Archive for October, 2010

Day more than the last one…

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

Hello again.

3200km in China and now I am in China. The first two thousand miles across the vast expanse of nothingness has led us to Xining. Hardly the city you dream of but it is the end of Road 315 and a testimony to taking it one day at a time.

The last time I wrote was in Delingha where after cyling out of the desert for 7 days, martin jumping into quick sand, eating emergancy rations, meeting two guys walking (see photo below) who where as mad as a box of frogs and arriving in the first town we had seen for a week we quickly descended into a classic Chinese debacle.

Stopping at the first hotel we spent half an hour trying to get the price of a room down only to be frustrated by the complete lack of understanding on both sides. The girl on the desk could write chinglish but would not speak, admant in her refusal to allow Martin access to the computer to get on google translate. we where about to walk away when she made a phone call. Asking us to wait we naievly thought it would be some kind soul who spoke english.

Lo and behold it was the police.

Passport checks, visa checks then a flat refusal to be allowed to leave the area. Standing on the street wondering what on earth is going on an attractive chinese girl comes and informs us that she is a police woman and will act as a translator. The message was a simple refusal to be allowed to stay in the city.

The city was forbiden. No foreigners allowed. At all. You could see all this descending into some kafkaesque nightmare. Down jacket on, shivering with the cold and contemplating sleeping in either a police cell or in the park we finally managed to negotiate a stay in a hotel.

A very nice one it has to be said, with private dining rooms where you are served by blushing teeenage chinese girls who descend into fits of giggles when you talk to them. We gave our solomn word that we would be leaving in the morning to the police and went to bed.

In the morning upon waking we looked out of the window to see snow. With the prospect of an 8th day in the saddle and a day in the snow we elected to hide in the hotel and not go outside. Sorry attractive chinese police woman but it is what it is…. I found out why the city is forbidden though. take Delingha to wikipedia…. :)

We managed to leave after a furtive run to the supermarket and a very fast exit out onto the main road which was deemed acceptable for us to be on.

After that, well I would like to tell you it was easy and the lasy 700km was all down hill but no, a 3800m mountain pass that took a day to ride up. A night at 3500m that was so cold i slept with my cycling boots on in the sleeping bag and stilll had a fitful nights sleep due to the pain in my feet. The best aspect of this was across the road was a chinese military base. We very politely asked the teenager bearing an automatic rifle on sentry if we could talk to him… a group arrived shortly after clutching ping pong bats (hard work in the military eh..) and told us that we could not sleep in the base or camp on their football pitch…
Then, well it was downhill off the mountain, past lots of yaks, tibetans and yet more moronic lorry drivers hell bent on turning us into road kill.

We tried to camp only once more in the run down to Xining due to the cold but where turned away by some of the unfriendliest people I have yet encountered on this trip. How many times have you been asked to show your passport when you want to sleep besides somebodies barn, or even an outride refusal to shake your hand.. We have a sneaking suspicion as to why these people are reacting like they are, unfortuantly if I write this then I think my blog will be blocked. Work it out yourself eh…

So no camping allowed meant a sprint and I mean sprint into town before the sun went down. Cycling on these roads during the day is bad enough but at night… my god. the reassuring news is that you do not appear to need to use lights if you own a motorcycle. Seriously the driving here is staggering. Overtaking on blind corners does not even make me wince anymore as you see it so much. If anybody can explain to me why the drivers here are so utterly incompetent I would love to know.
We found after the usal ten minutes of acting out someone snoring, a hotel. The coldest room I have ever been in. No heating just electric blankets with a socket you had to bend to force into the wall. Chinese quality engineering strikes once more. (On this topic I should probably mention the traditional new chinese kettle avalable in all cheap hotels here. Their design engineer should be commended indeed for his foresight and inguenity for failing to install a thermostat. Having boiling water all over the room is a benefit not available to customers in europe yet.)

Another day closer and our first monastary. Do not ask me of what religion it was as I know not. All I can tell you is that it wanted money (god is always bad balancing his checkbook no?), had big drums, strange huindu style monuments, a big chinese drum and a man who refused to allow us to sleep their. Do you see a pattern emerging?

Mention should also be paid to the hotel we stayed after Delingha where I witnessed the desk lady doing a dustmans blow into the sink next to me whilst brushing my teeth. That is something so vile that you truly have to witness it to comprehend it.

So with that in mind I should also mention when was the last time you saw
(a) a man washing his hair in a restaurant
(b) a man clearing his throat then spitting next to your feet in a restaurant
(c) a man coming into your room early in the morning without knocking, sitting down on your friends bed with whom you are sharing a room, a fag hanging out of his mouth and then starting to yell at you in Chinese that you have to swap rooms
(d) shink wrapped chickens feet in every little shop
(e) a policeman motion for you to go away when YOU ARE DOING NOTHING WRONG AT ALL…. standing on the street looking for a hotel is a crime now eh?
(f) a policeman coming into your room at 10pm to check your passport
(g) 5 different maps of a country that are all bordering on dangerously wrong

different world my friends, different world. I warn you in advance to prepare yourself for your new masters. China has aims on taking America’s role no matter what is said. Russia has just signed a deal to supply China with all the oil and natural gas it wants (cue a cold winter in europe…) The growth here is staggering and we are but on the edge of China. Coming into Xining there must have been at least 30 new high rise blocks in, each one over 30 stories high, each floor having at least 6 apartments… and that was just one small part of the city…. The five year plan as just been launched again here and they are calling for more domestic consumption and a faster rate of urbanastion. They are building two, that is two coal fired power stations a week every year till 2030. Sorry but throw away your new energy efficent lightbulbs you are p*ssing in the wind. Go green, hell go full on self-sufficent by all means but dont think you are making a difference when you have a fifth of the worlds population being persuaded to consume yet more shiny nonsense.

Sorry ranting :) On a lighter note, Xining has fast food, friendly travellers and a good view of the city. We rest for a couple of days then south at a fast rate again due to visa time restrictions. The aim is to be in Laos for the middle of December where we hope to find a pig, some chickens and have a big spit roast. I flatly refuse to have Chinese food on Xmas day.

In the meantime we have sky burials to see and who can forget – panda’s.

ta ta


for the rest go to

or (thanks martin)

Day ?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Try cycling seven straight days for nearly 500 miles dreaming of a hotel only to be told that you are not allowed to stay in the city… this is across a desert and two high altitude passes where there are only two places in the entire stretch to buy food. Video coming soon. maybe.

Day ?

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Travelling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.

Cesare Pavese

Learn from my stupitidy…

1. when you have water bottles and you add the flavour sachets so commonly found out of europe clean the bottles. do not act surprised when you see you have been drinking mould spores for the last month that you have severe stomach cramps…

2. when cycling through a very very large desert carry enough cash to get to the next BIG city. not a little city where the atm does not work but the next huge place that cannot fail to have cash. Otherwise two 9 hour bus trips will be required. (fyi western union does not work in china as well unless you have a chinese bank account)

3. when suffering from sever stomach cramps and all the associated nonsense do not go out for dinner with a chinses businessman and get smashed on Baijiu whilst playing strip jack naked.

4. if you buy inner tubes that are not presta do not be surprised if they do not fit the rim.

5. a round file a hotel room and two hours of watching the snooker can fix problem number 4

6. if you can sort one problem out a day in a foreign town consider that you have done well. cut your losses and be happy with it.

7. never ever trust anybody who is not a cyclist when it comes to road conditions or distance. “you can get water at km marker 2030 which is 50km away”. get to 2030 and what is there… sand…
“oh its all downhill do not worry” i am not even going to dignify that one with a response

8. if anybody within their first 3 questions asks you either-
(a) does your government pay you to do this
(b) what is your religion
walk away.

9. never camp near water unless you want to get bitten to death

10. shrink wrapped chicken legs and deep fried bird skulls are not that bad. who would have guessed.

as an aside i found this which i thought was quite apt… Europe according to the USA….

Europe According to the United States of America

Day more than the one below

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

“The bigger you build the bonfire, the more darkness is revealed.”

- Terence McKenna

So – China -

I think the less I write the better in fear of offending anybody but my god I have never been anywhere in the world where the people are how can I put this in a polite fashion…. vacant. The lights are on but nobody has been home for a very long time.
You see acts of crass stupidity when you travel (hell most of them are of your own making, like pouring petrol down the toilet of the happy hotel…) but to see some of the people here.. and the spitting, jesus wept. You know what sound a chinese alarm clock makes…

no… it is the sound of a man clearing his throat at 6am then emptying the contents on the carpet outside your room

Everywhere I have cycled so far people will return a nod or a wave, in some areas you struggle to keep up with the greetings, here a sullen empty stare. No questions, just a crowd of people looking at the map and staring at you waiting to see if you do anything strange – I am considering trying to ingest food through my ear to really confuse them…

Ian is a saint in comparison to Martin and I. Endless patience to put up with this but then he is a GP. Maybe my compassion for understanding has diminshed due to (a) the incessant urge my body has taken on to try and pass my internal organs out through my arse and (b) trying to stop (a) from happening whilst cycling over 110km a day, every day.. through the second largest desert in the world….

If i was on my own.. well put it this way i would be going through a living hell. there is nothing out there… no shops no water nothing. Luckily i am with two people who can more than handle their own which makes this whole affair descend into a joke.. and i am actually having fun..

So from here- well we tough it out for the next 1800km till the end of road 315 then due south where I hope to get into Laos and sit on an inner tube and float down a river with a beer in hand….

Oh yeah, for those going overland into thailand check the visa regs as they have just been changed, there is info on thorn tree about it.

Thanks again to somebody who can be bothered to take pictures there are some from Dushanbe to Murgab that I cycled with xavier and Kristof- thanks pal and respect for making it-

Kristof… do you know how to get movies on the dell axim? it is driving me nuts man what do i have to download to get it to work mate?

One last thing— where i am sat is on the exact line of Khatmandu, so in a way i made it, just shy of 11,000km and in the wrong place but I did what I set out to do, I managed to cross the line on the map. you know this means a third attempt now…