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Published: October 23rd 2013
From Kashgar to Irkeshtam, at the border with Kyrgyzstan
It’s been over 2 months since I last wrote about my on-going bike trip. I am now back in China for the October Holiday after visiting Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in August and September. It was hard to get on line in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan and then I was with my parents in Kyrgyzstan and wanted to take advantage of every minute with them so I didn’t spend much time on line (Sorry Becky!). Lots of things have happened since the end of July when I was in Kashgar. I am going to try to retrace my steps and share my impressions on 2 beautiful months across Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
On my last days in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, I spent a lot of time on the roof of the Old Town Youth Hostel, admiring the peaceful view over the old quarter while sending emails, reading, chatting with Becky (long distance relationships are never easy) and my parents (planning the last details of our trip in Kyrgyzstan). The guest house was 2 minutes away from a nice market where they sold the tastiest melons and meat on a stick… I
sur la route
on the way to Kyrgyzstan
would go for an easy walk in the old town, taking photos of the ruins (the old quarter has completely been torn down) or the new houses that have replaced the ancient ones, playing with the local kids and eating more food on the way. I have no doubt that those of you who got a chance to visit Kashgar 20 years ago would not recognize the city and you’d be pretty disappointed at how things turned out. However, I enjoyed the atmosphere there. People were charming. Uyghur kids wanted to speak about football with me; local salesmen at the market seemed pretty honest and didn’t mind posing for a picture as long as I bought some food from them. I enjoyed seeing many young Han Chinese coming all the way to Kashi (Kashgar) to learn the local language, music or cooking.
It wasn’t easy for me to get back on the bike after almost 2 weeks off. This has happened to me pretty much every time I stopped for a few days in Gansu or Xinjiang Province. I love riding and feeling the rush of adrenaline as I discover new places, go up mountains, cross the desert, but
it also feels safe and relaxing to stay in one place and be lazy for a while. Here are a few pictures of the road outside Kashgar: very dry and dusty. I rode to the Kyrgyz border in one day. It went uphill the entire way. The last town before the no man’s land between China and Kyrgyzstan is Wuqia. I visited a couple of hotels in town but I thought they were too expensive so I rode back to the outskirts of town and pitched my tent next to the road. An hour later 2 policemen were paying me a visit and asking me to go back to town to stay in a hotel (“for safety reasons”)… I had already experienced such situation in Gansu. This time I put my foot down and told them it was too late for me to pack everything up and that I didn’t want to spend money on a crappy hotel room. To my surprise, they didn’t insist too much and left me their phone number if something came up. I camped not far from a factory and the guard invited me over for dinner and breakfast: so nice of him!
following morning I rode to the Chinese border. I was hoping (as I had been told) I would be able to put my bike on top of a truck and cross the 140km of no man’s land this way, but it turned out the police didn’t allow me to do this, so I had to deal with taxi drivers as it is forbidden to cycle through the no man’s land… (don’t ask why! It’s China). A taxi driver asked for 200Yuan but I thought it was too expensive so I declined and after 4 hours at the border I still didn’t have a ride… I played the game and lost. I eventually had to share a ride with a Japanese traveler and we each paid 300 and crossed 2 minutes before they closed the border. My fellow traveler was 63 years old and… he had walked from his hometown in Japan all the way to Kashgar!!!! That’s right! Walked!! It took him 7 months and he must now be somewhere in Iran as he’s going all the way to Europe and then Morocco. He pulls a little cart filled with a few clothes and lots of water. He wears flip-flops…
and made me feel like I had it easy with my bike and my 20km/hour! I entered Kyrgyzstan with a big smile on my face. As soon as we got through the border, huge white capped mountains were looming in the horizon… Hello Central Asia!
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