BEIJING TO KASHGAR WITH THREE TRAINS

28/05/12 - On the road 0800 and rode out to Beijing West train station to catch the 1059 train to Zhengzhou. Made it there with an hour to spare, grabbed a second breakfast and headed to platform. The staff were making folding motions towards me (indicating to fold bike) I just nodded and got through (I had similar experience with my previous train journey from Xichang to Beijing as well) I could only get a standing ticket for this leg as all seats were sold out. Apparently there is no limit to standing spots - the train was totally full. Somehow I got the bike and luggage on board - storing it in the usual place opposite the toilet where it was somewhat out of the way. Wasn't a comfortable journey as I had to stand for over 5 hours with no room to move. At least there was air conditioning. The train rolled into Zhengzhou about 10 minutes late, got the bike and gear off with the help of some locals and went out to grab something to eat. A random girl who also got off the train gave me a postcard saying I was cool and a local comic? Grabbed a bite to eat and headed into station for the second leg of the journey to Urumqi. Zhengzhou train station was a fortress - fenced off completely with bikes off limits. Still I found a way to get in with the bike fully loaded. Again the staff were making folding motions so nodded as usual. One of the staff members called the manager over who refused to allow my bike past the security check point. After about 15 minutes, I was directed over next door to a private transport company (CRE - China Railway Express) who ship larger items by truck for train passengers. Not too sure why they don't use a baggage car on the train (every train I took had an empty baggage car?) Paid 473Y for bike and 4 panniers, took other 2 bags with me on board. Had to take accessories and dismantle some small bits on the bike but nothing major. Train left on time at 2126. I had secured a top bunk hard sleeper on this train. It was good to be able to sleep in air conditioned comfort - although the top bunks have the vents very close so had to blanket up as it was quite cold. The people much more civilised than those in cattle class. The only thing in the back of my mind was that the bike and gear arrive at Urumqi safely.

29/05/12 - 1130 train rolls into Lanzhou. 1330 snow topped mountains. 1450 we arrive in Wuwei.Scenery is grey, dry and desolate. Camel herders can be seen randomly. Factories in the middle of nowhere. Sunset 2200.

30/05/12 -  0235 we arrive in Hami. Approaching Urumqi there are big wind farms. Scenic brown/green mountains. Arrived in Urumqi 0845. First order of business was to visit transport company to pickup bike and gear. They didn't open till 1000, so caught a taxi to the nearest bank (I wasn't expecting to have to pay to transport bike so I was low on the local currency and had to change some for the final leg) Got to the bank which was also closed, waited for it to open then got a taxi back to train station. Picked up bike and gear - no issues, panniers and accessories were still sealed in blue sacks so arranged for them to be driven to Kashgar. Paid 280Y and was told they'll arrive the following day at Kashgar. I made it to the train just 10 minutes before departure at 1158 and was hot and sweaty. This train had older carriages with no air conditioning and the fans didn't work. At least the windows could be opened. Train was also very slow, stopping every 15 minutes or so. Was able to get off at some early stations to buy snacks. 1345 we roll into Tulifan. 1600 strong winds - had to close windows to stop dust from being blown in. 2000 - great snow capped mountain scenery, we were now climbing and up at 2500m - maybe that's why the train was stopping - to help us acclimitise? Sheep herders, changing scenery with green mountains looking like endless putting greens then grey rocky landscape with football sized rocks. 2045 we reached 2940m - the highest I've ever been! Mountains resembling those I came across the molesworth road on the south island of new zealand but better. Horses, cattle and donkeys grazing. Remnants of villages long gone. Sunset 2200. An Ughur journalist who was in my cabin shared some of his naan bread with me.

31/05/12 - flat, grey and very green fields of crops. Desolate, down around 1150m, overcast, drizzle. Shared flat bread and hard boiled eggs with cabin mates. Sand dunes. Train rolled into Kashgar 2100, found CRE next door closed (wasn't an issue as I was only expecting bike and gear tomorrow) Hotel at train station but was asking 150Y/night which was out of my budget so wandered around and found local shopkeeper with big beds under the awning of his shopfront. Only wanted 10Y/night so I settled in. There was a baker making fresh flat bread for 1Y which was delicious. The people here seem to be of the ughur variety - outnumbering the chinese. They seem to live very simple lives. Like a little town here, with shops, restaraunts and accomodation. Kashgar city is a few kilometres up the road and I didn't bother visiting it - everything I needed was here.

01/06/12 - Waitng  for bike and gear to show up. 1130 showers, 1400 picked up bike and gear from CRE. Assembled, replaced chain, cleaned and packed everything ready to leave tomorrow. Showed the locals my photo albums, pretty soon people were coming from all round to have a look. About a kilo of photos I'd been carrying since Australia dissapeared. I was struggling to give them away till now. Had a bit of a borat moment when the shops' owners mate came around and they started wrestling on the bed. Thankfully they didn't put on their mankinis  - all in good fun though. For some reason my host thought that in Australia we speak our own  language other than english. Had trouble explaining that we speak english. He was furiously going through his DVD collection trying to find something for me to watch in english. He finally found some WWE wrestling from america. The family live very simply lives. They only ate bread and water once/day. The mother would go out to the bus station to try to find some travellers to fill the beds at night. Their shop was a bit away from the entry/exit of the train station so wasn't frequented by many people. The baker next door made some delicious breads next door - was good to go to bed and wake up the next morning with the smell of fresh bread in the air. Water was limited, so I only washed my hands and face, bathroom was the vacant block of land behind the shop fronts.

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