in Urumqi for three nights and were meant to leave yesterday, to keep to our visa/km schedule, but decided as it was Mary’s birthday on the 24th we’d give ourselves an extra day off to relax and do a bit of mooching… if the winds are as kind to us as they were on the way to Urumqi, we’ll easily make up the time.
On crossing the border from Kazakhstan, that marked the end of the Central Asian leg of our trip, and into China, we had an unexpectedly warm welcome into the nineteenth country of this extended holiday (of course I mean extraordinarily brave and epic World adventure) by the very friendly Chinese customs officers. Passports stamped, customs officers rated (there is a selection of buttons in the form of faces, ranging from happy to sad, that you are encouraged to press as an evaluation of your customs-er service). As we walked through the passport control one of the officers whispered to me “I would do anything to come with you”… not that surprising having just been told that they have to work ten hour shifts, seven days a week with no holiday for the first three years. I was reminded of my own life as an extremely driven work-horse back at home, slogging through a gruelling three and a half day a week with only twelve weeks holiday a year.
Not too much to report about our China adventure yet. The ride from the border to Urumqi was some of the fastest yet, averaging 140km a day for five days. Except for the six punctures caused by small bits of wire, the roads in China are so much better than most we’d experienced in any of the Central Asian countries. Even the driving seems a tad better, drivers seem a little more aware of cyclists… I guess there are a billion of them. The wild camping has so far been easy and plentiful. We even spent one night in a traffic island J.G.Ballard style… although we didn’t get lost and die. So, this was brief, but the increasing volume of the traffic outside our window is reminding me that we’d better get our asses back on the saddles and begin chipping our way through the desert kilometres.
View larger map
Our route from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Urmuqi, China I’ve written this post on our iPhone… So I’m not sure if the map will display correctly. If you can see the line of our entire route just zoom in to the far right section for the latest… I guess that’s obvious, as we’re cycling east.