Departure from Urumqi is as much fun as uncertainty. I give the keys colleague, who moves into my apartment with the family, still my favorite dumplings in a local eatery, this, and that.. when finally slaloming between cars and thoughts start bombarding my head – how it will be 8 8 months, what am I saying, after 10 substantially.. and if can still do that? What with accommodation, What about the police, all these check-points. and of how it all will work out? The road keep on climbing , until finally I leave the city behind. It stretches across the surrounding villages, and changes to a bumpy one, on which the snorting with the effort heavy trucks pass by. they will pass, and I will remain in a cloud of sticky dust , after a few hours you can forget, that I used to be clean. All around the dry hills covered with sparse vegetation, time deposits at some sort of open-cast mining. and surprise, surprise- place indicating the center of the Asian continent! That is the case here, I wonder if it was created for use chinese tourists, or if there are more places like that like in Europe?
Before sunset on the kind of solace I cycle down a picturesque canyon, which thre are many in the area. I manage to find the spot behind rocks and deploy the tent. Nothing has changed, the ability to find hiding places for the night fortunately I ma still very good at . However, there is a distant rumble interfering with the silence coming from the top of the mountains uh ...! Still hope it just seems to me and is not real? Oh no, These lightenings on the horizon.. Storm! Well, I am just a lucky one, the first rain in weeks, and me, as usual, trembling with fears in such a situation. Yep, thunder and lightning - the face of nature, before whom I respect, which makes, my heart pounding like mad, because in the end who I'm in this miserable tent? After several hours in the morning it is silent again and sunshine makes me leave my tent. The road, however, is still getting worse and encountered Chinese migrant confirms bicycle sign language - there is awful, there is nothing there, do not go there! He is so tired and dirty, with not even have to explain a lot to me. I change the plan - do not blow up this way in the Tianshan mountains, This great mountain range , which for months I admired from the windows of my workplace, also, a part of the road turns out to be closed (military area) Fortunately, what I learn corresponding with colleague. Fortunately I learn about it before I even hitting the mountain pass above 4000 m. (ie no sooner than after a few days). Therefore, I decided to go 250 km main road and then bounce up the road 217, which is considered one of the most picturesque in the world.
Fortunately I did not have to take highway.. They are nameless, without a trace of shadow, possibilit to find bushes ti hide behind, roadside stands – I manage to find backroads, I go and see a completely different Xinjiang. What am I saying - after 8 months in general I can finally see Xinjiang! I pass neat towns with wide streets and avenues for bicycles, older and younger, who use them, squares full of flowers, new homes, playgrounds for children.. place, where parks are not fenced and the lack of all-existent, getting hard on my nerves two identical propaganda songs that are being played at every corner and shop in Urumqi (by government order) at every public place, all the time.. and I think, in a place that I would like to live and work! So even in Xinjiang there may be different. It's part of of a valley, fields on both sides of the roads, bending under the weight of the grapes vineyards, orchards full of apples and peaches, fields full of melons and watermelons, of unusual shapes and sizes - from the tiny to the giant ones, which are considered to be some of the sweetest in the world - absolutely I agree with that. Uighurs love watermelons and eat them throughout the year - I really do not know how they kept, but even in the winter on the street you could get fruit cut into pieces.
In Shihezi, a large vtown lying at the foot of the mountains I want to rent a room, wash and clean, take a break from the heat before continuing demanding path up. Therefore, I get to an action - Hotel! On the map I have a lot of them, but as it turns out, in the city are only three legitimate to accomodate foreigners and at the very sight you can see they are not cheap ones as they look like Marriott, who can afford it! Maybe the reason is, it's Saturday in August, and the area is considered to be a base for the mountains - all hotels are fully booked, lucky me. Reception service the last of them want to help me is the fact 22.00 - how about calling the police, because what will you do? Well, police? Go ahead - I think, let the police face and deal with these stupid rules here. And it certainly does. Do not know, what are these three police cars that showed up, but the flashing blue lights column crossing the city escorted me to a local hotel, that charged the price for the Chinese people (ok 15 USD) as per police's request they had to accept me. Such a replay from Burma.. I stayed for two nights.
Tianshan on the horizon.. it takes me a few days to push me bike up (I will not name this proper cycling) to the pass 3500 m altitude. Though I deserve a medal for #notforspeed, othat is doing that in the longest possible time, I'm so proud of myself anyway! There is not village or store for more then 100 km 100 km (that in Polish means: 3 cycling days) – to obtain the water? Here's a new idea. Quite a lot of cars pass by, full of Chinese wanting desparately to take a pic of a blonde girl on a bike. If any stops by and wants to do so I suggest exchange - a pic for a bottle of water, what do you say? yes of course, even two!
for about. 80 km going along the charming, deeper and deeper canyon.. Thes sky is deep blue and clear, just as it happens in Central Asia - no cloud in the sky, I love this region for the universal prevalence of the sun! When one morning I sit in the tent on the edge of the canyon and prepare my breakfast I feel as if I was, standing on the drawbridge, after which the truck passes by. I wonder, whether I can dizzy or it just seems to me .. ? After a moment, everything is calm, but the water in the river rises high canyon puff of steam, choppy water in the river. Earthquake 6.6 on the Richter scale hit the province this morning and joined the group a few more major earthquakes, to hit China this summer. Fortunately, there were no casualties. My first in life, with the rocks over my head.
Often the wind picks up in the evening and you can barely go. just then, when the time to go to sleep.. plenty of space to put up a tent, but the raging wind.. I decide to make use of roadside accommodation in yurts a few times (Tianshan mountains is already Kazakh Autonomous Region - mainly Kazakhs live there). In the mountains, no one asks for, where I am from and does not want my the passport. Just as during cycling through southern China 3 years ago 2014 year, all people want is just pay give money, and that's it. Amount? I paid the 3,5 to 7 dollars. Roadside night shelters are cheap and they have one thing in common - the bed and the lack of any place to wash yourself. Of course, with a water bottle , or even a thermos of hot water for tea which sometimes is given I can handle this issue by myslef perfectly, however, somewhere in the back of the head, the question arises whether such a need, that is, the need to wash does not occur here ..? So-called. outhouse hole in the ground , let's not call it toilet, is stinking so much intnsely, that no chance I would go there.
The Chinese also seem not to understand the absurdities of silly rules of Xiniiang – after several days, sleeping under a cloud once again I want to rent a room in the hotel and it turns out to be, the only one in the are and unuckily it doeas not accept foreigners, which I hear from the receptionist. Well, I have to leave and start thinking how much time it will take me to find suitable spot in the bushes on a fairly populated place, which unfortunately I found after a day of pedaling through the wilderness. After all, the right of Murphy always rules .
So where will you go now? intrigued by my fate receptionist goes out in front of the hotel. Can you go to the police station and ask us if u can stay here? maybe they will allow? hold on, I will go with you
In fact, the police station is right next to the hotel, its services are young boys in uniforms, in which they probably let themseles in, in the absence of other prospects here, but they do not really know what to do there – They stare at their phones or doze on the table. They do not undertake any decision in my exceptionally difficult case, some laughs, giggles hiding embarrassment, a request for a photo, but not, stay at the hotel is not possible, That's the law, you need to go 60 km further. Imagination, or rather the lack of it somehow doeas not tell them, the bike is not so fast you and the sunset is close.
I thank my receptionist for help, I pack things on the bike and then I hear from her - what will you do now? I immediately comes the reply – I know – you will you sleep at my place! I have a night shift and no one is at home, but immediately call the sister, This will take you.
To understand the level of this madness I wanted to remind, that as a foreigner I can not just like that sleep at someone's home in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. it is prohibited, and after all the police did not allow me to, we both know it.
Sister soon appears, Sune allowed her Scooters, some side streets, bows neighbors, even the way I enter into it because he feels compelled to feed me a delicious chicken with rice and then go to the house of her sister, I get the keys to the house. and that's it!
The gate leads to the small backyard and a house. three small rooms, kitchen, I do not manage to find restroom (I find it until morning). I'm walking around, looking at it all, thinking. It scares me a bit all of this place. On the one hand, I feel gratitude and relief, that I have a place to spend night , on the other hand intimidation and embarrassment. It's dirty, cosmically dirty here. This is not a simple mess , to which I am accustomed to- light dust, clothes all around, a few pots in the sink… oh I'm an expert of domestic disorder. Here basically I loathe to touch anything. Some buckets of water at the entrance, something, a piece of old soap, and used toothbrush. Beds all upside down, linen not washed for weeks probably, open cabinets. All covered with dust. In a corner of the yard a little strapped small dog growls, but more looking at me with fear in her eyes, but soon I cam hime down with a piece of bread. Litter cigarettes butts and beer bottles in ht yard corners, bags of garbage.. The only place, where I, I can sleep is the old cast-iron bed covered with plywood in the backyard and battered mattress, which I cover with my bikebag . I am ashamed of my thoughts, because somebody me he embraced wholeheartedly, and here I am so picky and judge.. But it also is an experience, situation, which I experience for not the first time, mainly in Asia and confront my thoughts with – I wonder how one can live in such a mess. Because for me, poverty is one thing, but mess and dirt the other, and the second one is somehow, not proportionally increasing as the other grows. The night is warm and however great enough sleep, and when I am ready to leave my receptionist arrives - groomed, clean, smiling, if it came from another world. Still brings bagels for breakfast, something we eat quickly, thank you sincerely and set off. I really do not know how to thank her.
Chinese road, no matter what part of the country is, have one thing in common - they are being rebuilt constantly. On the renovated section length 10-20-50 km surface is completely tear (I'm just thinking, with you may want to leave one lane ..?), moving vehicles leaving the rocky and sandy path. The vehicles are not going to reduce your speed means, Thus, the visibility drops to a few meters and you poor one on a bike are moving in the clouds of dust after in the evening canno recognize your face in the mirror. I left, therefore, the way to Nilka, and moved oto a slightly larger one, parallel 218 and cycling it I reached the last city before the border with Kazakhstan - Yining, gracefully called Illi. The city and its surroundings is considered one of the most charming places in the province, and the Chinese invented, that the mountains around, pastures and rivers are not the only attraction area - it is ... well! lavender fields! And that's surroundings Illi largely cover the field of fragrant lilac colour flowers, which are mainly used as a place to do romantic commemorative photos. Houses and fences along the road are painted lilac color and even though they are charming and I really like it, I have the impression, that's what, the ruling party ordered.
Illi turns out to be quite a nice city, not congested, pleasant town in which I spend 3 nights - fortunately there is a hostel and can accept foreigners. Uighur district, although undoubtedly is pimped for the use of Chinese tourists is very charming - trees shaded rows of whitewashed streets, white walls, where the entrance to the cloisters surrounded by houses which guard the gates of works of art, rapidly flowing water in roadside channels, running kids are watching indifferently passing on Chinese tours in cats and I get more from them a head start, full of life ... And above all COLORS. colors of the houses, gates, everything! - orange, turquoise, celadon green , orcha, yellow.. all these, which would be stuck and unsold in the Polish stores will certainly have found too fast on a patch of western China.
Since only Illi is 90 I km away from the border with Kazakhstan. I pedal slowly, looking around at the landscape .
-Hello! Wait! Wait! I'm waiting here for you
White car in front of him and the young man was looking at me with interest. I stop then
– Do you speak Chinese?
– Unfortunately not.. as usual, the I admit it, I'm a little ashamed, that they did not make it through these months to learn almost anything
-My name is Hamit, I am Uyghur he says and I only laugh, because I know itt, because you can see..
– I don’t speak English.. He gets out his cell phone to use his translator
..I saw you on the road, I decided to wait here for you. Where are you from? Where are you going? a few standard questions. I am a teacher of PE in high school here in the village near. My wife teaches English there. It is only 10 km. would you like to join me for dinner?
-Thank you, it's nice, le I've been looking around for a place to stay as night gets closer... Dinner sounds good, but it will be dark in less than an hour - I planned to seek the place to hide somehow even before the city starts. As usual in such situations, I have a dilemma, but something good looks from his eyes.
– You can sleep at my place
– Hmmm.. and do you live with someone?
– Yep, I have family, wife and two children. My wife will be happy, When you arrive, She is very hospitable. We have a big house, will surely be a place. Probably he you can still see the hesitation on my face
– Don’t worry, I am a good man. Do not worry. I am a good man.
– And , anyway.. it's nice, thank you, but it can, however, call it good?
-So so, for sure.. to co, We meet near the river? I will be waiting for you
Before you get to the river on his way to meet me, this time on the scooter. Somewhere along the way he is calling, quite a long time talking, then in a local eater we eat dinner - a huge portion of Langman and skewers, I can not manage to eat it all. When dinner is over I hear, "Now we go to the hotel"
I do not know what to think about it. why hotel? Why is it? Who has to pay? I try to say no, but I hear only „Don’t worry, I pay”.. and I think, that his wife was not as eager as him to have unannounced visits.
The hotel is large and clean, I get a room card and Hamit pays discreetly, then says goodbye with the words – take a rest, I will come tomorrow morningand. We'll have breakfast and I'll escort you to the crossroads.
-Breakfast, road.. for what, I can handle.. do not bother yourself ..
-See you in the morning
In the morning when I'm still in hald asleep Hamit knocks at the door
- I'm waiting for you downstairs
-But.. and.. I am not ready.. I have to wash and pack.. Who knows me well knows, I'm not super fast in the morning.
-It doesn’t matter he responds. It's not important, I will wait
Half an hour later I am there. It seems to me he is different today, maybe a bit nervous? Something I feel, probably he has got into a domestic trouble beacuse of me. a great breakfast, as usual, I get more than I can accommodate. Phone serves as an interpreter. A little about life, here and there, a little about my trip..
– I think, that what you are doing, is great
– I think so too Hamit
– You're not alone, you have the whole world to yourself and everyone around. I decrypt words in response to his question about my family. it is hard for Uighurs and not only them to believe, that it can have such s small one
– Yep, I know
– You're done? Let's go
His bike breaks, so we go on foot. do you need bread? how much? Three, four pieces?
– No, only one!
I get two. Apples. He takes about two kilos. You're crazy! I laugh, because really I cannot put more on the bike. water, do you have water? Yes I do, I really do not need anything else
– Now you have to go there, just some 20 km Intersection, the last straight to the border.
– I am very touched by all your help Hamit - I write on my phone interpreter
– wait a minute
He disappears into a nearby shop and brings a small blue parcel.
– It's a souvenir. And my wife apologizes.. we have a small baby, she would probably would not let you sleep..
– Again, he shows me a message. "It was very important for me, I will remember this encounter all my life "
And then again they appear, as always, when they are not wanted at all , wet, pinching my eyes, flowing out of glasses, I am wiping them with my hands, both waiting in confusion, until they stop but they do not want to, you need to do something about it, "Thank you so much and good-bye" I push my bike on, it begins to roll, I do not look back at all, now they are just dropping from my eyes for several kilometers, on the border my eyes are all swollen.. So many similar encounters, but this respect in his eyes, do not look in the neck, not a question how old I am, why not have a husband and children, the question is not how many kilometers I drove the price of the bike and what it is.. but, it is wonderful, what are you doing. ONE GOOD MAN.