KASHGAR TO IRKESHTAM

02/06/12 - On the road 0930, altitude around 1400m above sea level. Met 6 local chinese cyclists who were out for a weekend ride on their western mountain bikes decked out with boomboxes pumping out some chinese music. They escorted me for about 5km to the turnoff to road S309 which I'll be following all the way to the Kyrgyzstan border. 30, 35 and 39km marks villages with cold drinks and goat herders. 2km unsealed road, the rest was smooth bitumen. 59km mark servo. 65km mark started getting cramps (hadn't ridden the bike with a load for over a month now) they came and went for the rest of the day. 1600 - 15km gentle descent after 70 km of climbing (reached high point of 2310m) At 1730 entered village at 2110m and decided to setup camp on concrete at front of  locals house. There was a nearby stream where I was able to bath and wash my clothes after almost a week from Beijing. Headwinds were on/off, grades were pleasant at under 4%, sunny 24C.

03/06/12 - Hit the road 1015, 7km mark town. Greeted by half a dozen guards and told to wait till tomorrow for passport check (which was closed today being sunday) Turned around and headed back into town to get some internet access. There were 2 internet cafes and I was refused internet access by both establishments - wasn't a tourist friendly town this one. Grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to where I was stopped by the red army about an hour ago. To my surprise they were all gone, so decided to push on as it was now 1200 (didn't fancy staying in this place and wasting a day - later though I would find out that this was actually where I needed to get my exit stamp out of China!) don't know which genius came up with the idea to put the exit stamp 150km away from the actual border? With these road conditions it took me 3 days to reach actual border - see 00/00/00 for more details) 35km mark village. 41km mark very rocky dirt tough road - it was as if I had passed through hells' gate. Various changing landscapes ranging from lunar, grand canyon like to himilayan snow capped mountains. 1630, 45km mark abandoned huts (no roof) 50km mark farmhouse, 55km mark asphalt returns in bits (new road being built over new one) 1945 camp at base radio tower out of the westerly winds. Alt 2735m.

04/06/12 - On the road 1100, fuel can problem - been sealed since oz, managed to de-thread lid and wasn't able to remove - managed to drip most contents out into main 1L fuel canister. Countless roadwork sites, climb up to 2970m, 31km mark cool off in lake (wash up, freezing water) to little avail as a few kms down the road encountered very dusty site. 41km mark village with no shops. 53km mark village with no shops, 54km mark, 1800 passport check & village with shop - stocked up and found place to camp at 1845 alt 2490. 18C, bed 2230, headwinds, 4% grades some 12%. 45km unsealed road.

05/06/12 - On the road 1030, 16km mark village with no shop. 25km mark village with shop. 29km mark steep switchbacks for 2km up to 2870m altitude. 38km mark, 1500 overtaken by 2 bmw gs motorbikes waving. 1600 reached Irkeshtam border and met the 2 german riders of the motorbikes that over took me earlier. They were seasoned riders, completed trip in Africa and New Zealand and had come all the way from Germany this time around. They were required to have a guide to lead them through China and now they had reached the border and no longer required his services. Check out their website (www.reiseQ.de) It was then that I found out about the required exit stamp 150km back. He was heading back to Kashgar and offered to give me a lift back to the customs checkpoint. Turns out that one of his friends works at the checkpoint and they were expecting an aussie cyclist a few days back - ooops! I was told to leave my bike here (I locked it up) and take all my gear back to customs, so piled all my gear into the back of his 9 year old Landcruiser. Was good to just sit back and enjoy the scenery for a second time from the passenger seat (his mate was sleeping on the back seat) - although even by car the road was rough - we rarely hit 50km/h. His muffler got a hole in it from a stone being flung up so we continued with his car sounding like a rally car. Arrived at customs 2030. Thanked Taher for his help. He organises guides and all permits to travel across china (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) The site is still under construction (apparently been operating for about 6 months, previously located at the more sensible Irkeshtam location) Found a near complete small building to camp inside out of sight from the few remaining officials. There were construction workers that took up residence in a similar little building but they didn't want to share space with me. Thanks to the construction works there were numerous water sources around, so was able to clean up properly. Cooked noodles and went to bed 2300. 40km unsealed & no wind today!

06/06/12 - Got up nice and early, packed everything up, moved all luggage to entrance of customs ready for 1030 opening. Got stamp no problems - didn't even check my bags. Hitched a ride back to Irkeshtam 1045 (many lined up and stayed overnight waiting for customs checking) 1400 stopped at village at passport checkpoint for a good hearty truckers lunch of meat, potatoes and bread. We reached Irkeshtam at 1630, gave truckie 300Y. Stocked up on water and store owner also changed my remaining yuan into som (kyrgyzstan money) Packed everything back onto bike and finally passed through border at 1745.

 

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