The Wheels on the bike go round and round.....
I should point out that at the time of writing I’m now in Urumqi (or as it’s also known Wulumuqi) and I’m trying my best to recount the events of the what is incredibly almost a week ago so forgive me if my recollection is a little hazy.
Today things took a turn for the better. I somewhat nervously approached the entrance to the G30 Gansu expressway and thought it best to go straight to the top and ask if it’s really possible for me to ride my bike on this glorious piece of road. The entrance to all expressways has a massive yellow building where I’m guessing a whole host of important administrative work is carried out. I strode in with my map and GPS in hand and wanted some answers regarding the disappearance of the G312.
Much to my amazement they informed that it’s perfectly okay for me to ride on the expressway. But what about the sign with a bicycle and a thick red line through it? “Don’t worry about that” I was informed very casually by one of the people manning the entrance. The longer I live in China the more I realize signs are more often than not mere decoration, and just like that I was on my way.
I can’t even begin to describe the contrast in road surface. I looked down upon a smooth black tarmac which just rolled out in front of you in a beautifully straight line, was I dreaming? I’d been sluggish getting up but despite being out late on the road I was soon clipped in and taking full advantage of in my new environment.
Now that's what a call tarmac!
The only problem one now has to contend with are the strong cross winds and the convoys of huge trucks which I also share this road with. It’s quite a hairy experience at times. Contending with the wind and the passing trucks requires a lot of concentration to keep the bike on the hard shoulder.
First time I've seen a sign for Urumqi.
I was loving it though and in no time I’d chalked off 80km. I’d just gotten back on the bike after a quick refreshment stop when I met Ben a fellow cyclist from Belgium going the opposite way and heading for Australia. He was the first other foreign biker I’ve met and we stopped and chatted for a while swapping experiences of our travel so far and giving advice on what lies immediately ahead.
As I clipped myself back in I had a quick check of the GPS which now informed me I was in Xinjiang Province, my final province in China and a region I’ve wanted to visit for many years now.
I stopped at the wonderfully named Xingxingxia to stock up on water and met some very friendly locals at the petrol station. What with it being on the border between Gansu and Xinjiang you can imagine it was a hive of activity. However it was only served by one hotel that obviously had a monopoly on accommodation and thus saw fit to charge people 160RMB a night! There was no way I was going to pay that so with a fully replenished supply of water I headed back out into the desert and found myself a suitable spot under the road.
Next stop Hami.