Days Km: 1483 Total Km: 14281
China. After all the previous visa debacles and general nonsense I must say I was on tenterhooks when we woke up that morning in our lovely little yurt near the border. The thought of saying bugger it and just exploring The mystical Kyrgyzstan for another month had crossed my mind more than once.
But on we pushed and it wasn’t long before we were once again in no mans land shivering away as the cold slowly sunk its icy fingers into our bones. Well my bones anyway, Bruce of course had his heated gear on. And so we waited hiding behind the long queue of trucks that provided some semblance of shelter from the arctic wind awaiting hopefully for our agent in China to meet us. If he never showed it wouldn’t be long until we became some rather dashing if miserable ice sculptures.
Thankfully right on schedule up rolled a car with the extremely friendly and much welcomed face of our guide for the first leg through china. It wasn’t long before we made it through the border and were slowly thawing out as we descended down from the icy plateau we’d been traversing for the last couple of days and headed into the lowlands. unfortunately it wasn’t long after that the desert started to exert its will and a trickle, soon to be torrent of sweat started framing our brows. The poor bodies didn’t know what to do with themselves.
After a couple of scorching hot hours following the manic driver and guide through hordes of scooters, tractors, trucks that would make a hollywood scripted car chase look mild we made it to Kashgar. A hustling bustling metropolis of lights and sounds and by far our biggest city in a good long while. It was all a bit much for the senses after months spent meandering through the mountains.
The first order of business was to go and get the bikes inspected and pick up our very fancy chinese drivers licenses. Unfortunately Bruce’s photo didn’t really do his dashing good looks justice, it being a photo of a completely different person and all… This proved no problem for our intrepid guide however as he simply peeled back the laminate and switched the photos. All very official.
The next 2 days spent in the city I must be honest were not a highlight for me. Perhaps it was merely me yearning for the wide open expanses again but the mass of humanity and the police in riot gear to keep them all in line created a rather tense and claustrophobic atmosphere.
And so it was with a fair bit of relief when we left the lights and sounds of Kashgar behind and headed into another and also our last desert for the trip. Thankfully it was also our easiest desert crossing with crisp clean tarmac all the way and no puncture inducing sharp objects in sight. Although the camels sure could have made a bit more of an effort when they heard we were coming, scruffiest buggers I’ve ever seen.
With the great Chinese roads it wasn’t long at all (2 days) before we started leaving the lowlands behind once again and rode the magical twisties ever higher into the clouds and snow.
Thankfully these weren’t our first mountains and so we had partially acclimatised to the high altitudes. That doesn’t mean it was easy however and we were soon puffing and panting over the simpler tasks of just getting on and off the bike to take photos and wander around. The bikes themselves didn’t have quite the grunt we’d been used to. Our Greyhounds had turned into rather old pack horses with limps.
After our third mountain pass we began to leave the mountains behind us as the land slowly flattened into a vast untouched, incredibly beautiful yet incredibly barren landscape. It was only later that I realised we hadn’t actually left the mountains but were in fact on top of them, averaging around 4200m in altitude. We had reached the beginnings of the Tibetan plateau and all the mystery and magic it holds.
From here the paperwork gets even more complex, the checkpoints more regular and the fuel supplies unpredictable but boy will it be worth it.