Wednesday October 21, 2014 300 miles in 24 hours by bus
We left our hotel for a precarious ride to the bus station. We cycled our way through back unpaved roads and would up at the very crowded Sunday bazaar. From there Jocelyn kept telling me to follow as she navigated through the narrow stall alleys and eventually found our way across the river and to the bus station. This was an adventure in itself and was a precursor of what was to follow. Once at the station we prepared our bikes for the 7 pm departure on a Chinese sleeper bus. Finally at 9 pm we departed. This part of the world does not run on schedules. The bunks were somewhat comfortable but it felt like I was on a hospital gurney for 24 hours. The first stop was at 1 am where everyone ran out to pee. We reached the Kyrgyzstan border at 5 am. Since the border didn’t open until 9 we had a nice comfortable sleep onboard. We then got on the move and passed through 4 checkout posts.
Soon the first China customs checkpoint appeared and we were all required to exit the bus along with all our belongings including our bikes and all panniers. Everything except the bikes was sent through x-ray then all bags were searched. They took a real interest in our camera and computer and spent a lot of time going through picture files. The most interesting part was a British traveler that we met on the bus had a China map that included Taiwan. The Chinese border girl looked at Taiwan and said “NO!” At this she took out scissors and was going to cut Taiwan off the map but Alan convinced here not to. Instead she took a black marker and covered Taiwan! This was so funny because she was really serious. About 100 miles later we were at the official Customs and Immigration Station. So what did we do? We once again emptied the entire bus and went through another more detailed inspection. Plus the bus was sent through three large garages with different types of searching x-rays. This stop was 3 hours whereas the first was about half that. But at this 2nd one we finally received our passport entry stamps! From there it was another two hours to the first major city of Kashgar. The bus dropped everyone off in a dirt field. It was dark and the streets were very crowded with electric motorbikes that whizzed around us silently. We had many close calls as we navigated our way to a hostel, Kashgar Old Town Youth Hostel. Whenever we stay in larger cities we try to find and stay in the old town parts due to the architecture and history.
We had met a girl on the bus from Romania who is working in Beijing so the three of us went exploring and found a really cool outdoor food bazaar for dinner. The noodles and vegetables were wonderful. At this point we thought it was 8:30 pm and just today realized it was really 10:30 as all of China is on Beijing time. What a rude awakening it was when we woke up thinking it was 8 when it was really 10. Today we walked around trying to find train tickets for the desert ride to Urumqi. Even though we never did find where they are sold we had fun exploring our new country. It is fascinating and frustrating at the same time. We survived our first China day and are looking forward to new discoveries every day.