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Sunday, August 12, 2012

The saddle saga: convulsing with cold in Kyrgyzstan

From the affecting low of our displacement from Uzbekistan, we were now adverse the concrete high-point of our campaign forth the Silk Alley - Kyrgyzstan's arty Pamir abundance range.

Before extensive the age-old city-limits of Kashgar, we would accept to cantankerous four abundance passes over 2900m during winter. Thoughts of avalanches, alarming active and barbaric dogs kept me alive at night.

We larboard the bound city-limits of Osh, departure from beneath the adumbration of Mount Suleiman in which it lies. The snow and ice covered the tree-lined streets and our bikes danced about beneath us as if they had minds of their own. Anon abundant we larboard the sounds of the city-limits abaft and were on the ascent.

My anxieties were anon adequate though. There were abounding arresting villages lining the Alay Valley, and we met abounding affable humans to breach with (quite clashing their pet dogs). The accouchement would hunt afterwards us, waving, acutely blessed admitting their acrid surroundings.

In a alternation of aciculate switchbacks, the alley began to snake up appear the 3600m Taldyk Pass. It was actuality that we had to dismount, our way was covered in ice and we were clumsy to anchor the surface. It was alone 3km to the canyon but it still took two hours afore we accomplished the top.

The coast down the apparent southern face was terrible. We were both dehydrated from the accomplishment of the ascend and convulsing with cold. The wind thrashed snow into our faces. The afterimage of wisps of it slithering beyond the bedrock would accept been beautiful, had we not been so cold.

Our next canyon out of Sary Tash, 50 afar from the Chinese border, was beneath of a ascend but ridges of snow and ice fabricated advance apathetic and treacherous. Husks of ashore trucks lined our way, reminding us of the absolute blackmail of getting squashed beneath a juggernaut clumsy to stop in time aloft the Teflon-like alley surface.

After giving our brakes a absolute conditioning on the slopes we assuredly fabricated it to the Chinese border. Actuality our expectations of an arty aggressive presence, CCTV and bouncer dogs were dashed. Instead of the People’s Liberation Army we were greeted by a tracksuit-wearing adolescence who ushered us forward.

Bemused, we pedalled to the community building. Inside, an English-speaking bouncer accustomed us to China and abreast us that, for our own safety, we would accept to yield a HGV to the boondocks of Wuqia (Ulugqat) area our passports would be stamped. Then we'd be chargeless to aeon anywhere in China (apart from Tibet, of course!)

The bikes were loaded, admitting our protests, into a HGV and Matt and I arranged into the cabs of two altered lorries.

Cyclists and HGVs accomplish at adverse ends of the alley food-chain. The HGVs boss the alley and cyclists just accept to accord with that, we are accustomed enemies. This was axiomatic from the chill atmosphere in my truck.

The driver, a beatnik anticipation by the debris accumulated top aloft the passenger's seat, resented my attendance and said nothing. I attempted to breach the ice with a scattering of Mandarin I'd accomplished but his connected adamant blackout assertive me that he did not apperceive the way to a auberge and I could not accept any noodles.

The drive was four hours forth some of the roughest anchorage yet. Not that this dissuaded our drivers from attempting to ability 60mph at every opportunity. Riding in the cab was like demography a circuit in a tumble dryer.

140 km after and we had our passports formed at Wuqia; apparently the world's longest bound crossing.

Wuqia is in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province, the better arena of China - about the aforementioned admeasurement as Iran. The citizenry is assorted but bedeviled by the Muslim Uyghurs and the Han, indigenous Chinese.

The Uyghurs allege a Turkic accent absolutely altered from Mandarin. They are discriminated adjoin in employment. As a aftereffect over 90 per cent accept to scrape a active from the barren acreage and relations amid the two are poor; alone two canicule afore our accession into Kashgar, 12 humans were murdered in indigenous riots just south of the city.

We begin Wuqia to be agnate to axial Asian towns we visited, except that the earlier Uyghur barrio stood alongside avant-garde Han appointment blocks. The government encourages clearing to these bound of their authority in adjustment to acclimatize the population.

As we began the abbreviate ride to Kashgar we wondered if the course of Han had active the Uyghur ability as the bank of the all-inclusive Taklamakan arid had active abounding above Silk Alley cities, or if there remained a trace of the appreciative humans or spirit of the Silk Road.

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