19 September 2005 The Daily Dosage – my weekend cycling trip with two Chinese men (whose names I don’t even know in English)
I’m up at 0600, and out by 0730. There’s always many tasks loading for a cycling trip, at least for me, who is picky about starting right! Good start, good finish is one of my mottos! I guess I’m a perfectionist, try as I might to overcome!
Off hours is the best time to be on the Uremqi streets, safer, with far less traffic!
I cross town, with ease, (hotel on the west side, near the RR station, People’s Park on the east side). I’m there by 0800, as requested. But, there’s already one Chinese man waiting. It’s not Mr. Zhao the leader (whose flag I now proudly fly on Ms. Fiets). The man waiting can’t speak a word of English, and doesn’t even know pidyin , but we communicate. He writes down his name in Chinese in my book.
This man, about 45-years of age (I’m guessing) has a brand new bicycle, all decked out with new travelling gear. In addition, he’s wearing new cycling clothing, so I’m guessing he’s new to cycling (although one shouldn’t make assumptions). We wait together for Mr. Zhao, but the early morning ‘scene’ in People’s park is something to behold (see photographs in the Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org )
Remin (People’s) Park, is the place on Saturday morning you come to participate in Tai Chi, calligraphy, aerobics, roller skating/blading, etc.. It’s an amazing scene, with thousands of people, many just there to spectate. Imagine Acacia Park in CS being full of people on Saturday morning, all doing exercises (or artwork on the pavement). Or, imagine Central Park in N.Y.C., with a million people exercising, etc. Actually, Central Park used to have the same kind of energy, when I lived near in the 1960’s!
I spotted an anglo, so I introduced myself. Turns out he is an American, staying in the adjacent 5-star hotel the Hok Tai (don’t know the exact pidyin name), or something like that (see photograph in Gallery). ‘Some guests to remember, this was one to forget,’ from California, a California ‘Bob!’ But, I shouldn’t be too quick to judge, as he might be a nice guy! He was just in a hurry, and certainly not interested in me, which I can understand in People’s Park on Saturday morning (too much in the way of interesting Chinese). There is music, and drums, and energy, energy, and more energy!
Bob, made two older American men I’d met in Uremqi in the last 24 hours. The one the preceding evening, Curt (‘…one to remember…’) I had run into by ‘accident,’ at my ‘kai shui’ restaurant (the place I go to fill my thermos with hot water) in my hotel neighborhood. He was staying at the Ramada down the street two blocks.
He’s on his way to Pakistan, then back to Kashi (where I’m heading for the winter). I give him Stephanie’s mobile #, if he needs help! Always be helpful, if nothing else!
Mr. Zhao arrives and organizes the cycling group. There’s only two of us there, we’re to meet the bulk of the group, another six, north of town. I follow my Chinese man through town, red lights not stopping him!
We go out the northwest part of Uremqi, something I’d wanted to, having never been in this part of the city (going towards the airport)… And amazing again, the development… A stunning hotel, and an Olympic-sized stadium and arena!
I have to pee desperately, but this guy doesn’t speak English… What to do? This is comical, thinking (as I’m cycling) what to do… I finally stop him and try to convey, even going so far as to act out, but he doesn’t get it! Luckily we’ve stopped near a school and he hails a passing student, knowing the young know English. Sure enough the girl explains, and he laughs. Even ‘luckier,’ we’ve stopped 100 meters from a ‘W.C.’ where I make a ‘beeline’ for… I’m in such a hurry I burst into the ‘Ladies’ (only) and get a scolding! All this could be a sequence in a comedy movie about an anglo trying to survive in ‘Sino’ situations!
We finally get to the group, waiting on a street corner. I’m in ‘luck’ again, as one of the older men has brought his son who speaks English (a medical student). We head north, me not knowing where I’m going really… I had thought possibly a short trip, a hotel, and an easy ride home tomorrow, Sunday—that’s what I surmised talking to who I could about what/where they go every weekend in the summer. But, it got a whole lot better than that as the day went on…
It’s a breeze, the cycling… as, going north, from Uremqi you go downhill, not much, maybe 1-2 degrees in grade, but enough to make you feel like you could cycle forever! However, because this is a ‘weekend kind of outing,’ for older and out-of-condition men (who smoke of course) there are many stops.
I get to know young, Zhao Wei (keep in mind the Chinese traditionally put the last name first), or Wei Zhao for you westerners. He’s a nice, young, and polite boy who is very helpful. He tells me it’s going to rain on Monday, but tomorrow, Sunday still good! But, then we almost collide when a vehicle pulls out and he swerves to avoid! ‘Close,’ I told him later! He apologizes, but I’m not sure it was his fault. His father is my age at least, and hung right in there… I’m always happy to see this… People out trying at least even though they may (and probably are) suffering!
On and on we go until we’re about at the 60 KM mark (from Uremqi – several have cycle computers). We stop at an intersection to rest, where there are some tables in the shade. Here I meet a Chinese policeman, who’s fascinated that I’m from the U.S. (sounds like ‘May Goa,’ when you hear the Chinese say, ‘America.’). I give him my Chinese explanation of the Kashi Rally. He writes in Chinese in my book, his name, telephone number, and some ‘best wishes!’ although I don’t know exactly.
At this point young Wei tells me he and most of the group are turning back, as it’s some kind of holliday in China… I’m to follow two others (one the man at the beginning). He says something about another 12KM, and I’m still thinking, a village, a hotel, and then back quickly on Sunday.
We head out, and now these two are stronger and wanting to ‘rock and roll,’ so I have to ‘chug’ to keep up. But, this is good as I need a work out. We go and go, much more than 12KM, possibly 30! Through cotton-growing country, no less! China grows cotton, which takes a dry and hot climate (which this certainly is, at least in the winter).
We finally stop to have lunch, but no zhau fan here. I’m given a plate of noodles, meat, and vegetables swimming in grease. I try the noodles, just to see and the noodles are slightly like ‘rope,’ or what the Italians would call cooked ‘andante.’ I eat the vegetables, mostly green pepper and tomatoes. I pay for all three of us, some 17 Kwai (Kuan in parlance), which is roughly $2 U.S. Three people, a big meal, plus tea for $2 U.S. China is inexpensive comparatively! This would cost 10X the amount in the U.S. (Colorado Springs).
It’s now 1530 hours (3:30 P.M.) and hot, as we’re going through what looks and feels like the Imperial Valley (around the Salton Sea) in California. Some parts remind me of southern Arizona, some the Big Bend country of far west Texas. Some of it is pretty desolate. But, all of it is déjà vu! I’ve been here before! I’m a desert ‘rat,’ they called me ‘the lizard,’ in my younger days. I’ve resuscitated a few!
I’m beginning to wonder and query my Chinese duo about how far, what and when are return to Uremqi is…? This at a school in a very small village, where they ask for directions. They subsequently explain to me, not much further (gesturing), and that we’ll be returning to Uremqi tomorrow (Sunday). I was concerned as I have this ‘Men’s Journal shoot’ coming up and need to be back in U. on Monday (of course I don’t try to explain this to them).
In this little village, I shop in a ‘store’ (for liquid, juice, tea, etc.) as I’ve now figured out we’re camping out for the night. When the Chinese ‘owner’ (or clerk) doesn’t understand what I want, I go behind the counter and pull out what I need, two bottles of juice, and one bottle of some kind of nutritional drink (you learn to communicate someway, somehow, if impossible by verbal language).
But, I’m glad to have this kind of experience in the far ‘outback,’ as I know this is what I’m going to encounter on the way to Kashi (for the Chinese), Kashgar (for the Uyghurs). It seems like in China, as far as my experience goes, you can get pretty much anything, anywhere! Of course, I don’t expect to find soybean milk powder out here, but you can certainly find it all over U.
We head east, and are soon on a dirt road for the first time. It isn’t long afterwards, that we’re finally out in the country, uncultivated as least. Although we pass the final cotton field where ‘Chinese migrant workers’ (I noticed buses) are picking. One of the Chinese cyclists walks and asks ‘the boss,’ (napping in the shade of course) for directions. Note: These two cyclists have never been here before… They’ve only been given directions, an idea about ‘this place.’ This is the kind of thing you get good at figuring out, when you can’t communicate verbally (directly). You just have to go, ‘with the flow!’ We’re now, according to one of the bike computers, some 90KM from U. What do I do…? I could hardly find my way back without my ‘guides.’
The countryside turns into sand-dunes like hills… desolate, I’m talking desolate, yet in China, with one billion plus people, you don’t go too long anywhere without running into a two-legged, walking, talking or riding on something (noise makers they are all).
Up and on a ‘dike,’ I suddenly I realize what this is, as I see a series of ponds (lakes) and marsh, with one car and a man fishing. In the distance, some yurts on a shallow hill. Ah… This is where we’ll be spending the night—a camping facility. I’m pleasantly surprised. But, it’s mostly ‘beach’ sand at this point and we have to push our bicycles the last 100 meters.
When we get there we discover a half-dozen yurts (see photograph in ‘The Gallery’), and one semi-permanent house in this ‘settlement.’ They’ve even run electricity out here. I had first thought these yurts, seeing them at a distance, would be ‘operated’ by Kazakhchi, but they turned out to be abandoned. But, something was going on out here, maybe a hunting/fishing lodge of sorts, as there is abandoned equipment, piles of logs, and lots of debris.
The place is a mess actually, with piles of trash. I think how nice this place could be if cleaned up, the garbage dealt with (the Chinese no different from the Nepalese on this accord). They throw ‘shit,’ anywhere and everywhere. The only difference between China and Nepal, in this regard, in China there is an ‘Army’ of people to clean up every morning! In Nepal, it just ‘grows’ wherever!
But, the greatest thing… There isn’t a manmade sound—I mean the total opposite of ‘Hotel California!’ It’s intensely silent, except for the wind, a distant dog barking. The second greatest thing, on this day at least, is the weather… ‘hot’ with a breeze. I’m in ‘heaven!’ On the other hand, the Chinese men squat in the shade of the ‘reed house’ (the semi-permanent structure
The yurts over look a series of lakes and marsh land. In the distance we spy giant Herons and some other birds. After we check out the scene, and rest a bit (after moving you want to be still) I take off with camera ready.
I ‘wonder’ around the marshy lakes and dune-like hills, happy to be ‘out in the middle of nowhere!’ I can’t believe my good fortune! This is exactly what I wanted, for a full moon night… I shall sleep out in the sky!
But, the birds… Too smart for me… They won’t let me get very close so I wander back to the yurt complex enjoying being outside on such a lovely afternoon.
The two Chinese men have staked out the best yurt, and invite me to share. But, I tell them I’m sleeping outside. Part of the reason, has to do with Chinese men’s snoring… They all smoke. They all snore (except for Lee).
I find a pile of stacked… I don’t even know what to call them… ‘shelves’ (pallets) made out of metal and wood, roughly five by thirty feet in size (no doubt had some industrial use). There are maybe five of them stacked one on top of the other, about four-feet off the ground, making the perfect bed/platform to sleep on.
I spread out my ‘space blanket,’ pad and sleeping bad, and sit in the setting sun. It’s all too perfect, if there can be such a thing! I think if I could have written the script, it wouldn’t be as good as this! It took eight hours, and we’re 90+ KM north of Uremqi, but if you asked me to find the locale, I doubt I could… Out in the middle of the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Xinjiang Province which you’re never even heard of!
I think the mystery of life is astounding! Yet, there’s nothing to solve!
I stare out at the incredible scene, the lake, the birds, the sun setting, big, orange, and warm. Yet again will it come up in the east, smaller, paler, cooler, but to make another day, warming us, growing us, sustaining us!
I feel so blessed at this point, tears come to my eyes, I’m overwhelmed with emotion! How did I get here? Where am I?
I’m with two Chinese guys whose English names I don’t even know! I’m at ‘the end of the earth,’ light fading… This is exactly where I want to be, exactly at the time I’ve wanted… It’s hard to explain… My life ‘flashing’ before me! I fantasize a UFO landing in the night… A ride around the Galaxie! This would be a moment to ‘die,’ to make the ‘transition!’ I’m speechless, tears running down my face!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!
The Chinese men disturb my reverie, and we discover the full moon just appearing… I bring it to their attention—they discuss it in Chinese. We watch it for at least thirty minutes grow into something I will remember forever! I’ve never seen a more beautiful full moon rising, this September moon in China!
A giant heron takes off in the distance, hear the wind beneath its wings! I don’t even know how I got here, except by ‘your grace!’ How can I thank whatever gods maybe for this moment?
I’m 65-years old, my life is setting like the sun, the shadows lengthening on the page! ‘Da feng’ (the wind) ripples the lake, but the fish do not care! On the other side of the world they’re asleep in their beds, dreaming….
I dreamt the other night I was ‘magic,’ having special powers! We all do! If you can, pause long enough to ‘connect!’ It will make all the difference!
Lady bugs in this part of the world are brown in color. The Heron stands stately in the water. The bushes wave the wind!
Life! That’s the amazing thing!
Yesterday, with Toby and Martin in Uremqi, and now this! Yesterday, full of human travail, today the majesty of nature!
What kind of world has man created where we have to steal from each other? Don’t steal things from other people, give to them! It will make all the difference! Give! Share!
The idea of Communism, in its purest form, was to share a little more, not a bad idea! Of course, this idea was corrupted by human nature. The idea of Capitalism is to do for thyself, not such a good idea (in my opinion)! Money has become ‘God’ in modernity!
Get out in nature and observe! We’re a part of ‘It!’ We’re not above ‘It!’ but a part of it! Both the Taoists and Albert Einstein said the same thing! If you want to understand existence, observe nature deeply! Neither one talked about ‘Jesus,’ or Mohammed, or Buddha, or Lao Tzu, for that matter… Nature…
The fisherman (of earlier) drives home in his climate-controlled box on wheels, no doubt having taken fish from the lake. I remember seeing him ‘land one’ running wildly to the jerking line, a fish on his hook. But, what has he ‘caught’ other than himself? Come quietly, not in a ‘climate-controlled box on wheels!’
Don’t take, give! When you give, you get! When you take, you are taken from (in ways you don’t even know). Make no noise! Don’t’ ‘trash out’ mother earth!
I know the sky, the birds, the flies biting my leg! They are the same ones of 1952!
I know the sun, the wind, the sand, the earth! I’m of it! And in 30K years what was my body will be the ‘clay that pushed in the hole, will help keep the rain at bay!’ ‘See change!’
What is here without consciousness? That’s what all this is, mind created! Even the sky, the stars! ‘We are’ the ripples on the pond! The fish don’t care!
I hear a dog barking across the pond… What is that? Is the dog the bark, or vice versa?
One of the Chinese men sleeps on the sand, no doubt finally relaxed away from the ‘madding crowd’ of Uremqi! He sleeps deeply, modernity ‘washed’ from his mind!
I lie down in my sleeping bag, the other Chinese man still pacing about, smoking a cigarette!
I make a wish on the first star, but then realize it’s a planet probably Venus. Oh, the human foibles, frailities. I gaze up at antiquity! But, there are few old stars on this night. Only the brightest can survive the full moon, turning my night dreams into day dreams.
There’s no wind, no bugs, it’s perfect on my pallet, both Chinese men finally disappearing into their yurt. I’m ‘alone’ in this ‘Disney studio!’
All night long, drifting in and out of consciousness, I watch the moon traverse the sky, a ‘satellite.’ All night long I’m ‘bathed’ in the light of the ‘silvery moon!’ The Yin transforms me forever! I am Ahya now!
The night is the most serene I can remember, so still, unreal! I don’t know if I’m ‘awake,’ or ‘dreaming’ as I look around at my ‘movie set!’ Have I been taken up in the UFO? Even the Chinese are not snoring, or I can’t hear them. The light, such a different light, this full moon, cast on the yellow reed-walled house a few feet away.
I am ‘sleeping’ in the sky.
I awaken at 0500. I don’t want to get up, even thought not that cold. But, soon the sound of Chinese chatter. Time to get up.
Soon a Chinese face is checking to see if I’m still alive. I say, ‘Good Morning!’ He says something in Chinese, which I don’t understand.
I see the moon set over the horizon! I’ve never watched the full moon from horizon to horizon before, a complete cycle. The Yin has transformed me forever! I am Ahya!
It’s been a benevolent moon, no trouble! I wonder if this is the ‘harvest moon,’ or maybe October? The Chinese are harvesting several things, the cotton being one ‘crop.’
The Chinese don’t know or care about our calendar months—they have their own. They have another existence, on the other side of this spinning top. We think ours is the only way, they think theirs! I think Nature is the only ‘Way!’ neither West nor East—but, the Tao!
We’re off quickly on our bicycles with no breakfast, not a sound. It’s such fun to do this, travel so lightly, go before the sun comes over the hill, leaving not a trace. I love to move, I love to travel, especially on a bicycle. Like silent ships slipping into a sea we go...
We crank through the sand and mist, the early morning of northwestern China. We pass a house where the dogs bark threateningly at us, their owner staring at us incredulously. Where have we come from, looking like ‘moon men?’ and on such strange looking bicycles.
Soon, we’re back in the ‘flow’ of rural China, women passing us on their bicycles, their faces covered with white scarves to shield from the morning chill (dawn effect).
In the second village of some size, we stop for breakfast! I’ve been given ‘milk tea,’ and am drinking it, when my Chinese men tell me we’re moving. I hear the words, ‘mi fan,’ which they know I like. It turns out no fan, but noodles, and sausage but I abstain (begging off). But, I’m in luck with hot water in a bowl, where I make coffee! I eat my apple and a combo pear/apple (this a Chinese hybrid that has a name that escapes me). Note: Coffee is hardly drank by the Chinese, yet you can purchase Nestles in the supermarkets in U. They drink only lu cha or green tea, and in special containers with screens to keep the leaves at bay. Note: No tea bags for the Chinese!
The sun is coming over the hill. I wander through the village market setting up for the day. Who is this strange man, they must be asking…
Everyone stares at me in China, less this phenomenon was in Nepal. They’re all curious in this part of China, as there have been few white people. A man from America (‘May Goa’) no less! I’ve come on a bicycle! I’ve come in peace (‘he ping’) respecting them! I want them to know Americans are kind and generous people, not like George W. Bush! Not all Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Capitalist. Some are different!
I love, loving them. I love making people smile! As a result they are kind and generous with me! I can hardly give money away in Xinjiang Province (except to the beggars with hat out). I have to fight every morning with the people at my ‘kai shui’ (hot water) restaurant as they won’t even take one yuan (.12 cents) for filling my jug (thermos).
We move on, me ringing my bicycle bell! It’s my way of communicating ‘thanks,’ or ‘Hi,’ when I don’t know the proper words! I wave, say ‘Ni hao!’ or ‘hello’ in China, ‘Namaste!’ in Nepal. Here in Xinjiang Province, you’re not just dealing with Chinese, but Uyghurs and Kazakhs! So, to say ‘Ni hao,’ doesn’t work!
We head south, on a poplar-lined two-lane highway! The morning traffic is building, even thought it’s Sunday in China. Sunday doesn’t have the same significance it has for westerners… It’s just another work day. The Chinese, Asians… they work all the time!
‘Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day! I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going our way!’
I’d seen the kind of sun light I was cranking through in Xinjiang, before…
There’s such a technique in ‘Method Acting,’ ‘Affective and/or sense memory.’ You use your senses (any one of the five) to call up an emotion associated with a particular sound, sight, smell (certain perfume and I can remember making loving). One of the things with me is light/sight, sun light… I can feel it!
I can tell you what time of year it is just by the sun light, almost the latitude. What are we here in Xinjiang Province, probably (and I don’t really know) something like 30 to 40 degrees north? This is similar to the U.S. Thus, I knew the light of that morning (Sunday, September 18, 05) I’d been in and/or felt before… It’s a ‘déjà vu’ feeling. I felt like I was in the Imperial Valley of California, along about 1960, maybe Indio, maybe eating pancakes for breakfast (which I used to love—now can’t eat). I felt my parent’s presence (physically long since gone).
It’s quite a distance, something like 20KM, but we make the city (?) we’d come up through the day before. We had stopped in the city park and I’d taken some photographs (see in ‘Gallery’). I remember my young friend Wei saying it was ‘small.’ Yet, ‘small’ to a Chinese person, in terms of population, is ‘large’ to us in America. I’d bet this city has a population of 100,000 people.
My two Chinese friends are searching for something, I know as they stop and ask several times. I know it can be one of three things (you get good at guessing). One, a bicycle shop, as the man on the older bicycle is having some trouble with his bottom bracket, two, a zhau fan restaurant for me, and three ‘unknown’ (can be anything, like buying a present for the wife back in Uremqi). Turns out to be, #2, as they’re so thoughtful, knowing I like zhau fan, they’ve found a place for me to have it for lunch. They order, and then return to watching my bicycle (I haven’t locked). This is how kind and thoughtful they are!
I sit alone, but have the very best zhau fan/polo (the Uyghur rice pilaf) so far in Xinjiang Province (including all I’ve had in Uremqi)! Why? It’s the freshest… The vegetables are different (like spinach), and are fresh! But, I down it too fast, knowing they’re standing out there waiting for me! To help my system, I double the dosage of digestive pills I normally take to 4! I eat as quickly as I can and then return to where they’re keeping vigil over all the bicycles (the street very busy). I thank them, making sure they understand how grateful I am! They were even going to pay for it!
On the road again, we turn left when I remember it should be to the right (good memory about places, directions). But, I go with the flow thinking they must have something in mind, like a different route back to Uremqi.
It isn’t long before the ‘older bicycle’ (wish I knew his English name) gets so far ahead we lose him (he has this syndrome of getting too far ahead of us, and then having to wait).
But then there he is, spotted up some steep incline on some dam/dike. I’m not sure exactly what this is. We follow, of course, cranking up to behold a huge reservoir/resort! I’m amazed yet again. This is not even on the map! We’re talking five kilometers across too, albeit cement lined (a true reservoir versus a lake). There are boats, and in the distance Bogeda (the 5450 M peaks) majestically jutting up in the distance (see photographs in the Gallery). I spot a large house boat, which turns out to be a floating hotel (see photograph in Gallery).
Again we ‘take a break,’ they resting in the shade chatting with the locals (who run the concessions). I wander around and take photographs (again in the Gallery). When I notice bicycles ‘built for three and four,’ I set up a photograph of us, ‘the tree Musketeers!’ sitting on one (again…). You can rent these and crank around the reservoir. I’m very impressed with all this… The Chinese… China… It isn’t what you think! It’s more like America!
I buy drinks for all and some film (ah, just in the ole nick of time). The weather is perfect… If we would have had the time, I would have bought all a ride around in one of the fast-looking boats tied below us.
Off again on our bicycles, it looks like we’re going to crank all the way around, but in a kilometer, we walk down the embankment to ‘behold,’ a giant stature of the ‘Laughing Buddha!’ I was dumbfounded! What is this doing here?
I don’t believe anyone really understood, but me… Thus, the photograph of the Buddha (which cost me a 1 Yuan donation) is dedicated to Karma Sherpa, there in Pharping, Nepal (‘Nebhur,’ it sounds like in Chinese). There at the tea/cooler/awning (everywhere in China) a Chinese man speaks good English, and I give him a flyer about ‘The First Annual Uremqi to Kashi Bicycle Rally.’
We pass Lotus ponds (the flowers are gone but the giant leaves are unmistakable) then turn down a street, lined with trees (see photograph in Gallery). This is a Kazakhchi Resort. Every time you think you’ve got a good idea of what you’re dealing with in China, they surprise you! This street in the middle of this desert with yurts no less, a tree-covered street reminding me of several I’d cranked through in The Netherlands. The only difference… Here the sun was casting hard shadows!
I remember thinking at the time, that I’ve enjoyed the variety of terrain/roads they’ve taken me on… I don’t like just a hard-surface highway. Then again, after a while, off-road challenges get old on a loaded bicycle. Some variety is nice, however.
But, we bounce for too long over some rough unpaved and open road. Past a small Mosque (no photograph) we turn onto a two-lane highway full of trucks. Beyond the poplar trees on one side of the highway yellow fields where they’re growing something, wheat maybe (see photograph)?
It isn’t long before the ‘older bicycle faster man,’ has stopped again, this time for watermelon. I’m now getting the idea these guys have taken this route before, as the other introduces me to the Chinese family behind the watermelons. This house, with a courtyard and the smiling/happy people in it, made me feel like I was in Mexico. They are drying corn in the courtyard, for one thing (see photographs in Gallery).
So, in the course of the day so far I’ve ‘been in’ four/five different ‘countries’ (can you name them?)—Colorado in the distance, no less! Where am I?
Soon we’re back in China! How do I know? We’ve stopped for noodles this time. And this time it’s my turn to stay with the bicycles, a pool table a few meters away (see photograph in the Gallery).
Off we go again, but as has been the ‘drill’ for the day… The ‘older bicycle’ cranks out of sight, but then the other knows right where to find him… Bathing himself in a pool of water fed by a large pipe (for irrigation). A parked taxi man is washing his ‘climate-controlled box on wheels!’ Later two young boys arrive on their bicycles, scoot out the pipe (about ten inches in diameter) to bend and drink directly from the flow (I’m not sure I would).
We rest here beside this gushing water quite a while, as I think they probably over did the noodles back a few kilometers (the ‘negative’ ions too good to pass up from the gushing water).
This is lovely, but trashed-out spot… I fantasize what I would turn it into… First clean it up. Second, build a wooden deck around it, and serve tea here, complete with vegetative décor. It would attract the tourists for sure. Except… Nearby is a factory spewing out some unpleasant pollutant, turning the sky gray, and causing our eyes to water… Oh well, an idea…
But, the lower classes (working people) they don’t understand… Interesting… Culture is family, education, exposure to the finer things in life… The ‘lower classes,’ (and I don’t know what else to call them), never get a chance! They’re too busy trying to survive!
Here in the afternoon, after fruit in the morning, and gulping how a heaping plate of polo (zhau fan) I am dealing with the usual constipation! But, the nearby reed-walled outhouse too ‘ripe’ in the summer sun for my liking, so I get no chance ‘to try’… ah… Say ‘ahhhhhh’… Say… I should fast, but the food too good here in China!
You people whose bowels move freely and easily… Trust me… You don’t have any problems… You just think you do!
Onward now in the heat of the afternoon, a crusty, dusty ride through growing ‘uncivilization.’
It isn’t long until I recognize Miquan, the industrial town about 20 kilometers north of Uremqi on the way to Bogeda (I’ve learned that the name ‘Ti’an Shan,’ describes the entire mountain range, so incorrect to use for the National Park where we met ‘Mr. No Good Man’ Kazakhchi kurt). Miquan is one of those places you want to crank through as rapidly as you can, as it’s nothing but factories and pollution (as far as I can tell).
At this point I’m wondering when and where we will part… I want to say ‘Xie xie,’ to my good hosts and cycling companions. I’m an emotional kind of guy, and when I have as good a time as I’ve had in the last two days, I want to make sure that they understand how much I appreciate.
Additionally, I’m thinking I’ll take my way to the hotel, over a footbridge crossing the big highway (Interstate like), and we’ll part there. But, again, after a long rest on some green grass, our ‘fast man’ is too far in the lead to stop. So, I don’t break off but follow.
Worse, he goes the wrong way on the big highway’s access road, and this is dangerous as ‘shit!’ I mean I keep saying to the vehicles careening at us at too fast of speeds (at least 60KPH), ‘Thanks for not killing us!’
Note: The Chinese, even the good and seemingly conscious are crazy about this… On the streets they’ll do anything to get where they’re going, risking their lives in the process. I take enough risks riding a bicycle in Uremqi, but this is too much. Unfortunately, I’m committed to saying thanks and goodbye to my Chinese hosts.
But, ‘Mr. Fast/old bicycle’ just splits off, turning toward his home no doubt, without so much as a ‘goodbye!’ Thus, he becomes in my book ‘No good cycling man!’ This is not a guy (Chinese or not) I would want along on our ‘…Uremqi to Kashi ride’… He’s not ‘hip’ to group cycling courtesies!
I stop with the other man (with the new bicycle), and here I do express what I’m feeling. He responds with describing next weekend’s trip. Even though I don’t quite understand his Chinese, I know the subject (you get good at reading the situation). So, here we part, waving, and I head directly to the hotel. Unfortunately, I’m trapped on the ‘wrong way,’ and have to continue too long, dodging oncoming traffic. Here they have good reason to honk loudly at me, I’m guilty!
Had it been me alone I would have gotten off that the first overpass bridge, the way I’d discovered on my reconnaissance trips (early in ‘the game’). But, instead of a ‘grooved’ or ‘scored’ wheel track in the middle of the stairs , like most, this one is out of tile or ‘marble’ and slick as ‘snot!’ So, my laden/heavy bicycle keeps sliding off. Then down on the other side, I fall down with it! This really pissing me off! Suddenly the reality of being back in Uremqi hits me, the honking, screaming madness uniquely Chinese!
Note: A bicycle, while you are riding it, can be the most stable thing on two wheels! But, stationary, or being pushing it becomes the most unstable thing on two wheels, and a pain in the ass. Ms. Fiets is always choosing to fall over when I have stashed it against whatever I can find at the time (on the road a real challenge and why a kickstand is not a bad idea). You have to be very careful leaning your bicycle against something, as if you’re not careful, it’s going to fall over!
The rest is history as they say! I’m ‘high’ as a kite now with the remembrances of ‘the best short cycling trip of my life! I’m remember not wanting to part from my new Chinese cycling buddies! And I don’t even know their names (in English).
I’m just back at the hotel unloading, when out of the door come three Pakistanis. One immediately strikes up a conversation. When they find out from America, they’re all smiles and even friendlier! So, if you think the people from Pakistan hate the people of America, you are very wrong! I was shocked, as I expected derision. I told them we’d get together, but I haven’t seen them since.
While me and my Chinese cycling buddies (they slept) were lying on the green grass, on the outskirts of Uremqi on the way back, and not far from ‘home,’ I watched a commercial jet fly over (through a very blue sky). This one at cruising altitude (trust me I’m a pilot myself), with all four engines pouring superheated air out as ‘exhaust’ (what moves all this weight through the air at such speeds). Of course, the super hot air almost immediately, is crystallized into what is commonly called a ‘con-trail.’ (‘con’ for condensation). This is the white in color (as seen from the ground). At first this is a very hard line, but as time goes on, the white ‘line’ becomes diffused and more and more it looks like a tubular cloud. Then, with time, and this is what got my interest, it completely disappears, as if it were never there!
I thought, such is life! First we’re this thing called ‘air,’ (can’t see), then we go through this incredible metamorphosis called conception/birth (going through the jet engine), and then ‘living’ for a short time, to be dissolved back into the ‘air’ again! A cycle, as we ‘live’ in Duality.
The things of the sky,
Know no nations;
Stations in life!
Why do we die?
Looking down from above,
What a treasure trove,
As we’re all on the human stage!
The stars lament,
Their light slightly bent!
Always there every night!
From their lofty position,
They see the transition
Offering love for hate,
‘Good night, Gracie! Good night, George!’