Takshiken, Xinjiang, China to Altai, Mongolia

“You appear to be moving very slowly into the Gobi Desert. Are you sure you want to do this?” – Things Google Maps isn’t designed to say.

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Leaving the Chinese border, there were actually two parallel  paved roads. Take the North one, because it goes through towns and is mostly paved.

After almost two weeks running from Police in China, using various mapping resources that run acceptably well through the Great Firewall, I completely missed how close I’d be coming to one part of the Gobi Desert. I guess by some definition, you could say that my route, unbeknownst to me at the time, had me crossing it. I’m not sure where the precise borders of the Gobi are, or if there even are precise borders of such a monstrous geographical feature. Regardless, Google gave me no warnings when I crossed into the region about how absolutely desolate the area would be. When I finally zoomed out a few days into Mongolia, I discovered just how close my route had gone to the ‘Great Gobi B’ on Google Maps, it in all honesty came as a surprise. I had planned this leg thinking it was just another barren steppe, one of many I’d crossed since leaving Kyrgyzstan about a month ago.

Continue reading Takshiken, Xinjiang, China to Altai, Mongolia

Karamay to Takshiken, Xinjiang, China

Please take your shotgun out of my face before we take this picture.

If I sneak around this truck then the toll booth won’t see me and I’ll have better luck camping tonight.

It’s 1am and an unknown number is calling me at my campsite. Must be the police. Well, whatever they have to say can wait until tomorrow.

I wish she had interrogated me a little longer. It was really nice to speak English for a bit.

#JustXinjiangThoughts

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Wide open spaces and police cameras. I make sure to smile for every one.

Continue reading Karamay to Takshiken, Xinjiang, China

Usharal, Kazakhstan to Karamay, Xinjiang, China

Xinjiang, Xinjiang. Where to start with this absurd place. Xinjiang shares much with the oppressive political situation in Tibet, but doesn’t get nearly the coverage. And the Chinese Government has a vested interest in keeping it that way. Geographically, it is a vast province spanning most of Western China. That fact alone should raise red flags on its own about potential political troubles in the region. The province is sandwiched between China and the predominantly Muslim Turkic peoples of Central Asia, and this creates an obvious conflict. The Uygur minority is kept under constant surveillance, with “abnormal” (real term!) beards and head scarves banned. It’s known to be a nightmare to cycle through, but I think I’ve found a very good way to do it and I want to share that information. So this is a writing-heavy post. But first, back to the last few days of riding in Kazakhstan. The long days riding in Kazakhstan are so crucial to understanding why eventually entering China felt a little like getting hit with a bag of bricks.

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Far out in the steppe. Wide open spaces.

Continue reading Usharal, Kazakhstan to Karamay, Xinjiang, China