Back to business
This was my first day back on the bike after my enforced stay in Urumqi. It felt really strange at first to be back on a fully loaded bike after nearly two weeks off it, the weight of which made me feel a little unbalanced.
I had intended to get out onto the streets nice and early but as with all best made plans they never quite come to fruition. I found myself slap bang in the middle of Urumqi jostling for position with the morning rush hour traffic. However whereas everyone else seemed in a hurry to get to their jobs I was content to go along at a leisurely pace.
Goodbye to the White Birch Hostel my home for the past two weeks.
It’s funny I felt a certain sense of achievement in reaching Urumqi and in my mind it had signified the crossing of China. My mind has shifted now and I now know that thinking this was a touch premature and there is still the small matter of 675km to the border town of Korgos. Only then will I really have achieved something.
It wasn’t long before I was back in the swing of things and had once again found my way to the expressway. I hadn’t really thought too much about what lay beyond Urumqi and was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of green fields with a backdrop of imposing mountains. In fact it seemed that every piece of land was being farmed in someway by the hundreds of field workers I passed.
This did present a problem for me in that it’s very hard to find a place to camp when all the land is being worked. Added to this the fact that people work in the fields to well into the early evening meant it was hard to find a suitable place to set up camp without being seen.
One thing that I didn’t previously mention is that people in Urumqi and I’m guessing it’s true of the surrounding areas operate on a different time from Beijing; ‘Uyghur time’ is two hours behind. My body has become accustomed to this and for example it was quite normal to still be up at 1:30 in the morning chatting with people.
Unable to find a place to camp but with plenty of light still left in the day I passed Shihezi and made my way to Shawan where I managed to find a bed for 20RMB about two pounds. Granted this was not the kind of place you’ll find in any travel guide book but it was a bed and after 191km on the road today it was most welcome.
I did think of my Dad who was a part-time fireman for many years and shudder to think what he would have made of the room which was basically a balcony which had been converted into the smallest of rooms. In the event of a fire you really wouldn’t want to be here so I went through the process of making a visual map of place in the event of a fire. If the worse came to the worse it was only a drop of 50 metres to the street outside!
It seems that all Chinese hotels have a rating system as you can see from the picture. I was surprised by the C rating and would have graded it about an E but it wasn’t until later that I found out that C is as low as it goes. Generous. All in all a good first day back on the bike. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after such a long break off but at the end of the day riding I felt good and no aches or pains. The bike and I are back in business.