I’ve been in Urumqi a week now and have finally gotten around to updating this blog from a week ago
I knew I was only a matter of a hundred or so kilometres from Urumqi when I went to bed and had a real sense of excitement at the prospect of hitting the capital of Xinjiang province the next day. I don’t remember it being overly windy when I went to sleep at night; however I was woken up at around 2 o’clock in the morning by a fierce wind roaring through and under the culvert. Luckily everything was packed away in bags but all sorts of debris was being blown under the culvert and rapidly out the other side.
The wind was really powerful and like I said I was lucky I’d made sure there was nothing left out that could be blown away. It wasn’t a great experience I have to say, the wind was making an awful howling noise and I had little choice but to huddle up in my sleeping bag inside the tent and try and ride it out.
I usually leave the bike rested up against the inside wall and was really fortune that when it did crash down after one particularly forceful gush it missed my legs and also failed to damage the bike in any way.
By six o’clock in the morning the wind had subsided somewhat but was still blowing pretty strong. This was my worst fear realized; I’d gotten through what many people had said was the windiest part of the desert only to hit it so close to Urumqi.
I spent the next half an hour struggling against the wind packing away my sleeping bag and tent while the wind raged around me; all the time trying to dispel the thought of not making it to Urumqi tonight.
I began to question whether this would be possible or not the moment I got onto the road as the wind made it almost impossible to ride. I’d purposely chosen this culvert to sleep under as I knew there was a petrol station 5 kilometres up the road. With a combination of riding and pushing I managed to get to the petrol station where I decided to assess my options.
Fortunately it was one of those stops which has everything; petrol station, restaurant and washrooms. Having refueled on an incredibly unhealthy breakfast of crisps, cookies and coke I was ready to tackle what lay ahead.
I spoke to one guy and asked him about the distance to Urumqi, he informed me that it was about 120 kilometres away to which I tried to figure out using a variety of hand gestures whether that was uphill, flat or downhill. The upwards diagonal movement he made with his hand wasn’t the answer I was looking for. He told me that it was 35 kilometres up the mountain before it leveled off.
It was a painfully slow ride uphill in the morning, I’ve been spoilt for the last few days with fantastic conditions and was on the one hand thankful I’d put in the extra effort to cover the distances and therefore avoid this exact situation but on the other hand was filled with dread at the prospect of not being able to make it to Urumqi and the hostel I’d set my mind on for that night.
My speed was so slow as I gradually made me way up the mountain. I’ve no problem riding up mountain but as I’ve already experienced on this trip mountains and headwind isn’t a good combination.
It took an age to cover the 35km to the top and I knew I still faced a good 90 kilometres to Urumqi. Again there were some beautiful snow capped mountains to the West but for the most part the scenery remained the same. The afternoon was grey and cold and the adverse weather conditions just made me more determined to make it to Urumqi. Each road sign was a blessing and I began to count down the kilometres.
Nearing the top but still 95 kilometres to go.
Just outside of Urumqi the weather began to pick up which in turn lifted my spirits. I don’t know what I expected to feel when I got here. For so long I’ve been thinking about the moment that I would arrive in Urumqi. I know there is another 650 kilometres to Korgos and the border with Kazakhstan but for me reaching here signified a big achievement.
The combination of the G30 and G312 that have served me so well over the past few months.
I suppose I’ve viewed this trip in three sections; crossing China, crossing Kazakhstan and Russia and then the final leg from the Ukraine to the UK. This was like ticking off number one.
My first sight of Urumqi.
Once in Urumqi I still had to locate the youth hostel. The directions on their website weren’t the best and it required a quick call from me to find out the exact address, after that I just let the GPS work its magic.
Within 15 minutes I found myself outside the White Birch International hostel with the cycle computer reading 4999km. I’d made it! I was too tired to feel any real emotion at this point and was really just looking forward to a hot shower and bed for the night.
Over the past four days I’d managed to cover a distance of 619 kilometres, an average of 154 kilometres per day. I’m incredibly thankful for the fortunate winds I experienced and it might have been a different story had the wind chose to blow differently but I’m here now and looking forward to the prospect of unwinding before beginning the process of sorting out my Kazakhstan visa.