Ni Hao all
I made it safely over the “Attic of the World” to Kashgar, China. First of all I would like to thank my parents and Mark for sending me packages and I especially would like to give a BIG hug to Magdalena for sending me a snow tiger all the way from Poland as a travel companion. A BIG thank you to you all
Leaving Gorogh took some time as Scott’s GBAO permit had a wrong passport number on it but with a razorblade and some ink this problem was quickly ’solved’. The first days we cycled through the beautifully green Gunt valley. As we had heard about a cyclist being robbed here we decided to play safe and staid in a small village for the night. The next day after a hard climb we cycled over the Koltezek pass (4254m) and reached the 4000+m Pamir plateau. Cycling at this height is quite strange as the air is extremely dry and thin so the legs are willing to do their job but the lungs are complaining. Now I know how a smoker feels after climbing some stairs. With the amount of air we had at 4000m in an airplane the oxygen masks come dropping down so you can imagine how it is to cycle here Another funny thing is that everything you cook stays a little raw as at this height water already boils at 80C so pasta, potatoes and rice are rather crunchy to eat here.
The views were amazing as we cycled at the same height of the glaciers and with the deep blue sky we really had the feeling of being able to touch the mountain tops (all 5 and 6 thousanders) with our fingertips. The next day we took it easy in Alichur and acclimatized a little in a lovely home stay we found there and we had a great time. The coordinates are: 37 45.068N 073 15.646E. The following days we cycled further over the plateau towards Murgab and the views became wider and wider and we saw the first yurts and yaks A wonder how the nomads can live in this harsh place.
Murgab itself is just a collection of some decaying tin and concrete buildings and the most uninviting ‘town’ I visited thusfar. Entering the town was not without problems because of a checkpoint. Scott was cycling far in front of me and got through without problem but for me it was different. When I approached the checkpoint a soldier opened the gate for me (as I presumed) so I salaamed him and cycled on). I heard some shouting behind me but I did not pay attention to it thinking it was coming from one of the truck drivers. To my surprise however, five minutes later with screeching wheels a Lada came to a halt in front of me with and a very angry russian soldier jumped out and demanded me to go with him to the checkpoint. To make his point a little more clear he even pointed his loaded gun at me Well I’m used to this (see last update) and in the end it was no problem at all, It turned out I only had to register.
After a short night in a very rundown hotel we departed on a truck to Shary Tash (Kirgizstan) and I got off at Karakul to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the ever color changing lake and the surrounding glacier-covered mountains. Karakul lake is an old meteor crater and with 3924 the highest lake in central Asia. It is salty because water evaporated really fast at this height so the shores are covered in a white salty ’snow crust’. As I had some somoni left I staid for the night in the comfortable homestay of Mr. Sadat and his wife in Karakul and had my first yak butter and butter-chai there, great stuff Their comfy place can be found at 39 00.836N 073 33.692E.
The following day I had to climb over the 4289m Kyzil Art pass, marking the border with Kirgizstan and this was one of the hardest days I’ve had sofar. The wind was a blowing ice-cold gale coming straight from the Kirgiz glaciers blowing right into my face with around 8bft (it blew me of my bike 2 times) and the road was washboard and partly covered with big stones. Combined with the thin air I only managed 8kmh and I first reached the border at 17:00. The border crossing was hassle free although it was quite strange to first to have to cross the Tajik border post, and then a Russian one. So basically the russians still control Tajikistan.
The Kirgis border post was still 20km from there and the downhill was over a very bad landslide road through nomansland. The Kirgis border crossing was very easy and a very relaxed soldier looked at my visa and that was it, no forms, no stamps, nothing
Kirgizstan itself is TOTALLY different from Tajikistan. Cycling down to the wide Alay Oronu planes everything became green with big herds of sheep, yaks and horses and the yurts of the nomads. In Shary Tash I did some shopping as between there and the Chinese border there is nothing to get and water is scarce. To my surprise they even had eggs and tomatoes, things I could not find up in the Pamir.
Upon leaving the town I stumbled upon a french-Belgian couple and we set out together towards China cycling over a VERY bad piste. The surrounding were amazing however with on the right hand side the wide grass planes with on the horizon the towering 6000m+ snow covered mountains of the Pamir. After two days of cycling we finally reached a river at the other side of the Erkech Tam pass (3546m) and there we met with Martin an Johan, the 2 Germans Scott was supposed to meet in Kashgar. So again: haste is waste This is the only place with water between Sary Tash and the Chinese border and it is a great campsite, too. You can find it after the checkpoint in the valley (or coming from china, 20km after the border) at kilometer pole 241 at 39 38.929N 073 49.794E.
The next morning we thus set out with a group of 5, the invasion of china had begun! The Chinese borderguards were no match for us and op we cycled into the color full Chinese mountains. Ni Hao China
Cycling in China is a great pleasure as the asphalt is baby bottom smooth and the Uygur are very friendly. And best of all, the food is extremely yummy and super cheap. One meal is around 30 Eurocents so I am rich again, Chinese food here I come! After 4 days we reached multicultural Kashgar where I’m staying now in the Seman hotel (39 28.245N 075 58.119E) which is LOADED with cyclists all heading to ‘the unmentionable country’ (because of the tourist police PSB) and Pakistan. A day before reaching Kashgar we met Claude Marthaler, a famous world cyclist and he had met 43 cyclist ‘up there’ (half of them chineese). A few km later we met Bal again so I had a small reunion there and
In Kashgar I also met up with Toon. He has left today for his trip through east ‘unmentionable country” as this route is less touristy and a little easier. So good luck Toon!
As the pills I got from Gorogh did not work I had a check up in the hightech hospital here and everything is ok. No more problems with blood cells and they could not find any parasites so according to the Chinese I am healthy. My toilet (and room mates) think differently though Nevertheless I got some new pills and I will try them out the following days. In the meantime I will do some shopping as you can get EVERYTHING here in the bazaar and in the MEGAbig supermarkets and when I don’t shop I will eat and sleep I will take some pics of Kashgar the following days so stay tuned and don’t forget to check out the tons of new pics!