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Published: July 30th 2012
Okay everyone! I am back and in a bit of a rush unfortunately, but I am back and all in one piece. It was a pretty interesting trip altogether, but it sure was a pain to get to.
Lets begin! I arrived via sleeper bus around 7am to Bu'Er Jin. From there I rode in a share taxi with another Chinese family to the park entrance (about 2 more hours and 80RMB away). The taxi driver was a hoot and was blasting Michael Jackson tunes all the way. He was also singing along but doesn't know English so basically he was spouting out the sounds of the song, not really words per se. Fun ride up actually. You pass some absolutely EMPTY lands on the way, too. Flat, flat, flat! You can see for miles in every direction. Very cool!
So I arrived at the park and three Chinese girls convinced me that I should stay at their friend's house because he knows how to get into the park for free and there was a party that night, blah blah blah. This would mean entering the park the following day though. So, I took them up on the offer.
Golden Eagle Fight
Got lucky on this shot. Not too often you see eagles going at it!
Big mistake. They spent the day arguing with various people about prices to ride horses the following day. I have absolutely no interest in this at all, so I hiked around the area, angry that I had wasted a day. Turns out you have to pay 60RMB for the party and they have it every night. Ridiculous. Why on EARTH would I listen to 20 year old Chinese girls about travel advice?? Idiot. Oh well, a wasted day. Got to sleep in my first yurt though!
The following day I started the hike. Here is a screw job for you: you pay 70RMB to enter the park (student discount) and an extra 65RMB to ride the bus to the actual lake. Except it is not the actual lake. It is another bus station and you have to pay ANOTHER 60RMB to ride THAT bus. So, I did NOT use this bus and decided to walk. Basically, you have to pay the 60RMB if you want to see anything interesting without hiking mile after mile. I hiked mile after mile (20KM in fact) and finally arrived at the lake. I did see some absolutely stunning scenery though. Just open country,
This seems to be a recurring theme on my hikes. I'm not complaining! This place is stunning.
man, miles of it. Rolling hills, a few yurts, maybe some goats and cows. Rarely saw any people. Very high mountains in the background. Beautiful! After a picnic under the shade of a tree and viewing the lake, I set off into the woods along a dirt road. Dirt road turned to trail, trail turned to... NOTHING. I got lost in the woods. I did use the compass that Bob and Teri gave me years ago to help me out. I got out a couple hours later. Not TOO scary as I had plenty of daylight, but still, I had no idea where I was in this forest. It could be huge, I could be avoiding the inhabited places. I kept finding trails that disappeared and reaappeared... Frustrating, but I made it.
Now, I stumbled out of the woods and found two girls pitching hay into a stack. I asked if I could stay with their family and they agreed. I ate some rice with carrots and lamb with butter tea. Very good and very nice to have a hot meal after 2 meals of trail food. I slept in a yurt again for the second night. This one
was the real deal though and beautifully colored (see picture). I ate dinner with a bunch of farm hands and the grandmother and three granddaughters. Only the middle one could speak mandarin and she had to translate everything. They spoke a form of Kazakh there. I also watched one of them milk maybe 8 cows by hand. HARD work, dude. She had hands like a carpenter.
Next day I woke up and decided to head down to the lake itself and maybe get in the water. Tooo cold! Glacier lake for sure! I stuck my feet and hands in and washed my face. This would be my third day without a shower. I hiked more and more this day until I was stopped by some border patrol guys. Apparently I had wandered into a zone that was forbidden for foreigners. I had abolutely no intention of crossing any borders illegally and I was still about 30km away from Kazakhstan, but rules are rules once again in China. So I kept hiking toward a road about 8km away where I could maybe hitch a ride. At the rode I was stopped by more military. Now these guys were assholes. This
would be my first experience of ATTEMPTED extortion/bribery. Now, again, NO intention of giving THIS guy any money. 4 giant Kazakh/Chinese military guys. Not to be trusted. He said I was in the wrong place and said I had better give him 400RMB so he could take me back to the legal area. I told him I don't have that money (a lie) and I would rather walk back than give it to him. So I started walking. It started raining. Some more Kazakh's showed up in their car and offered to drive me to the park entrance for 100RMB. I believe they were also in cahoots with the army guys, but I took them up on the offer. I was 40km away, who am I kidding. Sooooooo, they took me back to the legal area and I was stopped by MORE army guys. These guys were much more legit and asked the usual questions, ran my passport, looked at all my photos and let me go. I asked, "am I the first person to do this?" "no" "how often do you get foreigners wandering around these parts?" "maybe 1 or 2 people per year。” I guess I stand out, huh?
So, I stayed back at the yurt where I had begun. I got to ride in a tourist bus for free back to this little village (saved me 60RMB). In the end, the military thing saved me money and time actually. Go figure. Still scary and strange and frustrating. So I rode from the park entrance on a motorcycle to the yurt (the one that belonged to the idiot Chinese girls' friend. Slept well, and hiked around again the following day. I caught the night bus back to Urumqi and headed home to my favorite guest house. They let me shower (first in 5 days) and use their laundry machine. I'm refreshed and ready to go!
So now, I am off to Kazakhstan! I bought my bus ticket today and I'm ready to go! I am staying with a couchsurfing person in Almaty. I should be in Almaty in about 26 hours. I will update when I get a chance! Talk to you soon!!!
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