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