Tash Rabat, Kyrgyzstan to Kashgar, China

Distance: 174 miles
Time on bikes: 10 hours

The Group we’ve managed to get together with through the Horizons Unlimited website are:

James (England) – Yamaha XT 660 R
Emily (England) – Yamaha XT 660 R
Fabian (Spain) – Honda Transalp
Stefano (Italy) – BMW 1150 GS
Donato & Roberta (Itlay) – Harley Davidson

As planned, we get up for breakfast and then take a tour of the caravanserai with Stefano before getting ready to go. We manage to get rolling at 10 am, although Donato made an advanced exit at 8.45 am as his progress may be a bit slower on the gravel roads we have to contend with for the fifty miles to the border.

Up until now we’ve only road together on any gravel or other roads, but today it’s like being back on one of our European tours with our friends back home. Unfortunately however, this means that there’s loads of dust being thrown up into the air and we’re getting absolutely covered.

We’re managing to ride at about 30 mph and it takes about ninety minutes to arrive at the first check point for exiting Kyrgyzstan. It’s probably the first time we’ve seen well armed border guards, but they’re friendly enough and just ask to see our passports. There’s a bit more of a relaxed feel as we’re in a group for the first time crossing the border and it’s not too long before we’re on our way up the Torugart Pass towards the Kyrgyz border.

When we get to the Kyrgyz border we eventually manage to catch up with Donato who arrived about twenty minutes earlier. We’re given a few forms to fill out and hand over our passports to some chap. A while passes and we enquire what’s going on. It turns out one of the guys has gone off for his lunch break – the one supposed to be dealing with the processing of our papers to exit the country, and we’re just stood around waiting like a complete bunch of prats.

A sharp phone call by one of the guards, and we’re back in business when the other chappy comes back to his post. It’s now 2 pm, an hour after arriving, but we’re on our way. We were supposed to meet our Chinese guide at the border a 1 pm, so we’re running a bit late and it’s another 25 minutes up a gravel track to the top of the Torugart Pass at 3,600 m to get to the first Chinese border post. Apart from a couple of trucks, there’s no one else on the track with us, but we’re all absolutely covered in dust from each others bikes.

We’re starving when we get there and are so glad the guide has brought some fresh bread with him which we all devour. At first we don’t even realise he’s our guide, but we’re soon glad he’s there as the border guards already have a pre-printed sheet with our personal and vehicle details on. We were expecting to see tarmac on the other side of the border, but it’s clear they’re doing fairly significant road works which means it still looks like we’ll be riding on gravel for the time being. The guide tells us however that the gravel roads in China are much better than those in Kyrgyzstan. We’ll see.

We get on our way and are all feeling quite jubilant that we’re now on Chinese soil, we’re travelling in a group and have a guide to aid us through the rigmarole of the border and check point bureaucracy. This jubilation doesn’t last long however as we head down the gravel road away from the first border check point.

As we ride down following the guide in his car, there’s a truck coming the other way up the hill. There are piles of gravel by the side of the road and there’s only enough space for one vehicle to get through. The guide has a few attempts at trying to park his car between two piles of gravel. Donato has parked his Harley sideways on between some gravel piles and Carl tucks in behind him. Béné had managed to squeeze in alongside a gravel pile and Fabian has parked behind her.

The truck decides to go for it, but it’s soon clear that things are going to go wrong. The cab manages to clear the guides car, but the rear wheels and the trailer just keep smashing into the rear quarter of the car, bouncing it around and ripping off the rear bumper and taillight assembly. Carl looks around to see Béné and it looks like the truck will hit her pannier. Béné has no option but to lay the bike into the gravel pile as the truck drives past. Unfortunately Fabian isn’t so lucky and the trailer makes contact a few times with his pannier and leaves him with a few scrapes and bashes. What a welcome to China.

After getting Béné’s bike upright, checking over the damage to Fabian’s bike and extricating the other bikes from their positions we’re ready to carry on. The guide manages to reattach the bumper and put back what’s left of his rear lights before we get back on our way.

It’s about 3.30 pm now and the smooth tarmac roads we were hoping for do not materialise for a long time – maybe 100 miles. The road is actually worse than Kyrgyzstam as the road works leave us having to go off the main road, on loose soft gravel and even through a river where a huge truck has managed to ground itself. We have to pass through a military check point and then the main immigration check about 40 miles from Kashgar. It’s just getting dark when we leave and it looks like headlights are only optional in China as we share the roads with tractors, trucks and cars driving along in the pitch black with no lights.

We were thinking the journey to Kashgar would be easy, but we don’t arrive until 10 pm and we’re absolutely shattered. We’ve only had tarmac for the last fifty miles or so and we’ve been on the go for twelve hours. We draw a crowd outside the hotel, but the police were the best. One of them puts his ear next to Carl’s exhaust and beckons him to start and rev the bike. OK officer, you asked for it! Although looking a bit deafened, he seems happy enough and loves giving the throttle a little tickle himself.

After a quick turn around, most of us decide we’ve enough energy to head out for something to eat and go across the road for a lovely meal where Fabian chooses us a fish from the tank. We’re now in China and it’s great to be experiencing it with the group we’ve been able to assemble.

Jour 131 – Vendredi 27 Aout 2010. De Tash Rabat au Kyrgyzstan a Kashgar, Chine

Distance: 272 km – Temps a moto: 10 hours

Comme prevu nous dejeunons et allons visiter la caravanneraie avant de reprendre la route. Donato et Roberta sont partis un peu plus tôt que nous comme ils sont en Harley, et veulent rouler au plus cool, ils sont partis peu avant 9 heures. Nous partons vers 10 heures, plus tard que prevu, pensant qu’il y a un decalage de 2 heures a notre avantage avec la chine.

Le route est en gravier tout du long et nous avancons lentement, nous passons un troupeau de chevaux qui galope le long de la rivière, quelle vue imprenable ! Puis la route poussiereuse continue jusqu’à la frontière avec la chine. Nous n’y arrivons qu’a 1 heure, et espérons que ca ne prendra pas trop longtemps comme le guide nous attend de l’autre cote. Mais L’officier du Kyrgyzstan qui prends nos passports decide de partir prendre son déjeuner et nous nous retrouvons a poirotter presque une heure avant de les recuperer.

Nous continuons ensuite entre les postes de la chine et du Kyrgyzstan, nous esperions y trouver du maccadam, mais pas de bol, c’est encore du gravier. Nous arrivons a un poste de contrôle avec la chine ou Donato et Roberta nous attendent avec le guide, Mussa, ils verifient nos passports, puis le temps de nous presenter et de partager un peu de pain frais que le guide avait ramene et nous reprenons la route…il n’y a toujours pas de macadam, et le sentier est en plein traveaux, mais c’est du gravier tout du long. Le premier vehicule que nous croisons est impressionnant : un camion qui refuse de voire qu’il n’y a pass assez de largeur pour lui et nous en même temps, il arrache le parre choque de la voiture du guide et ecorche la saccoche de la moto a Fabian. Comme je trouve qu’il est trop près de moi, je pose ma moto sur la pile de gravier sur laquelle j’ai commence a monter pour lui echapper. Nous continuons ensuite sur le sentier, il passe dans une vallée innondee ou il deviens très boueux et couvert de flaques. Nous avancons doucement et prudement et reussissons a rester sur nos deux roues et ne pas nous retrouver le nez dans la boue. Le passage d’une rivière se passe aussi bien, il est impressionnant comme un camion est emboue dedans, mais nous passons assez facilement.

Nous passons deux autres postes de contrôle et arrivons enfin a la frontière officielle, plus de 50km plus loin.Les policiers nous demandent de rentrer nos baggages qui ne sont pas en saccoches dans le batiment pour les scanner, et ils verifient nos papiers. Il verifient aussi la carte routiere de James, et decident de ne pas scanner nos baggages. Mais il verifient 3 des 5 ordinateurs du groupe. Ca prends pas ma de temps, et quand nous partons il fait presque nuit. Il nous reste encore plus de 60km a faire, et le groupe n ;avance pas vite : il y a beaucoup de traffic et tous les véhicules n ;ont pas de lumieres…Nous arrivons enfin a Kashgar, et a l’hôtel, ou deux policiers viennent admirer les motos.

Le temps d’echanger de l’argent a l’entree de l’hôtel, le reste de la monaie du Kyrgyzstan et quelques Dollars, et nous allons dans nos chambre. Quelle surprise d’y trouver un taudis : moquette collante…nous décidons de sortir manger un morceau et de demander a l’acceuil de nettoyer la chambre. Avec James, Emily, Stefano et Fabian nous allons dans un petit restaurant. Comme il semble impossible de nous comprendre, Fabian va dans la cuisine et pointe a different ingredients. Nous nous retrouvons avec une fondue chinoise de poisson, legumes et nouilles, un vrai regal.

Nous retournons a l’hôtel et ne sommes pas trop surpris de voir que rien n’a change… heureusement que les lits sont propres !