A Travellerspoint blog

May 2012

Shelek - Almaty 135km

Experiencing Kazak hospitality

sunny

Today saw me arrive in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan and my base for probably the next two weeks as I organize yet more visas for both Russia and Uzbekistan.

The ride from Shelek to Almaty was pretty straightforward and whilst the previous two days had seen me ride through some rather remote areas I now found myself making my way through small villages every 10 to 15km.

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The bike and I are being tested more and more by the road which doesn’t really seem to be getting any better. I find myself having to work harder as each bump and crack in the road offers up resistance to my forward movements.

The density of traffic also increased about 40km outside of Almaty and with cars coming up beside me sometimes a little too close for comfort I needed to have my wits about me.

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Anyone for a quick kick about?

I’ve been looking forward to my arrival in Almaty and have heard great reports from people who’ve visited here. It was imperative that I get here today so that I still have one day to go and register my visa tomorrow. This added layer of bureaucracy seems to be a hangover from old Soviet times. Despite the fact that my passport and arrival card were stamped when I crossed the border foreigners are required to register their visa within 5 days of arriving in the country at specific offices in major cities. For most people this isn’t a problem as they are able to complete this on arrival at the airport or make the relatively short trip to Almaty by bus in less than a day. However, I’m now on my third day of riding and as the 5th day will be a Saturday and hence the office is apparently not open I need to get this done tomorrow or risk being fined.

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Almaty is known as the "city of apples" or "city of apple trees" and was the capital of Kazakhstan until 1997 when it lost that status to the current capital Astana. An American guy in Urumqi was kind enough to give me a book ‘Apples are from Kazakhstan – The Land that disappeared’ by Christopher Robbins a travelogue which looks into all things Kazak. I’ve started reading it and it’s very informative as well as humorous. However I may well hold off on reading the rest until I hit further West; things will get pretty remote out there and it will be good to have something to keep me amused during my nights camped out on the steppe.

I arrived on the outskirts of the city by mid afternoon; entering from the east you climb over some small hills which cut through a kind of grass valley before descending into the city itself. The first thing to say about the city is that it possesses a quite magnificent backdrop to it in the form of the stunningly beautiful mountain range right on the doorstep of the city to the south.

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Almaty is listed in the top 50 expensive cities in the world and a couple of kilometres into the city it was plain to see the affluence and wealth clearly on display in the numerous fashion boutiques which lined the streets.

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I’d arranged to ‘couch surf’ here and if I’m being honest had spent part of the afternoon wondering what to expect from my hosts. I’d completed all the required information on the website and contacted some people from it with a view to staying with them for a couple of days. I’d also given them the address of this blog so as they could find out a little bit more about me and what I’m trying to do.

I decided to take up an offer of accommodation from Gaziza who shares her apartment with her 12 year old daughter Adina. I sent her a couple of text messages once I arrived in the city and she pointed me in the general direction of her apartment. I managed to find the general area of where she lived just opposite the central football stadium but was having problems finding its exact location. Thankfully two young guys came along on bikes and we got chatting, they were kind enough to call Gaziza and 5 minutes later she came down to where I was waiting and I’d met my host.

I was taken to her beautiful apartment which has the most amazing view of the mountains. I think we were both a little nervous about what to expect but I could immediately tell that this was someone I could trust and it was a welcome relief that she spoke such good English. This was my first experience of couch surfing and hers also.

I met her niece, a university student who’d been staying there and then her daughter Adina before being given a guided tour of their lovely home. I feel incredibly blessed to have been invited into their home and Gaziza showed me to ‘my room’ and really made me feel immediately at home. I cannot thank them enough for inviting me into their house and the chance to stay for a few days while I get my bearings in the city.

Later that evening I witnessed once again the wonderfully warm hospitality that has been so evident so far of my time in Kazakhstan. A traditional Kazak meal was prepared and I felt a real sense of honour at once again being invited to stay. The food was really delicious and consisted of mostly boiled lamb and another kind of meat which I gladly tucked into. With the second piece of ‘mystery’ meat being happily chewed by me Gaziza in a very matter of fact way informed me that this was in actual fact horse! I’ve never eaten horse before and perhaps if it had been pointed out to me that this was in fact horse I may well not have eaten it. People can debate the rights and wrongs of this and in England I’m sure there will be people who may be slightly disgusted by this and perhaps think it wrong. However this is Kazakhstan and when in Rome…….hold on…..when in Kazakhstan…… Horse meat is considered a very clean meat here and a kind of delicacy and I have to say in all honesty that it tasted absolutely delicious.

After dinner we took a short walk around the area where I took the opportunity to find out more from Gaziza about life not only in Almaty but in Kazakhstan in general. There is so much to learn about this new and mysterious land for me.

Gaziza started to get some messages from her daughter saying that evening tea was ready and that they were awaiting our return. Here I got to meet one of her sisters and we all sat down to drink tea and nibble on an assortment of delicious dried fruits and nuts, chocolates and biscuits. It was all incredibly civilized and, how should I say, terribly English.

What an incredible first day in Almaty.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 19:42 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (0)

Shonji - Shelek 115km

Camels, Canyons and Vodka

sunny

Day two in Kazakhstan and another beautiful sunny one. Today I rode through the Charyn National Park an 80km canyon about 200km east of Almaty.

With the weather being as hot as it was I was well stocked up with water as I knew there would be no opportunity to buy any until I hit Kokpek some 70km away. I’d only been on the road a few kilometres when I approached a roundabout and to my surprise saw three camels making their way around it, they didn’t seem that interested in me.

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The road was mostly flat with a couple of inclines and declines and the state of it was much the same as yesterday. The views to the south where I could see the gigantic ‘Tien shen’ mountain range were spectacular and I settled into to a steady pace in order to appreciate the wonderful scenery around me.

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With this being only my second day in Kazakhstan everything is obviously new to me and thus I’m observing and constantly making mental notes of all the new things I see. One thing that is clear from being on the road here is that locals, and again in particular men love their cars. It seems the most popular models are 90s and early 2000 versions of Audi’s and Mercedes. I’d read beforehand that people drive quickly in Kazakhstan, that’s not to say that they necessarily drive dangerously but if you put any young man behind the wheel of a car and give him enough open road then of course he’s going to let loose to a certain extent.

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Perhaps one of the slightly more disconcerting things I have seen are the number of roadside graves and one can only assume that these are in actual fact the spots of some terrible road accident.

Whereas riding in China I had a pretty decent hard shoulder all to myself here the hard shoulder consists of rubble and is not the place you want the bike to be venturing if at all possible. I suppose it’s just another thing to think about and to make sure I exercise the correct amount of caution when pedaling.

After 75km of riding I arrived in Kokpek which turned out to be the tiniest of places consisting of a few restaurants and trailers which had been converted into shops. It was here that I once again picked up some Pirozski (пирожок) the potato filled bread that I’d eaten the previous day, it’s really good stuff and most importantly cheap too!

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I sat in the shade and watched some local guys trying to change the tire of their Mercedes which had picked up a puncture and it dawned on me that it’s been a while since I had to go through this arduous process.

One of the guys came over and started to mess around with the bike, it was when he mounted it and tried to take it for a spin around the car park that I grabbed hold of the handlebars and told him in the nicest way possible that I’d rather he didn’t. I remember the first time I rode the bike fully loaded and it’s totally different to riding it just alone, it’s very easy to feel unbalanced on it and the last thing I want is for someone to a) come crashing off it and b) damage the bike in the process.

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Immediately after Kokpek you enter the Charyn Canyon which takes you on a very nice roll through the deep red jagged mountains.

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I decided to rest in Shelek for the night which would set me up nicely to reach Almaty tomorrow. About 10km outside of Shelek a couple of guys pulled up in the Russian equivalent to a VW camper van and rolled down the window; the driver first offered me a lift to which I declined, secondly I was offered a bottle of water and then coke to which I again politely declined before the passenger, an older man pulled out a bottle of Vodka and offered me a quick swig! I also had to pass on this…….welcome to Kazakhstan.

For the second night running I had trouble locating a hotel in Shelek but it seems the universal body language of placing ones hands on the side of your head, tilting it slightly and closing your eyes does the trick. I eventually pulled up outside a building where a woman mimed the action perfectly and having ridden around for a good 20 minutes I’d at last found a place to stay.

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All the people I’ve met so far have, as I’ve previously mentioned been extremely friendly but I’m having trouble working the charm on hoteliers of Kazakhstan. This hotel in question seemed to be run by two middle aged ladies. Having established I needed a room, the calculator was brought out and the price typed it. It wasn’t overly expensive but more so than the first night. I tried to negotiate by counter typing my price in but they weren’t having any of it. It seems that the days of bargaining have been left behind in China. The room was simple enough but the lack of a shower was disappointing but I’ve become rather skilled in the art of ‘basin bathing’

One good thing about the two places I’ve stayed so far is that most buildings here in the countryside only have the 2 floors and both times I’ve been on the bottom one so unlike China where I’d often find myself lugging the bike up four flights of stairs it’s just a case of rolling it through the doorway here.

Security or perhaps one might call it nosiness was never going to be a problem here as every time I came out of my room the woman down the hall would peer her neck around the door frame to see what was going on.

Disappointingly I’ve forgotten to purchase a plug power converter in China and as a result I’m without the use of recharging electrical devices at the moment not that either hotels have had Internet access mind.

I walked around Shelek for a while and immediately noticed my ability to blend in; without the bike I’m just another person here. This obviously falls down massively when it comes time to talk when I’m blatantly exposed as an outsider.

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Tomorrow I head to Almaty a ride of about 130km. It will be my first time using the relatively new concept of couch surfing and I’ve agreed to stay with a woman and her daughter who’ve kindly offered me a place to stay. I’m a little unsure as to how it all works but I’m sure they are also feeling the same. I’m confident it’s all going to work out fine.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 20:37 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (0)

Korgos - Shonji 130km

A new day a new country! The end of an era and........ Hello Kazakhstan.

sunny

I spent the previous day busying myself in Korgos preparing all I needed for my trip into Kazakhstan. In many respects I didn’t have time to actually think about leaving China. I’ve been travelling across this huge expanse of land for over 2 months now and the China that I left behind way back in March on the East coast seems a world away. Since then I’ve crossed different provinces and gone through different cities all of which while still being China have been vastly different. Again I really don’t know what to think now it has come time to leave.

I know I’ve learned a lot about China and its people especially in these last few years but of course as a foreigner I shall never truly understand it. There are numerous things I will miss about it, far too many to list here and I’m sure there are one or two things I won’t miss but isn’t that always the way. All I will say is that it’s been a fantastic experience and one that I certainly wouldn’t change for the world. I’ve formed so many friendships here and I hope these will continue to flourish once I’m back in England.

Any sadness I might have felt on leaving China was to a certain extent replacement by that childlike excitement one gets on Christmas Eve. I was so eager to get on my way that I found it hard to sleep the night before.

I’d been to the border the day before just to get a general idea of what’s what and had spoken to a couple of people who had as usual given me conflicting information as the best time to get there in the morning. I decided that it would be best to get there as early as possible thus beating any potential crowds. So there was me at 8 o’clock in the morning patiently waiting at the entrance gate with not another soul in sight, it was totally deserted. In fact the only company I had was a rather docile looking guard dog. It was a full hour before and equally sleepy guard woke and informed me that the border didn’t open till 10:30

By around 10 there were about 40 to 50 of us all milling around waiting now rather impatiently outside the gate. I got talking to a Chinese guy who’d ridden across China on horseback and was now off to Kazakhstan to negotiate the sale of one of his horses to a man in Almaty.

When the gates finally opened it was the usual every man for himself rush to the customs building some 100 metres away. I wasn’t the only person transporting a bulky item as it appears many Kazaks come across to buy electrical equipment at a discount which they can then resell in Kazakhstan for a profit. You can imagine the scene 50 people trying to push their way through a gate no wider than a door way, TV’s, microwaves and me with my bike.

It was pretty much the same inside the building. I can, it seems no longer expect preferential treatment as was often the case in China where I stood out quite clearly as a foreigner. As I looked around me it’s quite possible that I might be able to pass off for someone of Soviet origin.

I eventually managed to get the bike through and thankfully wasn’t made to take each pannier off to pass through the x-ray machine and instead was simply waived through, security I hear you say….what security?

Once through the passport check it was outside into a sort of car park where numerous buses waited to take people to their various destinations. I did think about just playing the ‘dumb foreigner’ card and starting to ride my bike towards the heavily armed guards in the distance but though did think about just playing the ‘dumb foreigner’ card and starting to ride my bike towards the heavily armed guards in the distance but thought better of this.

For the first time on the trip it was necessary to put the old bike on a bus to travel the short distance across no mans land between China and Kazakhstan. I did ask one of the soldiers who spoke decent English if it would be at all possible for me to ride across to which I received a very definite no. We loaded the bike up into the back of a very aging bus and I got on board for the short crossing. The distance between the two customs buildings is very short but the bus takes a rather windy route of around 2km.

With all these things one needs extreme patience. There was waiting on the Chinese side, waiting on the bus which had no air conditioning and then more waiting on the Kazak side, I was itching to get back on the bike and start riding in my new country.

The first impression I had of Kazakhstan as I peered from the inside of the bus was of the officials who were wearing those oversized peaked caps, a real throw back to the old Soviet days. Once off the bus, like the Chinese everyone was intrigued by the foreigner pushing a bike and handshakes were offered all around.

Even after such a short meeting it’s very clear to me that Kazak guys like football and once they’d found out I was from England it was once again a case of them listing their favourite teams; it seems Chelsea and Manchester United unsurprisingly are favored among the locals.

I passed through immigration without any problems and was once again amazed that I was just allowed to freely enter the country without any kind of checking of my bags etc. not that I’m carrying anything illegal or hazardous, mind you some of my unwashed underwear may well now fall into that category.

On the other side of customs there were some police guards who obviously belonged to some elite security task force. They were dressed from head to toe in black including balaclavas and were quite possibly one of the most intimidating sights I’ve ever come across. It seems that one of the prerequisites for being part of this team is being over 6 foot 5 and built like a heavy weight boxer. I gave them a nod and moved on nervously and just like that I was in Kazakhstan.

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I purchased a new SIM card for my phone and immediately realized that language is going to become a problem now. Those who know me well will probably say I never got to grips totally with the Chinese language but at least I could hold a conversation and get my message across. Here I must have come across as something of a stumbling, stuttering buffoon, but the lady who served me was friendly enough as were the young boys who’d gathered outside to look over the bike.

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My second impression of Kazaks and once again with reference to men is that they are big hand shakers. Even the small boys had no qualms about approaching a foreigner and casually offering up their hand.

When you cross over a border it’s often the case that very little changes except for the language however on this occasion I was very aware immediately that I was in a different country. I’ve noticed that since being in Urumqi how the Russian Cyrillic alphabet is more common place and certainly in Korgos there was a mixture of both Chinese and Kazak; now I was in pure Kazakhstan and despite China only being a couple of kilometres away it already felt so different.

Like I said in my previous blog I blend in more and with my short cropped hair and especially now it has been lightened by the sun I could well pass for a Russian. I’d taken the decision to wear my ‘Astana’ cycling team racing top in order to perhaps curry favour with my new ‘hosts’ It seemed to do the trick.

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My first destination was Zharkent then Koktal before making it to Shonji about 130km from the Chinese border. I’d be forewarned about the state of Kazak roads and they certainly weren’t up to the standard of the G30 Expressway that has been home to the bike for the last month or so. There are plenty of pot holes in the road and while parts of it are sealed the best way to describe is perhaps ‘patchwork’ It’s a lot harder on the arms and instead of rolling smoothly the bike tends to judder as it hits a crack in the road. That said I rode some pretty bad roads at the beginning of my trip on the G312 in China so we’ve been through this already, it will take more than a few cracks, bumps and loose stones to stop us.

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Whereas in China most of the land is farmed I could immediately see on the Kazak side that it is less agriculturally developed and more natural, it certainly seems much greener.

As I rode through the small villages another thing I noticed was how colourful it was and how people live in small cottages, even the bus stops are decorated.

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This is a pretty popular route with cyclists so I think the locals here are quite used to seeing touring bikes passing through and each time I stopped someone wanted to come over and have a chat and, yes, shake hands.

I met one particularly friendly group who’d stopped off at one of the rest stops. They weren’t from Kazakhstan and instead came from neighboring Uzbekistan, they were friendliness personified and introduced me to my first piece of local food, a kind of friend bread with mashed potato inside. I’ve since found out that it originates from Russia.

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I’d only started riding from the border at 11 in the morning so I’d made good time in reaching Shonji by early evening. The next problem was finding a hotel. In China it was pretty easy and even if you couldn’t read Chinese the clocks behind the counter were always a dead give away. Here it wasn’t so easy and I soon found myself at an intersection scratching my head and trying to consult my Russian dictionary for help. It was at this point that Roma and an older man came up to help. Once again as soon as it was established I was from England they both introduced themselves as Manchester United fans. Roma, a youngish guy spoke good English so he pointed out a hotel just down the road and told me approximately how much I should expect to pay. He also said that he’d drop by later as he wanted to practice his English.

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The old man at the hotel was rather portly and had no interest in exchanging pleasantries; he seemed slightly annoyed that I’d gotten him off his sofa where he’d been lying watching TV. I was shown to a small room with 4 beds in thankfully all of which were empty. It was comfortable and for about 7 pounds seemed like an okay deal. This is another thing that I shall quickly have to adapt to, how much do things cost?

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Roma was true to his word and popped by the hotel later that evening where he gave me a quick run down on all things Kazak and more importantly on being streetwise here. He did warn me to be wary of some people and despite the fact that I’d stopped and talked to him he did suggest that it’s not always a good idea to do so especially in more rural areas. Once again I guess this is something I should be aware of. I’ve no reason to think that I’ll ever be in danger here, in China I always felt very safe regardless of where I was. This however is a different country and until I have worked out the locals it might be best to exercise a little bit of caution. I’m a very trusting person but there are always those wishing to take advantage of such people.

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All in all it was a fantastic first day in Kazakhstan the country and the people have certainly made an excellent first impression on me and I’m really looking forward to the next 60 days exploring this vast new land.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 06:06 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (1)

Unknown place - Korgos 183km

And out of the clouds came.........

all seasons in one day

I feel so close to the border of Kazakhstan but at the same time so far. A mere 180km stood between me and crossing the full width of China on my bike something in my wildest dreams I’d never imagined possible.

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What? Porridge again!

I should have been filled with excitement at the start of the day but with a climb in front of me I was apprehensive on the first stroke of the pedal. I planned to put in at least 130km leaving me with a simple ride into Korgos the day before leaving the country for Kazakhstan.

I wasn't wrong about the early morning climb. I'd deliberately camped on a down slope the night before so at least I'd have a nice little roll downhill for a few kilometres before heading upwards. That little roll turned out to be a rather pleasant wind assisted ride of 30km and at the first gas stop of the day I was quietly pleased with the early morning progress I’d made. The grey clouds of the previous day were still hanging around but what surprised me most was the significant drop in temperature.

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The grey clouds of yesterday prevail

Once again a trucker at the gas station confirmed to me that the road did in fact rise, 50km for the record. Such was my good mood though I tried my best to give it a '50km is that all' kind of shrug/laugh but deep down I wasn't looking forward to it. It turned out to be one of those climbs that simply dragged; at no point was it significantly steep, it just dragged.large_IMG_1572.jpg

As I pulled the bike slowly upwards I kept looking down at the cycle computer trying not to count of the kilometres, 47, 44, still 44!!!!......you can’t be serious! .It was slow going. After about 40km of riding I started to think to myself how much would it take for me to go back down to the bottom of the climb and start to do it all again, I think at one point I'd made up my mind that I wouldn't even do it for a thousand pounds. Riding uphill does strange things to the mind.

I couldn't believe how cold it was, cold air could be seen being exhaled from my lungs with every rotation of the wheels. To make matters worse a low mist descended all around me making visibility very low. It all looked pretty bleak at this point.

I've certainly become fitter since starting my ride but even I at this stage was beginning to tire. A couple of Chinese guys passed, stopped and reversed to come and talk to me. They gave me a bottle of water and I asked them how much further to the top "15km then very beautiful” one of them said" I found this really hard to believe as I looked around at the greyness that had covered me and my surroundings. Nevertheless, once again refusing to give in I pushed on.

The summit of a climb has to be one of the greatest sights anyone on a bike can see. For me instead of relaxing my muscles I always seem to find an extra 10% to make it over the top at speed, so impatient am I to see what is beyond.

It was amazing. Within the space of a couple of hundred metres I'd risen out of the clouds and was now riding on a plateau of beautiful green lush grassland and clear blue skies. So this is what the guy had meant. If I thought that was a welcome sight I was in for a massive shock over the next brow of the hill. Suddenly out of nowhere to my right appeared the stunning ‘Bugeda Wenquan” lake. It was quite something, to the left of me was also the huge imposing snow capped “Qitai” mountain and in between this these carpet like wide open green spaces.

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There are very times in life where your breath is taken away but this was certainly one of them, its beauty is and was almost indescribable. It made the hellish climb up worth all that effort. Hopefully the pictures can go some way to conveying how amazing it was.

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I slowed down to a snails pace and was so glad that I was able to enjoy this view from the comfort of my bike, I’d almost goes as far as saying I felt privileged to be able to ride this section of road. You could also see the local guys on horseback herding their flocks of sheep and the small settlements of yurts that people live in at the base of slopes.

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At this point I’d covered about 80km and the last thing on my mind was leaving this place and getting to Korgos. Time was however ticking along and all I could see in the distance were more snow capped mountains. As stunningly beautiful as this area was I was beginning to wonder whether this would be such a great place to camp for the night. I needn’t have worried; as I rode further down the road I could see what turned out to be a tunnel. What followed next can only be described a cycling bliss. I proceeded to make my way down the other side of the mountain and through a quite beautiful valley occasionally popping into a short tunnel and out the other side to reveal yet another amazing view. In fact I made my way rather slowly down the other side due to the fact that every time you turned a corner there was yet another brilliant photo opportunity.

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I can imagine it gets pretty cold up there at night and I was forced to put on yet another layer of clothing as I made my way downwards. After numerous twist and turns and that glorious feeling of freewheeling it down a mountain I emerged out the other side gliding effortlessly down the road.

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At the base of the mountain I had to make a decision. According to the locals at the gas station where I devoured some snacks the next town along the road was about 20km slightly downhill and I could find a hotel there. I was pretty tired but as it was downhill I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. The road sign indicated that Korgos was about 60km away so I thought that was probably out of the question. It turned out that I covered the 20km to the next town in no time at all as the sun gradually began to go down. I saw the turning and began to get into the slip lane to turn off when all of a sudden I decided no, and swung back onto the road. What’s the point of booking into a hotel for one night and then riding to Korgos the next day to repeat the process? I’d come so far today, I was on a real high having ridden through some of the most amazing scenery I’d ever seen so what better way I thought to top this day off than to complete my ride to Korgos.

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I stepped down on the pedals hard; I knew that with the sun already going down that I’d get there when it was dark but 38km is nothing when you’ve already gone so far. I finally arrived in Korgos under the fall of night. The sight of a hotel almost immediately on my right as I entered was nearly as good as the sights I’d seen earlier in the day.

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With the hotel being the first as you come into Korgos it was quite apparent that I wasn’t the first cyclist the two young girls at reception had ever seen. In no time I was checked in and lying back on my bed. The fact that I had just completed a 5688km crossing of China hadn’t really sunk in. There was no self congratulation on completing this stage of my trip just a delicious steaming hot bowl of fried rice and a nice cool refreshing beer. I’d arrived in Korgos a day ahead of schedule thus leaving me the whole of the next day to prepare for my entry into Kazakhstan.

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Posted by Ontheroadagain 06:25 Archived in China Comments (1)

Unknown place - Unknown place 137km

The return of rain!

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I was hoping for sunshine when I woke up in the morning and was looking forward to the sun rising over the spectacular mountain behind me. Unfortunately the weather had its own ideas and I awoke to grey clouds and a light cold wind; not bad conditions for riding but not the kind of weather that lifts your spirits.

As a result the mornings ride was pretty slow, factor into this a steady incline and increasing headwind and it was a pretty uneventful morning of grinding it out on the road. The conditions meant it was hard for me to get any sustained momentum going.

I was really surprised to feel small drops of rain on me in the early morning. I had been told that it doesn't rain very often in these parts so I was most surprised. I began to wonder if I hadn't been a touch premature in throwing away my heavy rain poncho. It turned out to be nothing more than a passing shower but only further served to make the days ride gloomier. When the sun shines for me at least, the road seems flatter, the bike lighter and me much stronger.

Every 20 or so kilometres you tend to find a small cluster of car repair shops and small restaurants. As I hadn’t eaten anything of real substance since my usual bowl of porridge in the morning so I decided to check one of them out. I'm not sure this place got too many Westerners frequenting it and I felt much like the bad guy in a Western movie strolling into a salon bar; everyone literally stopped and stared at me. I was taken into a small back room but made sure I was able to keep sight of the bike through a small window.

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There were another couple of guys there one of whom started to make conversation with me. For some reason everyone immediately seems to assume I'm American. When I informed this guy I was from England his eyes immediately lit up "England……football....good, Beckham, Rooney” I gave him the thumbs up as he proceeded to list numerous football teams from England.

I had no idea what to eat so it was left to him to basically order for me the same dish that he and his friend were eagerly tucking into. It turned out to be a real winner a kind of fried bread with......you guessed it, lamb filling!

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Not the most inspiring pictures of the trip so far I know.

I found a nice culvert, well as nice as culverts go which had a small stream running alongside it. The bike had picked up a fair amount of dirt what with the rain today but I decided on holding off giving it a quick wash down from the stream as the weather also looked ominous for the next days ride.

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I'm now within 180km of the border town of Korgos. I very much doubt that I'll make it there in a day as the map shows a mountain that needs to be climbed so it looks like another slow ride tomorrow morning.

I dispensed with getting the tent out tonight, instead just choosing to lay the mattress out on the floor and sleep in the sleeping bag.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 05:46 Archived in China Comments (0)

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