- 10 Questions: Cycling In China | TravellingTwo: Bicycle Touring Around The World
- Bike touring in China? Go Yunnan
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- Cycling in China 12222/2020
10 Questions: Cycling In China | TravellingTwo: Bicycle Touring Around The World
Add in experiencing local Tibetan Culture and hospitality and you have 8 days of cycling heaven. Snow capped mountains, lush valleys with blue lakes and wild hourses — this region has it all. Add to that the distinct culture of the Muslim Uyghur people and you have the ingredients for a truely unique China cycling experience. There are mountains on three sides of the city which are responsible for trapping the notorious Beijing air.
However once you drive over the first mountain range cycling heaven awaits. So too does better air and blue skies. Come and give it a go. Join an Upcoming Multi-day Adventure. One of the world's earliest civilisations. Explore several millennia of culinary history with our local experts. Challenge yourself on the highest roads in the world. It was impossible to quench our thirst with the warm water in our bottles and already I fantasised about ice-cold drinks from imaginary fridges. With nervous anticipation, we free-wheeled our bicycles down the steep ramp exiting the immigration building, swerved around a gaggle of black market money changers, and out into Xinjiang Province.
Rebecca and I had 90 days to cycle across China, a distance of around 5,km from Kazakhstan to Vietnam. Our Chinese odyssey had begun.
Xinjiang is comparable in size to western Europe, but from a glance at a map appeared to be mostly desert. Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, is the most remote city from any sea in the world.
Bike touring in China? Go Yunnan
We cycled eastwards along the single road that squeezes between the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts. The region is regularly battered by high winds and sand storms, and by intense heat or bitter cold depending upon the season — it must be an inhospitable place to live. Oasis towns lie scattered across the desert, patches of green that emerge shimmering from the vast expanse of dull scrub. These towns exist wherever there is water — everywhere else there is none, and as a result nothing grows.
We hopped from town to town, replenishing our food and water supplies each time.
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After a week we reached an ominously empty section on our map, a km stretch of road through nothing but desert. In the final settlement beforehand we loaded up with extra food and water and set off. We didn't get off to a great start: despite summer not yet being in full swing, the heat was unbearable and even the ferocious headwind felt hot.
The barren landscape offered little protection from the wind, so that evening we decided to seek shelter in one of the many tunnels under the road. Despite being miles from anywhere, every single one of these tunnels has been used as a toilet.
Cycling in China 12222/2020
We weaved our bikes around a few human landmines and found a clear patch to pitch the tent. Unfortunately the wind shifted direction just after we went to bed and our sheltered underpass quickly turned into a very sandy wind tunnel. Sand began spilling through the mesh door and covered everything. I climbed into my sandy sleeping bag and tried to fall asleep, whilst wondering what on earth we were doing here.
The following morning we woke to a howling cross headwind and reluctantly started pedalling. We fought a losing battle with the wind for a miserable couple of hours but incredibly, just as it was becoming dangerously strong, we came across a solitary cafe in the middle of nowhere.
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We hurried inside, thankful for the shelter. It was just so interesting — a country the size of a continent, changing throughout. Cultures and traditions so ancient, and so different from our own. Incredible scenery, mountains, deserts, smart cities and filthy villages. After spending months reading various books and blogs about the adventures to be had on long distance cycling journeys they were inspired to give it a go.
Their motivation was to have an awesome adventure, challenge themselves both physically and emotionally and to raise money for charity during their journey.
You can follow their progress via their website or twitter ryandavies We ended up being trapped inside that cafe for 24 hours whilst the mother of all storms raged outside. We ate noodles and drank tea whilst watching gusts of sand and dust fly past the window at unbelievable speed. We began to get worried when the cafe owner kept glancing nervously at his roof, which had started to lift up with each gust. We debated hitching a ride back to the previous town, but now even the truckers were sitting out the storm.
When it became obvious that we weren't leaving, the cafe owner kindly said we could sleep on the floor. We sat in the corner, watching the stranded truck drivers slurp noodles and drink beer until 2am. Finally the final customer retired to his truck, and we swiftly pitched the tent for a 6 hour kip. After a couple of hours of demoralisingly slow progress, the road subtly shifted direction: it was enough to turn the strong wind into our favour.
Morale instantly increased fold, and we now flew all the way to the next town, Hami, covering an all-time record distance of km. We hadn't expected to arrive for days, so still had 15 litres of water and 10 packets of instant noodles stashed in our bags!