Sunday, 2 August 2015


FIRSTLY, HERE ARE SOME PICTURES ALONG THE WAY IN URUMQI, CAPITAL OF THE JINXIANG PROVINCE IN NORTH WESTERN CHINA. My efforts to get to the western extremes of China have resulted in somewhat of an epic journey in itself (without riding the bike). From Lanzhou, where I produced my previous pathetic blog update, I have headed constantly in that westerly direction. My objective being to get as close to the China/Pakistan border as possible, where I have been before (from the Pakistan side – without being able to enter China at that time). Hard seats on crowded trains were the order of the day for 24hrs at a time. Old Saartjie (my bike) and baggage which was booked into the cargo department never arrived on the same day as me. So, first stop was Urumqi (Wulumiqi Nan to most Chinese further East – which makes things rather confusing to someone like me who does not speak the language). Anyway, Urumqi is a large modern city, and the capital of this vast western Xingjian province. If this province was a country on its own, apparently it would be the 8th largest country in the world. However, the provincial population is only 4% of the total Chinese population. There is a notable security tension in the city, after the 2009 rebellion (military, police, and security checks all over the show – even armored cars outside shopping malls). I booked an onward ticket at the quiet ticket office in the city (the train station ticket offices are all absolutely chaotic, and you can expect to be in “pushy” que’s for hours). Then I stayed over in the Mai Tan Hostel, central and quite a pleasant place. This province is home to the largely Moslem Uighur people, who have their own style of food, mostly based on mutton (where in the rest of China the staple meat is pork). The following pictures are just some shots around Urumqi.
MY NEXT STOP WAS KASHGAR, THE MOST WESTERN CITY IN CHINA. One way of geographically placing Kashgar is to realise that in distance this city is closer to Damascus than to Beijing. The city has been a major central Asian trading post for thousands of years. The population in Kashgar is mostly Uighur, there is a central “Old Town”, around an important mosque. Unfortunately a large part of the old town has been demolished, and other parts have/are being “renovated” to look somewhat artificial and touristy. Fortunately there is still a strong “old fashioned” Uighur way of life in Kashgar (where I happen to be at the moment). The Old Town Youth Hostel is a great place to meet other travellers, especially touring cyclists, for which the place is known. Nothing fancy, but with cheap beds, outside courtyard where you can keep (and even wash your bike), and a secure temporary haven from the “real world” – which I am often too close to. For years I have been looking forward to experiencing Kashgar, and I am not disappointed. Although this city is not a big one (actually it is a desert oasis), it certainly has a modern aspect to it – after all, it is part of a rapidly “developing” China! So, the following pictures are from around Kashgar (mostly the old town).
Now you are probably wondering where I will be off to after this. Well, I was hoping to be able to somehow (by miracle) get up to the Pakistan border. (Actually, I also wanted to see if there was anything left of my old gloves which I had strapped to the post at KM 0 at the top of the Khungerab pass!). Unfortunately the area beyond Tashkurgan is a military restricted area, and I will not be allowed in there on my own (especially with bike).

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