Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: A Much Better Face of China; Today: 63 km; Total: 2658 km

29 June, 2014

I didn't want to ride when I woke up this morning mostly because of the hardship, the heat, and the monotonous road I experienced in China yesterday. But, this is what it is. You can't have everything desirable in this kind of trip. Sometimes, you have to wait to see what's in the store out of a miserable situation.

I woke up at 5:30, stuffed my sleeping bag into its compression sack, and sneaked out of my tent. It was rather cool, not warm at all. I went back into my sleeping bag again. After a while, I heard Fausto, so I jumped out of my tent, washed last night dishes, and got prepared to the usual morning chores. We had a coffee and then some instant noodles. We eat pasta and noodles alternatively for every meal: cold pasta with vegetables, hot pasta with fortified sauce, instant noodles, and fortified instant noodles. Eggs in the morning is so special.

After breakfast, while we were packing up, a guy came to our camp. We greeted as we usually do with the locals, trying to be respectful and be patient with their questions... they all ask the same questions which, after a while, get boring: they want to know where we are from, where we started and where we are going. This guy did not know any English, so after a few attempts of making each other understood, he kept quiet as we continued packing. When we were all ready to get on the bike, he (with gesture) invited us to his house for tea. We agreed although we were full, but that's why we travel like this: getting to know about people and their lives.

His house was in front of the woods we had our campground. In the house yard, a young girl was washing dishes in a bucket. The guy made his family aware of having guests for tea. Then we were led into a room. I guess it was the guest room.  On the wall, there was a huge poster of a window with the view of an ocean. The window in the poster had curtain too. There were two identical posters of a big bowl full of fruits on each side of the other walls. There was a big green branch hanging off the ceiling. Later on, we found out that it was a plant that smells good. Great idea!

After 5 minutes, our host walked in with a small table. He put it in front of us and covered it with a patterned table cloth. Then came some bread, some Pamir Chai (tea mixed with milk) with a big dish of salad. Our host broke the bread for us, put it in front of us, broke some small pieces of bread and put them into our Shirchai bowl, and gestured us to eat. He did all with outmost respect. We tried to make some conversation with body language. When our bowl of Shirchai was half, he poured some and filled it up. We were really full, but we thought it would be rude to decline the offers.

After the food, we filled all our water bottles manually pumped from their well, and said goodbye to our unbelievably hospitable friends.

Since we started to ride in China, I have heard a lot of cars sounding their horns, many times. I was very annoyed by it. Sometimes, I thought they were angry at us riding loaded bikes on their way. Sometimes, I thought they were cheering us, but today, we realized that there is a traffic sign on some intersections that order the drivers to sound their horns!

Soon, we were riding on a very newly built and modern highway in the mountains, on many parts of which the speed limit was 40 km/h! There was a river along the road, so a couple of times, I washed my head and soaked my jersey to keep myself cool. After a couple of hours, the road turned into huge, long bridges meandering around mountains. Honestly, I firmly think that all those brides were not needed. There was one bridge after another. Is this to show off Chinese new face or what? The road and the bridges looked very new, but the bridges were already crumbling! I witnessed the cement of many parts--scary!

After passing through a couple of tunnels, I saw Fausto waiting for me by the lake we had been hoping to reach and camp by. There were many tourists around the lake after the tunnel. A couple of locals came to us and asked if we would like to spend the night in a yurt there. A man asked 50 won ($8) to offer us a spot by the lake!  We bought some noodles and kept riding to find a spot for camping. There was a fence along the road, preventing people from going off the road to the pastures or to the lake side, but there were some tunnels under the road for water to pass to the other side of the road toward the lake. So we used one of them and found ourselves a beautiful campsite by the lake, away from the road and everything.

I bathed in the lake and had a coffee. The sky was warning a thunderstorm, so we pitched up our tent and started preparing the dinner. Two guys (locals) in a Yamaha motorcycle came to us and had a little chat/body chat. One of them had a very interesting overcoat. It was a very old Chinese army overcoat with stars as buttons. He looked like a Chinese world-war II army officer. 

Friendly Cop

Massive Meandering Bridge

New but Crumbling Bridge

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