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After a long stay in Bishkek, when the short spring had come and gone, I started cycling again for last 1/3 of my way, in the coming of summer.

It’s only 2hour cycling to the border where I’ve already been to see my friend off, and took an hour to pass it. There were so many people with huge bags occupying the small room of custom but they made way for me when I cried out “I AM TOURIST!”, like Shogun does in the old Japanese movie.

Almaty is a massive modern city, I met nice people there and stayed with them a bit missing the Russian atmosphere with a lot of alcohol.

I don’t remember well(because I was totally drunk) but it’s pretty nice memory.

The way in Kazakhstan was typical “steppe” with no tree and shade. I could easily find villages because only there are green. “OK, cycle until that green and take a rest”. Otherwise strong sunshine soaked up all the water from my body.

They are the survivors there.

I saw people building traditional tent for nomads. It was so impressive that all the components are made of material they can get there and can be assembled easily and quickly by their hands,

and it’s also functional. This fastener is made of animal’s leather so that the junctions can be flexible in a way, suitable for the light and thin wooden beams because all the forces might be concentrated around the junctions and easily broken if it was made of iron or other stronger materials than the wooden beams. It makes me imagine supple bow.

The outer surface is strong leather which is able to shut sunbeam,

the inner surface is felt which can work as insulation and nice interior.

On the last day in Kazakhstan, I was cycling near the border to China, met one man who lives alone out of town, asked him to let me sleep in his garden and he told met o stay in the house after all. He said he is Uygur(actually his deceased father is Uygur and mother is Kazakh). He is a serious Muslim. He used to work for Soviet army in Caucasus. He has an old house, a small farm, 1 cat, 2 dags and 3 cows. We talked a lot about family, country, war and so on. He showed me his old photos of the time when he was a soldier and explained of his friends he cannot meet anymore(They live in different countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union). He suddenly lost his temper when he began talking about how China had occupied Uygur(It was exactly what I was going to see later). I think he is a sort of refugee or “outsider”, who cannot go back to his country(he was born in Kazakhstan but identifies himself as Uygur, but there is no country for them anymore) nor adapt himself to his mother’s country.

He never smiles. At least I had never seen it. However, I saw him crying when I left in the next morning, saying “Come back here someday, may God protect you”, without smile, but I finally got to know “how he smiles”.

I arrived at China!

After I passed the gate, everything had suddenly changed. Clean and big road, huge supermarket, almost all the words are understandable, nobody thinks I’m a foreigner, and food is perfect. Chinese food tastes good, the best in my trip for sure, and very big, but cheap! Chinese people know how food should be.

People playing Mahjong. It is really what I’m missing! I wanted to join but didn’t know Chinese rule…please tell me, someone…

Camping in a small village. Local people here are pretty nice and kind as well as people in Central Asia. It might be more comfortable for me.

Chinese infrastructure is great. No more hassle with bumpy road and crazy slope! I could cycle more than 150km everyday here. I’m really grateful to it, but on the other hands, also feeling guilty for cycling on it.

This is the picture which simply shows what’s happening in this area called “The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region”, with nice contrast; the big track on the modern road made by Chinese government and local Uygur people living next to it. The road was made by digging the ground to make it flat and always has tall fence on the side, so people are completely shut in the small place, Now they are nomads who cannot move to anywhere.

If they try to move, they have to walk on the hard asphalt which must be harmful for animals and always run away from cars with annoying horn. It was really sad situation.

The house under the bridge and the slogan saying like “keep and save the corporation between races to build nice Xinjiang together!”. Oh… it’s just cynical…or is it a joke to stop people laughing? There are so many this kind of “advertisement” and I hate to see it. Or can you find the Uygur characters on the traffic sign? I don’t think it’s possible to recognize while driving car…or Uygur people might have good eyesight.

I’m not sure if it’s right or wrong. People in the big cities seem satisfied with modern life but many small villages are kicked out of them and keep their traditional life by making big walls around their places. One thing is that they look really happy when they know I speak Uygur a bit(It just means my cheap Uygur is much better than Chinese now because it’s close to Turkish, Uzbek, Kyrgyz or Kazakh. I said “everything had suddenly changed” but a lot of thing seem to change gradually if you know the background. There is nothing more stupid than “border”).

The landscape in the mountain was beautiful. The great combination of nature and infrastructure reminded me of Swiss landscape.

There is a big lake beyond the mountain(Sayram Hu, 2019m).

The temple on the lake.

The other side of the mountain has totally different landscape, which is less green, more sandy and dry.

Houses made of stones.

Then I went to the desert. Cycling in desert was, to be honest, just tiring and boring. There is only one big highway and nothing in between towns. Landscape was always same like a broken film.

One driver stopped and gave me energy drink. 謝謝!

The temperature rose over 30℃. I had to take a rest in a hole under road or in a shadow of traffic board.

I sometimes had strange weather, especially in evening, the wind always got strong and made black cloud near the mountains, then it finally started raining like a storm, even though the sky over there was completely clean….it was horrible.

Nevertheless, powerful food helped me cycle a lot. It is the most popular food in this area(called langman in Uygur and拌面 in Chinese). It’s good to eat with raw garlic.

When I stayed at the restaurant, it was nearly midnight and I was in the tent, many men came, started party and let me join. I was a bit sleepy but really missed beer. They are quite frank and friendly, we talked by writing Chinese(and Japanese) and finished each glass of beer every 5 minutes with the word “干杯” which literally means “empty a glass”. What’s more surprising was the amount of food they ate. The next plate came when one was finished and they never stopped eating. After a few litter of beer, I got completely drunk and fell into a deep deep sleep, though they were still keeping drinking and eating. This is the reason why China has become such a strong country.

I woke up early in the next morning. Actually huge traffic noise woke me up. I was still drunk a little bit but prepared for leaving, finding out that day was Saturday and wondering if they were still in good dreams I don’t have to work but have to cycle, whether I am drunk or not.

A drunk cyclist could safely arrived at Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang district. It’s densely populated(1.4 million), maybe too dense to enjoy cycling around the city, so I’m just taking a rest or preparing for the next way,

and eating is the most important mission here, haha.

Bishkek – Urumqi

9628 – 10969 / 1341km  10000km!

The next way: Urumqi – Dunhuang(敦煌)


Yu Ito

May 2012
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