this is Moritz Ecker speaking. I’m a musician from Berlin currently cycling with my old bike and my even older guitar, heading for the other end of the planet.
See you on the road!
So, after 4 days waiting at the Chinese border it finally opened on the 5th day. First thing that surprised me after a massive security check was that while on the Kazakh side of the border were only a few small houses in the steppe, the Chinese have built quite a decent town here in the middle of nowhere.
What also surprised me: It can get surprisingly cold in October in Xinjiang. One day before I passed this road up to Sayram Lake it was still closed due to heavy snow but fortunately they reopened it for sludge-cycling. Impressive, how much effort they put in China to create a perfectly steady slope.
You don’t get to see a lot of Sayram Lake because the road is pretty well fenced all the time and it need some training to find the gaps. However, it was freaking cold up there even though it doesn’t look like that and that was just before the fog came.
Minus degrees, headwind and fog make funny things with the hair in your face, even my eyelids froze.
This was so far my coldest night with -10°C. Smart people would have slept a bit further down at lower altitude and would have caught a bit more sleep I guess.
China has also Camels but they look different from the Kazakhstan ones. And it seems to me that these ones are busy with their camel stuff.
Then come a pretty long strech of cotton plantations, no idea how they make the cotton grow here in this dryness, I can only guess. These electro-trikes are driving around everywhere, bringing the cotton pickers to the cotton field and making a pretty good slip-stream for the stupid cyclists who pass by eastwards. As far as my meteorologic knowledge goes (now), the wind circles counter-clockwise around the Himalayas, making it headwind in Xinjiang if you’re coming from Europe. So, electro-trikes are a very good invention.
This is chilies drying between the highway and the ‘smaller’ local road which is actually also a highway. China needs lots of chili because they are many and they like it spicy.
After 700 kilometers of freezing you finally arrive in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. On the last 120 kilometers I went through 6 police checkpoints, and all of them act as if they are seeing a foreign passport for the first time. I already figured out how to make things faster, certainly a ‘Kazakhstan’ jacket doesn’t help. I learned how to say that I am from Germany and sometimes they even understand me, my success rate is at about 15%, my pronunciation must improve. Anyways, I had very funny moments with the police, in my opinion they just have a bit too much personnel and not enough to do. Also, during this week was the Chinese National Congress in Beijing and it seemed everyone wanted to do his job especially extraly correctly. After one police check where they checked me for one hour without actually checking anything they dismissed me with the words:”If you make any trouble, call 110.”
我爱中国 Wǒ ài zhōngguó!
After Urumqi starts the desert, with a lot of windmills, unbelievably lot of them (!!!) and it gets a bit lonely and dusty.
A gas station in Xinjiang looks typically like a high security prison.
Security and staff are building a pyramid of Red Bull cans in a service station south of Hami. Note the 5 surveillance cameras on the rear wall.
I think everything that grows south east of Ürümqi is growing only through artificial irrigation.
I try to get up early with the sunset because the days are getting noticeably shorter and 13 hours in the tent are very boring. I guess the camping season is more or less over for this part of the hemisphere, so I better head south.
This nothingness can drive people insane I think.
After Bishkek the road leads back to Kazakhstan and it’s only 200km till Almaty the former capital. I parked my bike for two weeks here in Almaty to take some rest, eat and also to flight back to Berlin to spent some time with the two most amazing things in the world – visa applications and dentist visits.
In the 90s Kazakhstan built a new capital in the center of the country but Almaty is still the cultural center and a big piece of civilisation after a while.
From Almaty you can take a cable car up into the mountains to 3200m where in winter you can go skiing and in summer you can drink Coffee and see some strange looking himalaya buffalo called Yak.
After two weeks the summer had suddenly disappeared and now the temperatures are approaching 0 degree and it’s raining. I had totally forgotten how clean and shiny my bike looks after rain.
People tell me that it might even snow and it’s getting dark already at 6.30. I am a bit scared.
This is on the brand new motorway towards the Chinese border east of Almaty. It’s so new that even most locals haven’t heard it’s open yet. So, there’s hardly any traffic and a tailwind that is so strong you don’t want to stop.
Finally the sun is also back. China here I come!
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