Its been a while, three weeks or so, since I’ve had access to the internet, alot has happened, too much to catch up fully in a blog post.
I won’t recount my journey in detail, as Si as already covered the route I took in his post. Desert, mountains, desert mountains and a big push to a border crossing on the last day of my visa. I had some awesome evenings camping beneath diamonte and black velvet skies and was treated to the same peaches and cream starts and burnt orange rose finishes to my days.
The desert and an ocassional tail wind but mainly benign crosswind made for big distances, and I managed to break 200km on three ocassions. It also made for some pretty boring periods, one flat stretch en-route to Hami an oasis on the edge of the Taklamakan desert, was so uneventful that I managed to watch an episode of Fawlty Towers on my ipod while riding.
I was holed up in Urumqi for a week, as I waited my kazakh visa.
It dawned on me that my freind Dave’s description of Chinese as sounding like a cork person trying to speak french was possibly the most accurate linguistic observation ever.
En route to the border I had an interesting if a little random, evening with EarTie a Chinese Kazakh, and his two freinds, in an oil refinery town called Dunshanza they cooked me goat’s leg stew, and did their best to get me pissed,
which isn’t too hard after 120km in the saddle. It was a surreal meal, the goat was lovely and the bread was the best things since er, sliced pan. The conversation was, predictably, a little stunted. It revolved around the lads saying names of Western celebrities like Micheal Jackson, or David Beckham and then me giving the thumbs up if I recognised then. One of the guys, his name was Choddle, was pretty drunk and prone to spontaneous riffs on his air guitar which to he expected acknowledgement for. Cultural sensitivity aside, its hard look impressed by a thirty second,closed eyeair guitar solo to Guns and Roses by a grown man but I did my best. When it came time for some photos one of the lads held my hand and the air guitarist attempted to nuzzle me like a cat might. I assumed this was a cultural thing and thought nothing of it.
After dinner I stayed in Eartie’s place, moved my bags into my designated room and laid out on the plint like bed and went to sleep. An hour or so later I wake up suddenly and he has hopped into bed next to me and is nodding off. This unsettles me quite a bit. I’m in a strange country miles from home and there’s a Kazakh man in the bed next to me! My options were pretty limited, as my bike was in a lock up two blocks away so I couldn’t bolt. I’ve been trying to maintain cultural relativistic view point on the lad’s effeminate gestures and touchy feelyness, reassuring myself that some cultures just don’t require as much personal space as we do. To anyone reading who may think me homophobic, try to imagine yourself in my position, alone in a flat with three strangers of any gender and imagine trying to repel possible advances and extract yourself and your four bags walk and navigate the four blocks in the dark to the lock up where your bike is hopefully still chained to a post.
My rational voice was telling me that everything was fine, so too was my spidey sense which I trust the most, its the sense that tells me whether to trust a situation, person, place. But there was still a little voice saying ‘ferg a guy just hoped into your bed, get the out of here.
Soon, my host was snoring so I decided to try and get some sleep too. But before doing so sweated over how I would sleep. I couldn’t decide on whether to turn my back to him, might that bee taken as an invitation? or face him, again,
how might that be interpreted? so I lay on my back and tried my best to sleep. As soon as the alarm went off I was out of there like a hot snot’, and cycling west again by 6,oclock. The whole experience was reminiscent of a certain mustachioed cheap suit wearing character who’s been haunting Kazakhstan’s image for the last few years.
Providence smiled on me allowing me to cross the Chinese border during the short window that it was open. According to an official I spoke to it would be closed for the following week, and it was closed for the previous week due to the National holidays. I was lucky enough to catch the four day window that this crossing was open.
The Chinese are super paranoid at the moment, as it’s the 60th anniversary off the birth modern China. From
what I can gather, in 1949 China began its cultural revolution and transformation into it’s current red star monster state with Mao at the helm. The government feels that now would be a perfect time for a terrorist attack from one of the many minorities that have been trampled on for the last 60years, specifically the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. though, given the ferocity with which they dealt with the recent riots in Urumqi, and the current military prescence in the province, its highly unlikely that anybody of sane mind and full control of their body would even fart upwind of a party cadre lest it be misconstrued as a dissident act.
RIght now I’m playing the visa game in Almaty. More about that in the next blog.