26.05.2008 - 26.05.2008 20 °C
The most exciting, though not the most difficult border crossing of this journey. (That honor remains with entering Turkmenistan in Turkmenbashy.) After 97 days of travelling from Olympia we enter China by bicycle!
After going through the various Kyrgyz control points - including a "health check" - about 7 km of nomansland have to be crossed' the one and only time with full gear on bicycle because we are leaving our car and Adam, one of our two drivers - behind and expect a new car to be waiting for us on the Chinese side. A giant flag mosaic on the slope and a fence indicate that we have entered Chinese territory! A few moments for having some very private feelings after 6300 km of cycling and the customs drag everyone into a small shack and search evrery of our bags rather carefully, paying special attention to books, notes and cameras. Arriving at the modern border terminal building for final passport control and health declaration (avian flu!) we meet our new van, driver and tour guide until Kashgar. And because entering China takes away another two hours of our day and puts us into Beijing time, we start cycling rather late in the afternoon after the very first encounter with Chinese food on Chinese soil.
Still this afternoon is probably one of the most memorable of the entire journey, as we seem to be seeing now the completely different side of the Tien-Shan mountains. An apocalyptic landscape of bare wind-eroded towering cliffs taking the most bizarre forms and presenting themselves to us in a beautiful bright afternoon sunshine. I can't remember any other day or place where taking photos was so easy and enjoyable.
First nighstay in China: a yurt, a few kilometres from the village of Uluqchat. We have entered the Kyrgyz autonomous region within Xinjiang, where the majority of the poulation adhere to Islam. So: same, same, but in China different...
Here our car has to turn around. Good bye to Adam! Chinese border officials are actually very helpful in carrying the extra gear to the border terminal.
Entering Chinese territory, a moving moment
Incredible landforms in the Tien-Shan
Yes, it's China!
Track and photos of this exciting first day in China on http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25065. Definitely worth watching in Google Earth!