Halfway round the world

Posted by Krista
Kashgar, Xinjiang

Greetings from the road!

As we freewheeled down to the city of Kashgar, sun and dust in our eyes, haze in the air, second-largest sand shifting desert to our east, we felt elated to have made it this far. To me, reaching China symbolises having ridden halfway around the world – HOORAY for pedal power!

From Osh, Kyrgyzstan, we were joined by two cyclists, Ben and Sylvie, who’ve ridden all the way from France on recumbents.

The first 60kms of road was smooth as a runway. But then, as predicted, the roadworks began.

Smiling faces greeted us and we learnt our first few words of Chinese, yelling, “Nee-ha” (hello) to all the Chinese road builders as we bumped and clunked along. My forearms and hands ached from the vibrations and corrugations, my lungs stung from the dust of the trucks, but my heart sang with the mountains that surrounded us.

At the end of our second day, we were waved down by a young lad, Timur, who invited us to camp in his back garden. We stayed there for 3 days, swam in the mountain meltwater and visited the jailoos – the summer pastures – riding a donkey!

The families living in the yurts invited us in…

…and plied us with yoghurt, hard balls of cheese, green tea, fresh cream, nan bread and… fermented mare’s milk, a Kyrgyz specialty, known as kummuz.

Crossing the 3615m Taldyk Pass wasn’t half as difficult as I had imagined (I’d been creating a nightmare road based on what all the cyclists in Osh had described). As we climbed higher and higher, a cold flutter of snow greeted us.

Dan sped ahead, strong and sure, I was slower, having to stay in Granny Gear. This was not because of a steep incline, but because my gears were becoming more and more jammed. Ben and Sylvie had a near collision with a speeding truck, which hadn’t judged the angle of the hairpin bend.

The air was thin at the top, and I was breathless but happy.

And when I looked back at where we had come from, I was quite impressed.

The village of Sary Tash was horrible and we fought with the local kids who were throwing stones at us and trying to catch hold of our bikes. But to counterbalance this was the stunning view. And we followed this mountain range all the way to China…

The road deteriorated quite a lot more, but we didn’t care, we just loved being amongst all these beautiful mountains …

And 250kms later, we were in China, where the stinking floppy-humped camels, the wind-sculpted rocks and the mud-brick Uighur settlements kept us constantly surprised.

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