Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paranoia in North Xinjiang

Location: Ürümqi
Counter: 2397 kms

(Note written on Tuesday 18th June. Thanks to the great Chinese firewall, there are no blogspot, no facebook, nearly no news... But thanks to Tash, who knows a secret to bypass it, here it is!)

After empty Mongolia, it was a great pleasure to find villages every day. No need to take water for 3-4 days. No need to cook: Chinese food is excellent and varied. Finally, vegetables and fruits!

The ride from Bulgan to Ürümqi was boring. After Mongolia and its crazy landscapes, the road here presents absolutely no interest. Rien! Nichts! ¡Nada! Once out of Altai mountains, the road goes for about 600 kms around the Gurbantünggüt desert: a dry, flat and rather desolate place.

I turned the brain to basic mode, listened extensively audio books and made big days. Helped by a light tailwind, I did a ride of 186 kms on Saturday, my longest ride ever. I'll deserve rest in Ürümqi, especially my bottom!

Luckily there were militaries and policemen to entertain me! We played hide and seek together, like children.

The last Mongolian beauty before the border.
What an incredible concentration of wonders in this country...

(Chinese government is a bit stressed because they have growing ethnic problems, here in Xinjiang. They fear journalists, and control the region through army and police. Once again, a Chinese problem between 'minorities' - Uighurs in particular - and Hans. Maybe you do remember the 2009 ethnic violence in Ürümqi, where nearly 200 people died. If you follow the news, there is not a month without clashes between Uighurs and Hans, somewhere in Xinjiang.)

Going through the border was not as bad as I heard. The chinese customs searched my panniers twice, but not thoroughly. They were actually nice and friendly. They didn't even check the photos on my camera! Just the books and my writings awoke their interest. They took the books, went to an extra room, and came ten minutes after, saying that everything was ok. For the writings, they declared that it was ok, because 'nobody can read french here'.

I had just one remark: no tent! Foreigners has to find hotel and register every night.

On the first four nights here, I spent three in my tent, but got caught the last one. A man saw me, and he probably called the police. I had to repack everything and ride about 20 kms behind a military jeep to the nearest 'hotel' room. Once again, they were very friendly, and wanted to stay with me for a beer, what I politely refused!

Pass control at least once a day. Can I see your telephone?' 'Give me your camera!' 'Where are you going to sleep tonight?' I was surprised how good in English and how smart they are. And noooo, I'm not journalist, just a normal tourist!

On the last part, I was taking photos of an incredibly huge power plant on construction, when a car stopped at my side. Oh! Here you are my friends! Pass control... 'No photo!', told a military. This &!%**+@7 started to play with my camera, deleting some photos and... he accidentally deleted all the photos of the card. Nothing tragic as I saved all Mongolia on an extra card, but I lost my first four days in China. He felt sincerely sorry. And I was sincerely p*ss*d off.

Luckily - and once again - the food here is so good, that I took comfort in it and in a huge Wusu beer, a few hours later ;)


  1. coucou max,
    je viens de rentrer et me reconnecte au net. desolée, suis pas une geek... tes photos sont superbes et on sent que tu en profites au dela des difficultés, c'est beau... j'espere que tu as repris des forces en chine, tu continues encore longtemps ?
    ici tout roule,comme en plein automne... Alphonse marche et grimpe, il est marrant et n'arrete pas de babiller... promis je t'envoie des photos demain.
    gros bisous et bon voyage,

    1. Merci chère soeur pour tes mots pleins de sagesse... Oui, j'en profite à fond, et me sens très bien et même chaque jour très heureux. Vous me manquez, c'est tout!
      Énormes bisoux à vous trois, et vivement la Charente ;)

  2. Hello Max , je viens de découvrir le blog et cette extraordinaire aventure !!! continues a écrire, on te lit, et à travers tes récits, zou, on y est, la bas, dans cette montagne !! Bonne route !

    1. Merci Paulo! J'aimerais bien en savoir plus sur ta vadrouille en Afrique également!
      Rendez-vous sous l'abri le 24/12?

  3. Salut max, Quelle magnifique aventure tu vis là, des paysages à couper le souffle, de superbes rencontres au prix d'un bel effort, je serais bien venu avec toi mais je pense prendre exemple pour un circuit plus modeste. Amitiés de laurent

    1. Salut Laurent! Toi qui aime le vélo, c'est sûr que tu aimerais. Si tu changes d'avis, tu peux toujours me rejoindre. Ramène un bon Maroilles (je rêve d'une tarte) et un bon livre, je suis à sec... Mes hommages aux Grusonnois et à Gruson!

  4. merci max pour ta proposition, je serais le plus heureux, pour l'instant je m'imagine à travers les photos parcourant tous ces espaces et vivre ces rencontres.
    Pour la tarte aux maroilles je peux l'envoyer en poste restante mais ce serait plus sur d'en deguster une a ton retour, j'espère ne pas te faire trop saliver ..
    Profites bien !

    1. Laurent, je signe pour la tarte aux maroilles! Quelque part en Novembre ou Décembre chez les Ch'tis?
      Bises à vous tous