Day 50: Anecdotal Evidence
Photo of the day: Man Arrested for being soaking wet and too Beige
The sound of rain against the hotel room’s window didn’t exactly inspire a prompt exit, but after another naan I was trudging through grim rain. The only early cheer came from a man on a motorbike who rode alongside me and literally asked me if I knew it was raining. I told him I did.
Sodden, I spent an irritating amount of time at a police check point with a not-exactly-elite group of policeman who were mostly fascinated by the Northern Ireland aspect of my passport.
From then on the day became anecdote heavy.
The world's biggest road kill?
The misery briefly ceased when I saw my first wild camels; there they were in a real desert, the Taklamakan Desert as I should have mentioned a week ago when I first entered it. Then I saw my first camel road kill, then the second, then the third and then the fourth. How do you not see a camel coming?
What a smell a decomposing camel makes.
Caught by the fuzz.
More rain, more naan and water - I'm very much riding pane e acqua nowadays - was followed by a wonderful break in the weather. 70km in, with heavy rain again on the horizon I put a little air in the back tire only to notice the front was totally flat. As the rain hit me I opted to swap inner tubes and get a fresh one in there. Within two kilometres it was flat again, there must have been something in there.
I wouldn’t find out until later what was causing it as a few minutes later a police car pulled up and insisted on giving me a lift. You know the formula by now, I don’t go looking to cheat but sometimes in horrendous weather I receive offers that are too good to turn down. Remember this isn’t for charity or any great sense of personal achievement, it’s a twat on a bike.
With half the bike hanging out the back of the boot and me desperately trying not to soak the policeman I was squashed up against with my sodden clothes, we made our way for the last 35km with some variations on the standard conversation.
The best variation was them saying I looked much better in a photo on my phone than I did today. Four years and marathon bike rides will do that for you. It was good fun and they took me all the way to my hotel, which was an unexpected bonus. They also advised me I was very unlucky as this was the first rain of the year.
Trigger happy PC.
Keriya was a mish-mash of a town and there seemed to be a bit more tension about the place than further east in Xinjiang. This was signified by a young policeman doing the now normal – ‘shit the bed, it’s a foreigner’ double take - then smiling, starting to wave, before remembering where he was and who he was and rapidly moving his hand back to his gun and his finger to the trigger. A movement that had my flip-flops twitching with readiness to fail to run away.
The brickwork on the façade of the mosque looked fantastic, but for the life of me it looks like the rest of the mosque isn’t there any longer.
Back to the future.
Apple has now formally updated my phone to Kashgar time, but without forewarning me it caused much confusion as I sat down for some dreadful cold noodles and tripe at what I thought was 15.30 not 13.30. Without trying I was back on time.
With two hours to have another crack at, I did what any adventurer would do and went to buy a beer. In the shop I was taught some Uyghur words, which was really useful given I only previously knew naan and kewab. But, and this is a big but, upon saying I was British, one of the guys in the shop did a perfect Nazi salute and shouted “Heil Hitler” at me. In a mutual second language I did my best to say something like “no, that’s Germany" then panicked and continued "but not Gemany now, Germany is really good now.”
In the early evening I wandered to the statue of Mao and Kurban Tulum, which apparently is the only statue of Mao with someone else, other than the larger version of the same one in Hotan 170km down the road. The statue celebrates the effort Kurban Tulum made in travelling 1500km to Urumqi for months to present Mao with one melon to thank him for ridding Xinjiang of the Nationalists and other selected baddies.
I followed this lesson in historical PR with my best kebabs yet and my now staple veggie house noodles (with beef obviously) and some cardamom tea – I didn’t order it but I’m becoming a real tea ponce. I reckon I could drink camomile soon. Maybe.
I finally found the tiny fragment of steel cable that had punctured my front wheel twice and celebrated by fixing both punctures, whilst feeling fortunate for accepting the ride with the police. I would have never found something so small in the torrential rain.
The hotel wifi had been unreliable but I hadn't noticed it was not working at all during a Facetime call with Holly that wiped what must have been £35 of credit (which is about six months of credit for a thirty-something British man in China). That's two nights in a hotel in this part of the world!
May 26: Niya to Keriya - 109km
Start Time: 10.00
Finish Time: 15.30
Hours Cycling: 4
Bonus Hours: 2
Camels: 7 (4 dead)
A Photo Every Hour: Today's Highlight - Kashgar Time
Day 51: Just about the perfect day
Photo of the day: Mountains and not quite molehills
Day fifty one.
Just about the perfect day. Sunshine, a gentle breeze, lush green farmland, huge mountains, wide-eyed toddlers shyly handing back change for refrigerated drinks, the smell of grilled meat, bunny rabbits, though not grilled bunny rabbits. Even today's puncture came in the form of a colourful drawing pin.
Added to which my hotel is above a snooker hall. Here, in the middle of Xinjiang, I have to walk passed Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and others before bed. The world of snooker is tiny; just us, China and Tony Drago.
May 27: Keriya to Qira - 80km
Start Time: 08.00
Finish Time: 14.30
Hours Cycling: 6
A Photo Every Hour: Today's Highlight - A very pink puncture
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.