Going over the 200
I woke up this morning early after a rather restless nights sleep. I usually sleep pretty well in the tent but in anticipation of cold weather I’d worn rather too much and if anything was too hot inside my small shelter.
Another day, another sunrise
I was determined today to make some real headway into the remaining distance to Urumqi. That determination was partly fuelled by the news regarding my Gran the previous day. The only way to deal with this was to ride as hard as I could and try and cover as much distance as possible.
I haven’t really thought about being in Xinjiang, in terms of scenery and I was beginning to think it was much the same as Gansu. That all changed today, today I got the first glimpses of what I had imagined the desert to be like, high sand dunes, deep valleys of orangey yellow sand, extremely beautiful but at the same time deeply inhospitable. It’s funny also to see greenery in some parts and occasionally you can see the odd clump of trees that have sprouted up.
A couple stopped me at about 80km, the man introduced himself as Sunny a Canadian. I often see this, an obviously Chinese citizen who has emigrated to another country and thus now has another passport who is now adamant that this is their nationality. Anyway that is by the by, he and his wife got out of their car and were really interested to chat to me. It turns out they were returning to the city they live in north of Urumqi and had chosen to go by car. They posed for photos with me and were extremely kind and friendly, warning me about the dangers that I faced ahead.
I’m not sure if I’ve just been lucky or am perhaps a little to blasé about the whole situation but I’ve been told of this extremely hostile land that I’m entering and that there are people out here in the desert who will cut your throat while you sleep at night. I have to say I’ve found most of the people in this region and on this trip thus far for that matter incredibly friendly and respectful. I can honestly say I’ve not felt threatened at anytime so far.
You can imagine my surprise an hour after saying goodbye to Sunny and his wife that I saw them coming back the other way. They turned around at the toll booth and pulled up alongside me beckoning me to pull over so they may talk to me again. Sunny explained that they had both been so worried about the prospect of me cycling this part of the trip that they’d come back around to see if it would be possible to squeeze my bike into their already jam packed car. The first thing to say about this was it was an incredibly thoughtful and kind gesture. I really had to go out of my way to reassure them that I’d be perfectly fine and that they ought not to worry about my safety.
Today was a simple case of putting as many kilometres on the clock as I could while the weather remained good. People keep commenting about how quickly I’m going but to me it really doesn’t feel that way. Unless you ride the bike there really isn’t that much to do out here in the desert. I’m just very conscious of the wind changing direction and leaving me facing constant bruising headwinds.
Getting close to Urumqi now just 364km to go now.
It was a scorching hot day and I’d made the most of the early start by clocking up a good number of kilometres by lunch. The afternoon saw the road rise slightly and I was beginning to tire at about 5:30 when something strange happened. As I turned the bike around another corner and up towards another incline the wind did something it has failed to do for much of on this trip, it suddenly gushed up from behind me. This was all rather new to me and I decided it would be foolish not to make the most of it. I’d been thinking of knocking it on the head for the day but the sudden change in fortune with the weather persuaded me to push on a little further. When I got to the top of the climb I was further buyoued by the signs with the arrows pointing diagonally down. Before I knew it I was flying downhill, wind assisted it was an amazing feeling, the cycle computer was working overtime as the kilometres clicked off rapidly. In the hour and a half that followed I think I managed to put about 70km on the clock by just simply rolling downhill. These are what I call my ‘free kilometers’
The different colours of the sand.
I had planned to camp out again tonight but just as I passed through another toll booth (cyclist are expemt from paying by the way) I saw a number of restaurants, a gas station and more importantly a small hotel; it was too good to say no. The hotel was a little pricey for what it was but I was in no mood to attempt to get a lower price. The bathroom was a disaster waiting to happen and I decided against a shower when I saw the socket hanging off the wall. A small prod of it from me saw it produce sparks and that was enough for me. I’ve become pretty adept at washing in myself in the sink so it wasn’t a huge problem.
I headed out for some overly spicy food at one of the nearby restaurants. I only managed to drink half of the cold beer I ordered with dinner before I began to feel sleepy. Before long I was back in the hotel and planning to write a little. I woke up around 3:00 in the morning the white screen of a word document brightly shining in my face, I’d obviously not got very far with the writing then!