Bishkek – Kyrgyzstan
Before reading this, you might want to read this previous update first.
As I write this update, the sun is shining but the air is cold and crisp. The leaves on the tree lined avenues of Bishkek are turning a soft golden colour, winter is definately on it’s way. China is now seems a distant memory, and Shanghai feel worlds away from Kyrgyzstan, it’s hard to believe we left there just 3 months, and 6000km ago.
We spent a week in Shanghai, waiting around for our first visa extension, and spent the time catching up on sleep, sampling the local food and to splash out we had a cocktail in the tallest building in the World. After getting reacquainted with our bikes after 6 weeks out of saddle, we ran the gauntlet of the chaotic Shanghai traffic, trying to avoid the colossal concrete overpasses and highways. We cycled for some 70km before getting out of the Shanghai metropolis and were led by a local to a deserted park in which to camp. We frequently had to pass through Shanghai’s satellite towns, each of around 5million inhabitants. On a cold and rainy day, we were meandering through the streets of one such town, when the sky gradually began to darken until it was pitch black. Eventually we stopped to don our headtorches, and only then did the penny drop, and we realised that it was the solar eclipse that everyone had been talking about.
While looking for directions to the town of Hefei, we asked a young Chinese chap and he pointed us in the right way, but 10 minutes later he caught up with us and said he’d show us to it, and spontneously cycled the day and a half ride on his rickety shopper bike. While still with the chap, named Joe, we were invited to meet a group of Chinese school kids who were learning English, who giggled at our rather scruffy appearance. One day while casually chatting to a friendly Chinese girl, she told me bluntly that I “look terrible“, and event which both Fearghal and myself still chuckle about.
On the road from Nanyang to Xi’an, we drank icy cool soft drinks with the locals, and swam alongside water buffalo and a few butt naked Chinese chappies, keeping our clothes on in order to clean off the built up sweat and grime. We climbed over beautiful lush green mountains and I nearly fell over with laughter when I was overaken by a guy with two goats lashed to the back of his motorbike.
Fearghal had to return to Ireland briefly to attend to a family matter, but with my Chinese visa running out, I had to keep going so we decided to cycle through Central Asia solo, and meet up in Turkey around Christmas time. We each toyed with the idea of cycling the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan, but then found that it wasn’t feasible.
Cycling by myself, I camped at the Great Wall of China, and witnessed a 3 wheeler careering out of control down a steep mountainside, and seeing it crash into a muddy bank. I then helped get the trapped driver out, and was invited to dinner by one of the locals. From there, I entered the desert where I spent the best part of 3 weeks surrounded by sand and rock, playing my mind games, and being blown about by the strong wind. Back in China, and around 1000km behind me, Fearghal took the train to Lanzhou where he had left his bike, and set off behind me. He was paid a surprise visit by the Chinese police, as they have security concerns following unrest in the Xinjiang province of China.
We are both now in Central Asia, also known as “visa hell” and are spending lots of time in cities, trying to get the paperwork sorted for the next country. All things going to plan, we’ll fill in the right forms, get the right stamps, and make our way to Turkey where we’ll rendez-vous, and make our way together, towards Ireland.