Its Crazy. I have never been in a place before where the language is so different that you don’t even have a clew what it means. I have tried to learn the basics like sorry, hello, goodby and my name is, but it seems hopeless to remember the complicated combinations of sounds and letters.
Back to Kyrgyzstan. We left the pass in the mountains when little kids on mules came along and began doing what they do so well around here: staring, not replying hello, not asking a question, not making a sound, not doing anything but staring at us. That can really freak me out and after we accepted their company for over two hours we decided to leave before they stare holes in us. We had strong tailwinds and a steep pass which made our brakes glow by the time we reached the valley-bottom. Down there we were welcomed by the first border control checkpoint. They asked for our passports and against our assumptions they wanted us to take a picture with them. The last photo we would be allowed to take before the border, for after that checkpoint we enter borderland. Quite an intense feeling to be so close to china. Well, we didn’t play by the rules and still made pictures and videos. Although we had been warned by other cyclists that all our SD-cards and pictures will be controlled at the border we couldn’t stop for the landscape was to beautiful and the situation was to important not to document it. About 10 km before the actual border to China we found a hidden place to camp. In a wide riverbed surrounded by high rocks we settled down. We re-organized our bike-bags and threw away unnecessary things which we hadn’t used in weeks.
From now on two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, two underpants, one long sleeve, on fleece, a shorts and a jeans, a rain-jacket and rain-trousers would be it. All vegetables, milk-products, and other organic stuff was or eaten or thrown away. Nothing that could lead to any trouble at the border stayed in our bags for we knew, we would have enough trouble with carrying over a hundred SD-cards an 5 cameras with us which for sure would not leave the impression of normal tourists at the border. To hide the videos and photos we took in the border-zone we changed the SD-cards in all the cameras against old ones with pictures from Sar- tash. Then we put the other SD-cards somewhere in between the 100 empty cards and hoped that they wouldn’t check all the cards for their content.
Short before dark I noticed our 6th flat tire. A thorn from a plant, about 4 cm long, had penetrated my tire the whole way through. The tube had two huge wholes and so it was impossible to repair it. Luckily we had bough a spare one in Kazachstan.
I didn’t sleep wel and when I got up in the morning at 4:00 AM I was nervous and afraid of the border. The second pass, the actual Irkishtam pass was by far not as high and spectacular as the previous, unknown pass. We arrived there at 7:30, in our opinion way to early but due to a friendly patrolmen the border was open for us already, the trucks still had to wait.
“I put stamp here, now you not come back to Kyrgyzstan, understand?”
That’s what the officer said to me when he gave me back my passport.
But what if the Chinese don’t let us in, I asked. He replied that this is none of their business any more and that he doesn’t no what happens, by by.
With a stomach getting smaller and smaller and my nerves tens, we reached a huge gate with Chinese letters and lions on it, this must be it , I thought. The gate was still closed and as we approached a young man came out of the bushes, held his hand up and said something I didn’t understand. Paul bent over to me and said:” he probably wants to see our passports”.
And in deed, the date opened magically after the passports where checked and he had spoken some magic words into a wall mounted microphone.
We were in. So easy, just show our passports and that’s it?
No, the real border was still to come a few kilometers further. We had thought already that we have been lucky and against our assumptions might be able to ride all the way to Kashgar, but we were mistaking. This border was strict. They searched all our bags, controlled all of our pictures and luckily didn’t check all the “empty” SD-cards. When they found the bottle of vodka, which we carry with us since Aral in Kazachstan, they didn’t believe me that it was just vodka. They “forced” me to drink from it to prove that it was real. Great. Now I was to cross the border drunk or what?
Then we noticed that our time-schedule was even tighter than we thought. As the officer told us that it was a six hour ride to the official entry-border, where we get our stamp, we checked with our visas and noticed that we only had 7 hours left to enter china. Then it would be invalid. The officer understood our problem and kindly offered us his help. He would search for a fast and empty truck which could bring us to the border even faster. And so we got in Asy’s truck.
As promised, this guy could bring us to the border faster. What we didn’t think of was how bad the road was and how high the risk for our bikes (lying loose in the container of the truck) to break. There was no possibility to fix them any how and so we heard them jumping around in the container on every hole and swell on the street.
Asy’s way to drive was horrible. In this truck I learned how string this machines are build, we jumped over rocks and took shortcuts up and down the hills in already steep curves. I would have loved to tell this guy that our visa was not as valuable as our lives but he was Chinese, spoke no Russian, no English no, German. So we accepted our fait and arrived at the border just in time.
We gave our passports to the first of three checkpoints. The guy looked at them and ordered us to take a seat, a seat on fire as I could call it. We only had one hour left to get in and still the whole procedure in front of us. As Paul asked the guy if our passports were allright 20 minutes later and if we can go further, he said: “of course, you are free to go on”. Then, when I passed his desk to the next officer, I saw that the guy was not working at all, he was not checking our passports but playing solitaire all the time. Unbelievable, but this guy didn’t care for our visa-problem at all.
The next officer did and so , after showing us pictures of his twin-sons and checking us again, we made it into China, half an hour before the border would have been closed and our visas would have been invalid.
There we stood, outside the huge building with golden roof and marmot walls, puked into China without a clew where to go or what to say. And that was not all. A huge sandstorm had covered the sky and hurricane-winds pushed us into China. We didn’t see further than a few meters and our eyes, mouth and clothes filled with sand. Welcome to china, a officer at the side of the road screamed in English, the last english words we have heard so far.
After changing money and buying some food we left town and found a place to sleep, again in a huge empty riverbed on a small island. There we drank a Chinese beer, ate Chinese bread with Chinese peanut butter, and tried to work into Chinese a bit. Up to now I must say: no chance anyone can learn this language. But we won’t give up, three month must be enough to at least learn some basics like: Duibuzu, which means, excuse me. It is written like this: 对不住.
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