With the autumn equinox now past, nights are longer than twelve hours. Usually I’d spend much of this time reading. Since my batteries were dead, I was bored and decided to set off a couple of hours before it got light.
I had just a short distance to go on the Cross Desert Highway, with only about 50km to the city of Hetian where I hoped to go to a hotel and have a rest day.
For much of the day I rode on a road parallel to a larger highway. This meant it was mostly used by slower traffic, like tractors. This was great as they go just slightly faster than me, so by drafting behind them I was able to ride along at a higher speed for less effort!
The road began to climb immediately. After an hour or so I made it out of the city and could see in the distance the Tien Shan mountains, where I’d be spending the next few days.
There had been some arrangement by which the operator of the hotel was supposed to contact the police who would provide an escort. Thankfully he didn’t bother to do so and I was able to ride away on my own.
The eighteenth of September was a day that started simply enough. I set off from Bulgan, heading in the direction of China. The landscape was barren; the only animals I saw were camels.
Not long after setting off this morning I saw a group of camels in the road. When they saw me coming, they ran away – along the road. When I caught up to them, they started running again. Every few hundred metres they’d stop, then start running when I got close. Well, I guess I just had to accept my new role as a camel thief.
After a few weeks on main roads in Kazakhstan and Russia, I was looking forward to getting off the beaten path. There seemed nowhere better than Mongolia in that regard so I set off from Olgii on a dirt track into the mountains.
I set off early and started cycling towards the Russian border. Thanks to a tailwind I was racing along at an average speed of 30km/h and reached the border in under two hours – early enough that they had yet to open!
I spent a few days hanging out in Almaty. Adam and Tom were there of course, and so was Karl – this was now the eighth time we’d met across four countries! On Sunday I had to get a bus to Bishkek in order to get a Mongolian visa: the consulate in Almaty was closed at the time.