The road from Shu to Qulan unfortunately for me didn’t improve and I spent another day engaged in the art of avoiding holes.
The temperature has gone up another notch and it’s now extremely hot.
I stopped for breakfast early in the morning in a small restaurant inhabited by hardened, grizzly looking truckers. The lady overcharged me for the eggs and tea I had but I wasn’t in the mood to argue with her and as usual accepted from time to time I’ll be charged a little extra. I was pleasantly surprised however when she came outside just as I was about to leave and obviously explained to me in Russian that she’d made a mistake and handed some more notes over to me; my faith in humankind once again restored.
I made my way slowly towards Merke and took a short chocolate and Russian lemonade break in Tatti after 60km.
On the outskirts of Merke the roads became lined with small caravans some of which doubled as houses. Many of them were brightly decorated and were all selling honey in various sizes of jars.
I arrived in Merke at around 4 and decided that it was too early to pack up for the day and continued on my way to Qulan which a couple of construction workers had informed me was about 40km away.
The road around Merke is under construction which is a good thing and a sign that the country is making efforts to improve it’s roads, however it was a little too early for me. Any hope I had of arriving in Qulan in a couple of hours was dashed when I embarked on truly horrendous section of road about 8km long which went around the town of Merke. Words cannot describe it and it resembled more a building site than that of a road. Not for the first time on the trip I decided that rather than battling it out with the various trucks and cars it was better for me to just push the bike along the road.
I eventually arrived just outside of Qulan and having eaten a good dish of noodles I tried my usual trick of asking to pitch my tent behind the restaurant. I’d scouted the area out beforehand and as I’d been successful on all previous attempts I had no reason to doubt today would
be any different.
I followed the friendly waitress out the back where she asked her mother whether it would be possible for me to put the tent up under one of the many shelters they had in the courtyard at the rear. Her request coupled with my pleading looked was met with a stern refusal. I think the girl was slightly embarrassed by the situation and as I prepared to set off in search of a place to stay she presented me with a large cold bottle of water.
10km down the road I arrived in the medium sized town of Qulan where I was able to find a hotel. The lady behind the counter tried the old trick of telling me the room was 4000 Tenge but I pointed out that on the window of the counter it appeared they also had rooms for 1500. After a clandestine conversation with her partner she nodded, sighed and agreed to let me have one of the rooms for 1500. This was by far the most ‘Soviet’ of hotels that I’ve ever stayed in and the recent lick of paint failed to make the place seem anymore hospitable.
Nevertheless I had a room, a choice of two single beds, a desk, electricity and a separate bathroom. The bathroom had a bath tub but no plug. There was a sink with a large tap which could be moved over so it also filled the bath; however there was no hot water. The tap when moved across to the bath came just about at the height of the rim of the bath tub and made washing look like some kind of strange Yoga activity. The lack of hot water meant that it was simply a case of washing the vital parts and being done with it.
The hotel obviously had no Internet connectivity but tired and exhausted from my day on the bike I was able to watch a movie on the computer.
All things going to plan I should be able to make it to Taraz tomorrow.