28 June, 2014
At five, my alarm woke me up. I packed almost everything and the tent. Then we had bread, concentrated milk, and some coffee for breakfast. We left at seven before the heat lash us. After 20 km, all of a sudden, the desert gave way to a lot of greenery--tall trees, farms and lots of water. Even the road was very leafy! But again, close to the border, the desert started.
We passed the Kazakh border control without our baggage being checked. It was rather crowded though. We had to wait in a line in heat in the customs building and had our photos taken when left.
As soon as I got out of the building, I realized that I had a flat. The officer allowed me to change my tube there next to his booth. I did it very quickly. The cause of the flat? A bush thorn! I had seen this kind of thorn before. It is amazing how they can penetrate a Schwable tire when even glass has a hard time to do the damage.
The no-man's land on the Kazakh side was very ordinary looking-- some cows grazing, even some people living in that area! In the Chinese side, however, there was three km of road with cameras mounted on every fifty meters and barbed wires on each side: horrifying. The customs officers, though, were very friendly. They took picture with us, and there was a guy who had a big Nikon camera and kept taking many pictures of both of us as we were talking to the officers in charge. On a positive note. There was no other tourists--only us.
We asked one of the officers about the exchange rate and he said, 6.3 to a US dollar. As soon as we stepped outside the border control, many dollar dealers gathered around us. When we asked about the rate, they said, 5 to a US dollar. At last, one of them gave up and gave us 6.2 to a dollar.
We went to a restaurant and ordered noodle. It was good, but we didn't know what kind of ground meat they had used in it! Then we bought a lot of water, some Chinese instant chicken noodle, and took off in scorching sun. After riding for a couple of hours, and looking for camping spots, finally, we had to stop at 7:30 and we found not a very desirable place. There were some trees between the main road and a country road which could shelter us. There also was some running water by a farm. The water was rather muddy, but for smelly, sweaty riders like us, it was good enough to give us a shower. So when it got dark, I filled all my bottles with it and took a refreshing shower. I just hoped all the stuff I had heard about China being reckless about polluting the nature was not true.
When we put up our tent, we saw a Chinese couple walking curiously toward our camp. Later we realized that they were also camping in the trees just 100 meters from where we were. Later, they guy, with body language, invited me to their campsite for watermelon. I loved the idea. I had a lot of it, and took some for Fausto. For dinner, we had some fortified noodle, which means, adding some veggies to instant noodle. I hope tomorrow, China has better roads and people for us; otherwise it would be very disappointing.