Well I’ve managed to squeeze in one more quick blog before I leave Urumqi at the special request of a certain somebody.
After 13 days here it will be mixed emotions when it comes to set off tomorrow. The main purpose of coming here was obviously to get the Kazakhstan visa which I did but I’ve also been able to fully relax and spend some time in the company of some genuinely friendly and interesting people.
In some respects it has actually felt like the first time since I started this trip that I’ve really been ‘on holiday’ However ever since I got my visa the other day it’s amazing how my mind has gone from being relaxed to suddenly jumping back into ‘what needs to be done’ mode.
The last few days here I’ve been looking at maps of both Kazakhstan and Russia. Translating city names from their English equivalent into Russian and the Cyrillic writing system it uses. I should thank the Japanese cyclist Kyoichi who went a week or so ahead of me to Kazakhstan for the heads up that all road signs are written using Cyrillic. To give you a quick example, Almaty is written as Алматы!
I’ve also been trying to sort out my letter of invitation for Russia thus hopefully saving myself some time when I get to Almaty.
It’s 645km to the border and I plan to get there the night of the 21st so that I can cross the border early on the 22nd when my visa starts. From there it’s perhaps another 400km to Almaty so here’s hoping that after all these days of rest my body will stand up to the rigors of riding once again.
The White Birch Hostel has become something of a home over the last 13 days. I’ve got to know the staff well I think and like I said there has been a constant stream of people coming in and out.
Sure I’ve slept in a bunk bed which is slightly too short for me and the smell of sharing a room with 9 other people can sometimes become a little overpowering but I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie of it all and for about four pounds a night you really can’t complain.
Last night was fun; it was the birthday of one of the guys who’d been staying here for a long time. I’ve gotten on particularly well with Einan one of the 9 I share a room with and we decided it would be good to do something a little different. I’ve eaten countless pieces of Naan bread since being here and we’ve always commented that it would make a rather good substitute for a pizza base. With this in mind we both went off on missions the other day to acquire the necessary materials to top a pizza. Incredibly we both managed to locate cheese and the end result was 8 deliciously improvised pizzas which I think went down very well with all who ate them.
I shall certainly miss the noise of traditional Chinese music wafting through the windows from the park opposite in the early morning. I’ll also miss my walks to buy fresh Naan bread in the morning and going over to the park to eat it with a selection of jams, fruits and salad. That’s been really nice, long relaxing breakfasts, good company and good chat. I guess I’ll be back on the porridge soon..
It dawned on me the other day that I haven’t taken that many photos of my time in Urumqi. It’s such a diverse place and I’d perhaps like to have taken more of local people but I always feel slightly uneasy about taking snaps of people on the street.
So my time in China is really coming to an end. I haven’t really had time to think about leaving it to be honest. It would be wrong of me to try and do it justice with a couple of lines at this time and perhaps once I’m in Almaty it will be the time to look back and reflect on the years I’ve spent here. I will say it’s been an experience and an adventure and one for the most part that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’m sure I will miss it greatly.