Posts Tagged ‘Areletuobie’


I squat, pants removed, over the hole in the cement. As the first shit spatters out with a burst, my neighbour leans forward and looks at me around the chest-high dividing partition.
‘Where are you from?’
My next brown package explodes out.
‘Germany. By bike.’
I get the thumbs-up (with pants down).

River

River

And so the conversation goes. I am quite proficient at it now in Chinese. From Germany. Yes. 15000km. 10 months. Via Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan. Australia. 2 years. Worked at Philips. About $10000 (amount I have spent up to now). Today my story brought me an invitation to a picnic on the river with bread and honey from the local stall. A lovely couple from Urumqi with 2 small children invited me to join them.

Picnic friends

Picnic friends

This morning, before I was allowed to leave the hotel, my passport had to be shown to the police again. It’s stressful – you aren’t allowed to camp, and usually, you can’t stay in a hotel either. Other cyclists that had tried my planned route had been turned back by the police, and so I was nervous approaching the police checkpoint at the turnoff. My fluorescent vest removed, all filming equipment hidden, I was luckily part of a massive crowd of people that were being waved through. Still, no hotels for me on this stretch of road, lest I be taken to the police and turned back.

Cycling up the river my mood changed. It was not flat, hot, busy and boring, but rather, I was following a lovely forested valley with a beautiful raging river. The river abounded with lots of beautiful flat places to pitch a tent away from view of the road, and so my hopes were high. I planned to camp just before the road left the river to wind its way over the pass. Unfortunately, holiday yurt developers had the same idea. The last 10km before was wall-to-wall yurt – a bit like the Spanish Mediterranean coast but Chinese style. Then it started to rain. I would risk it. I asked some yurt owners if I could stay in the yurt. They were only boys, and probably don’t know about reporting tourists to the police. Yes. I could pitch my tent behind a yurt for free, or stay in one for 150 yuan. With the rain getting heavier, a yurt it was.


The people here are wonderful – I’ve been showered with happy faces and gifts. On the other hand, like Iran, this is a state ruled by the iron fist. Again my hotel looked a bit shaky after a police station visit. I am only passing through. The people that live here have to endure this indefinitely.

Unity of the people

Unity of the people

Every kilometre or so I pass by a bright red sign with yellow script. I had a bash at translating one – it was all about unity and solidarity of the people. The signs were about as frequent as the two heads in Iran, and the president in Tajikistan. They were everywhere.

Just in front of a red sign, I was stopped by a good-looking young man I had smiled at a kilometre back down the road. He had hopped on his motor scooter and gave me a bottle of water. I was handed another bottle of water out of the window of a passing car. I was given some watermelon by two kids who were at the same melon stall as me. I was given a new cap, towel and two cobs of cooked corn at my lunch stop. And I was given all sorts of different fruits when getting some fruit for dinner. Lovely lovely people.

Melon stall

Melon stall

Gift showerers

Gift showerers

Fruit gifts

Fruit gifts

I found a hotel, put my bike in the room, and went with the hotel manager to the police station. (He wanted to take my passport there himself. I said I would come with him.) I could sense it coming (I understood a lot of what they were saying at the police station.) I wasn’t allowed to stay in that hotel, or indeed any hotel in the village. I needed to go 25km to a different village where there was a foreigner hotel. Then the, now standard, phone call with the English speaker confirmed my suspicions. I played the same card as yesterday – ‘I’m tired, it’s late, and I can’t cycle further. I just want to sleep.’
Mm. Some police websites were opened, some protocol documents checked, and then, amazingly, I could go. I was allowed to sleep at my non-foreigner hotel. All this is getting tiring, though. I think tomorrow I’ll be sleeping hidden in my tent.