Tuesday, September 26, 2006

260906 in Karamay (pronouced by the Chinese: 'Kal-lah-mah-eee!')

Of all the cities I've been in so far in China, 'Karamay' is the best for me! Big enough! Small enough (probably a mere 1 million population)! Weather just like Tucson, Arizona (or Colorado Springs), with mountains in the distance. The same kind of terrain, desert and mountains.

The only thing I don't particularly like, although means wealth, Karamay is an 'oil city,' like Midland-Odessa in Texas!

But, thank God I'm not in Texas! In fact, I fall on my knees and thank all the Gods, for not being there! I did 'my time,' in that 'penitentary,' and will never set foot on that soil again (if I can possibly help it). I will never forget this quote about Texas discovered in some book while living there in 'hell!'

'If I owned both Texas and hell, I'd live in hell, and rent out Texas!'

But, Karamay and China, an entirely different story! 'Wo ai Zhong gua!' which in Pinyin means, 'I love China!' The only problem... The Chinese never understand until 'Tom' repeats. My pronounciation... Oral Chinese all pronunciation, which I guess is true with all languages...?

This morning we went to the Bank of China early to transfer funds, withdraw, deposit 'Tom's' loan back into this account (at the Agricultural Bank of China). Then some shopping, and a 'hair cut.'

The latter with two lovely Chinese women, who were only going to charge 5 Yuan to trim my 'locks!' But, I insisted in giving them 20 Yuan! We took some 'pictures' (Tom calls) with them, and they sent us off with a bag of Hami fruit (name...?).

You see, when you give you get! This is the oldest natural law in the Universe (whatever the Universe is...? 'One verse?'). I give to all the beggars (Uyghur generally in Xinjiang A.R.). Of course, I am 'The King of the Beggars!'

I decided this A.M. to delay our departure by one, and rest. I don't like to rush (plus, as I've explained I like Karamay). We were going to rush off and cycle as far as we could. But, I decided better to rest one day, and then depart early tomorrow morning (Wednesday, the 27th).

We'll try to cycle 344KM in two days, getting to Urumqi in 'record time' (for me). But, the highway is brand new and flat, and we might just be able to do this. The question, so long 'in the saddle,' (probably ten hours each) my 'butt' aches. It's the weigh I'm carrying in my backpack (with computer, probably 5-10 kilograms, or 12-24lbs.).

I'm going to see about having a bicycle trailer made in Urumqi so, young 'Tom' can pull, and I can carry less. Particularly my front bags, and other in my backpack. But, I have to carry the computer, or it will be damaged from the bouncing.

We're the only 'mobile-video-production unit on bicycles,' video (with MacBook included) in Asia! I'll bet! CNN should produce a story about us! 'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variey!'

Well, we had a nice sunny Fall day in Karamay, doing as little as possible! I sat out in the sun and wrote the following poem:

(At Least Not for Us!) (for Carl Stapleton in Urumqi)

Sitting on a park bench,
Getting old,
The telling untold,
Of how we got 'hear'
On a bicycle,
Mine so dear!

'I' sit in the 'son,'
Resting on a 'rung,'
Up and up we go
The sky our goal,
All for the soul!

'We' counsel the young
Always on the run,'
Plus, the unsung,
Listening to their lament
Somewhat bent;
Some selling the unspent!

Life goes running about;
The Chinese shout,
And while they might doubt,
'I no!'

Someday the sky 'will fall,'
Like the season,
There's no reason,
The 'son' not come up!'
(At least for 'us!')

Then 'Tom' and I went to lunch, at 'Nail,' a Uyghur restaurant where Mr. Jing, and his neice took us the last time through (2.5 weeks ago). The waitress, a lovely 18-year old Uyghur girl who was embarrassed when we took her picture. Also, she wouldn't accept 5 Yuan / .50 cent tip, so 'Tom' slipped it in her pocket!

Then we partook of the adjacent outdoor market (typical in China). This one better than most, and we bought many good things to eat, from 'squashed' peaches, to dried berries (the kind we picked wild on the way here, but these dried, 'Tom' said good for the skin--boy do I need), to yoghurt, to milk for 'Tom.'

So many good things to buy in China, and for reasonable prices.
Then on the way back to the hotel, the woman at both the photography studio (who 'Tom' had met the first time through), and the women at the 'hair salon,' wanted us (gosh we're in demand)! I think the former, is interested in 'Tom,' as 'mate.' The others wanting the 'captured images' to be printed.

So, we stopped at the hair salon, and partook of an ear cleaning (much needed--now I can hear better), and Chinese checkers (she won)! This while 'Tom' had the images printed for the girls.

Then back at the hotel, where the police checked in to see who I was!

Never a dull moment in my life, I don't know about yours!

Tomorrow we depart at 0800 hours, heading directly for 'U-town,' and trying to go many kilometers ('We will find out!' coined Rucha).

Making magic together!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

240906 somewhere on highway #217 in Xinjiang Province, China, heading south for Karamay, and Urumqi.

We're in a yurt, looking at our video ('In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster') on a large, modern TV screen. Amazing! There's also a stereo and electric airconditioner. This is not exactly a primitive yurt, but one the hotel uses for entertaining.

In the hotel, where there were no rooms (for us), is a CCTV1 crew 'shooting' an episode of one of their 'soaps!' Amazing!

What a life! What a wonderful life!

Today we cycled, flying along as if on a 'magic carpet!' It's amazing, that 'out here,' you have some challenging days, and then days when it's so wonderful to confirm why you suffer through the 'challenging!' Today was one of those days, as the road rose up to meet us.

We 'flew' up a hill, and latter I asked Tom how this could be? I explained about energy and 'da feng.' But, there was no appreciable 'da feng' (or 'wind'). Sometimes you are swept along with ease for reasons that high school physics can't explain. There's such a thing as 'gravity,' and when coming from higher elevation to lower, even going 'up hills,' becomes easier. You have to experience it. I remember once in Wyoming, being 'swept up' a hill, it was like being tethered to an 'angel.' Today, something like that. I began singing:

'Oh, what a beautiful morning!
Oh, what a beautiful day!
I've got a beautiful feeling!
Everything's going our way!'

(Note: These lyrics a silly chorus from a R&H musical called 'Oklahoma,' but has become my 'chant!' Amazing how things change. I used to hate such, and now the words have become something special to me.)

Also, the following silly ditty from a movie entitled, '2001' (I think, or was it another 'Daisy' song?). Marty will remember?

'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, please!
I'm half crazy over the desire for you!
It won't be a stylish marriage!
I can't afford a carriage!
But, we'll look sweet,
Upon the seat,
Of a bicycle built for two!'

Then we came upon a new monument to the Mongul culture, this 'stupa-like' rock structure we noticed on the way up. Now, completed we stopped and 'shot' video, as the Mongolians (with maybe help from the Chinese Government) have made quite an impressive display. The only thing in English was on a flag, which said something like this is 'Jongha's land...' which I interpreted as meaning Genhis'. The Mongolians ruled here roughly 1,000 years ago. And today, there is still some evidence in the names and mongolian people.

Before we knew it we were in the village, where the good hotel was down a street. But, no rooms there now. In fact, we had to ask at about six hotels before we found this 'situation.' It turned out to be perfect, as we have a yurt in a hotel yard for 50 RMB. All the hotels wanted 180RMB per room, the old 'supply and demand.' Amazingly, this is where the CCTV1 crew/cast is housed. What are the odds?

I tried to explain 'supply and demand,' to 'Tom,' but 'quien sabe' if he comprende(d)?

We arrived in this 'Ghost City' village (because it's near the tourist site of the same name visited going up) about 1530 hours, and immediately had lunch. But, the 'zhao fan' and Tom's noodles not so good. What to do? My veggies had raw onions, however, and that made up for it! Additionally, there was a store next door, and the latter two things made up for the cold 'poluo' (zhao fan) and noodles. I bought yoghurt and my bottled 'ice tea.'

Onward tomorrow, after two easy days, this 100KM to Karamay. Then only 300KM to Urumqi. I told 'Kim ,' a Uyghur girl we'd be there in one week.

But, the weather has changed, a front is moving through, and our wonderful sunny morning has turned a willowy grey.

Change, change, and more change, the only constant! The weather now Autumn at this lattitude (I'm guessing 45-degrees north, or at about Portland, Oregon's lattitude).

Making magic with you!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

210906 The first day of Autumn (my favorite time of year)

We're in 'Bu-er-jin,' a town some 700KM N.W. of Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, China. I am careful to deliniate, as most reading this don't even know where China is, much less Xinjiang, much less Urumqi, and no less 'Bu-er-jin.'

'Bu-er-jin,' is the first Chinese town of choice, as there are so few people relatively! I mean it feels like a town in Colorado, without hords of people crashing across the streets!

Plus, it's a wonderful Fall sunny day in Buerjin!

We're encsconsed in a hostel (same as when we arrived last week), where I've had to deal with 30 young Chinese 'trekkers,' going here and yon (basically making noise). But, the hostel is good, the hot-shower wonderful, and the rooms are on the ground floor (unusual for any Chinese 'hotel' or the like).

Most of the time in hotels you have to hike up floors, and down--when you travel by bicycle it's different. Although this makes for stronger legs!

Today is a day of rest, just having returned from Kanas (170KM).

It's also a day of 'business,' as changes, and money, and plans, etc.

I'm having to tell Yali I can't go into business with her. This after eight months of trying and much money spent. She just doesnt' 'get it,' or that 'we' don't get it together--no 'chemistry.' It's not that she's Chinese and I'm American, it's that I'm older, and she's younger, a 'problem child' for me. More my fault than hers--expectations.

Since, however, the meeting has come and gone, and went very well. We were both kind and generous, understanding each other as best we can. I told her I would help her, as that's our 'business,' helping others realize their dreams! She said she would help with the business! We hugged, and still friends. This is important, to be able to disagree, part, but not dislike one another.

There are many good things about Zhou Yali ('Ceres'), but maybe we were not 'destined' to go into business together, atleast not at this point.

As I offer say to others, trying to explain the world... There are many forces involved that are inexplicable. What can we do but try?

Amazing... I get so sad when things end and/or people part... I'm feeling such on the eve of Yali and Mr. Gong returning to eastern China (on a bus without Tom and I).

Things always ending, things always beginning. But, it tears my heart out when I care about something (people in particular) and then 'it's over.' This is why I find it difficult to say 'goodbye!'

This is how I will 'die.' I will say nothing, give no clue, just be gone!

In the meantime, life in the 'bicycle lane!'

We saw Mr. Gong and Yali off at the bus station. Wow! These long-distance buses (the kind that I hate on the highway when cycling) are pretty fancy! Not only TV sets but sleeping berths. You don't have to sit, but can lie down (12 hours to Urumqi).

I hugged both Yali and Mr. Gong goodbye! I held back tears, covering up such with joking and the like. But, the older I get the more I feel... Until someday, who knows, I will just dissolve into a flood of tears (the sea). Silly business, feeling, the 'business of the heart!'

But, life goes on regardless of parting and death. I see the children (young and laughing). I see dead animals on the highway (does anyone care?). What does it all mean?

On the way back to the hostel we run into a TV reporter and are interviewed. So, we will be in Buerjin TV homes on the morrow, the latest news from 'the street.' We're supposed to meet this young (26) woman reporter/camcorder operator at 0900 as we depart (all 'decked out'), she to get 'shots' of us actually riding our bicycles.

Tomorrow, is one of the longest (110KM) and most arduous (mountains) days cycling back to U-town, but we're mentally prepared. I look forward to it actually, especially now with just Tom, as we won't be held back by Yali or Mr. Gong. We can rip along, maybe having a 150+KM day (between Karamay and Urumqi).

'Tom' my faithful 'assitant,' and 'Chinese son!' I pray for his well being and happy life!

I pray for all, God forgive us for our unconsciousness (all the trouble we're causing in the world)!

This day, the 21st of September, 2006, the first day of Autumn.


Making magic together!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

190906 in some unnamed village (a Mongolian name?) in far northwestern Xinjiang Province, in far northwestern China.

190906 in some unnamed village (a Mongolian name?) in far northwestern Xinjiang Province, in far northwestern China. If we were any closer to Mongolia or Russia, we'd be in it!

In the past 24-hours, an experience with a ghost, a collision with a camel, and an eagle on my arm! Such is the life of Haqi, 'spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!'

I don't remember my last BLOG entry, I'll have to look...? Ah, it's the 12th of September. In the meantime we made it to Loch Kanas, and stayed 2.5 days ('In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster!' cycling video).

Kanas Village, where we rented beds (I camped out) reminded me of the Kalispell Valley (Montana, U.S.A.) in 1962 (I was there selling magazines door-to-door).

The Chinese ('capitalist roaders' ) have developed Kanas Village to the point I could actually get online via China Unicom. Kalispell Valley, Montana, days... Heck, we hadn't even heard of computers, much less the Internet! I remember huckleberry pie, grizzly bears and the 'Hungry Horse Restaurant,' up at Whitefish Lake.

Kanas Village (China) is adjacent the Loch, and inside the 'National Park.' We had to pay 130RMB / $15 U.S. per, just to get into the Park (some 30KM from the village). But, it turned out to be a good idea, as a wonderful experience! We'd cycled some 907KM / roughly 600 miles, from Urumqi, so what to do...? It was raining for one thing!

The Chinese have come into Kanas like all tourist sites, and developed, thus modern facilities for 400RMB per night, or the rustic (Kalispell, Montana, circa 1962 style). We housed and fed four people per night for 200RMB / $25U.S., 'Kalispell style.' This in old log-cabin type buildings, and wood (actually) coal) burning stoves.

It was a jolly affair, being in Kanas, with many Chinese tourists out for a good time (in groups)!

But, the number of the Chinese tourists, waves of them, and a tsunami of buses... Ugh! I think I told 'Tom, I'm going to find a place in China where the tourists don't come, or find another country!' It's overwhelming to me! You get to the 'end of the earth,' only to discover you're 'sharing' it will a million others!

And the noise... If you think you're getting away from 'it all' in Kanas (4,000Km from Beijing), guess again! Dogs barking, rock n' roll music, honking horns, cattle bellowing, people talking (incessantly), and the infernal combustion engine!

But, we were there in search of a 'monster!' At least the legend of the Tuwa people (local Mongolian trible). It seems there was 'one,' a 'monster,' in ancient times, probably a crocodile-like creative that rose up out of the water to grab livestock grazing too near (and had them for 'breakfast'). Thus, mothers warned their children, 'stay away from the lake or the monster will get you!' You know how this goes! It gets passed down from generation to generation to this very day! Now, good for tourism!

We got several good interviews on video (although I couldn't understand the language spoken) about the monster. People exclaiming how this 'thing' came up out of the water, even a women who works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told a story about her discovering huge 'red fish' (been there many times(. She spoken English having studied in Canada.

I've had the feeling too, that there are some very large 'fish' in the loch (fishing not allowed), maybe trout as I've heard of such in the deep (180 meters / 500ft.) lakes of this part of the world (Kyrgyzstan, and Siberia included). Trout so large, you think there are 'monsterous!'

We didn't see 'the monster,' except in the form of large tourist buses. One almost injured me, running me into a guard rail (no place to go) on the highway comong.

But, we did discover a beautiful part of the world! Put, a aqua-marine-water- colored lake at the foot of Crestone Mountain in Colorado, and you'll get some idea of the 'Colorado-mountain-like' beauty of this part of China. Note, I'd heard it was the most beautiful lake in all of China (although I'll take Nam Tso in Tibet over, as few tourists yet!).

Our last day in Kanas Village, the weather was sunny so we bought a ticket (100RMB / $12U.S. per) on an excursion boat. It powered by twin Evenrude 425HP engines)--a 'bus' on water. A Chinese girl gave a spiel as we 'whizzed' over the water at 25 knots. We went as far as the Chinese Government allows stopping, allowing us to climb to the deck above and take the obligatory photographs (I 'shot' video of course).

It wasn't by accident that I had planned this cycling excursion for September. I'd heard from Toby Wheeler (who'd visited last year) the leaves would be turning color (yellow and red) and the best time to see. He was right, and we 'hit it' at exactly the right time (hope you can see in the video, images and photographs we amassed).

The day before we had gone to the top of a hill overlooking the Loch. Of course, the Chinese tourist takes a bus everywhere! 'Tom' (Xu Tan) and I rode our bicycles as far as we could go (7 KM), then hiked up another 3 KM (they don't allow bicycles on the narrow paved road). 'Ceres' and Mr. Gong, 'bussed' and walked (Mr. Gong having to retreat from the exertion) .

Tourists covered the hill like ants looking for food. They, however, looking for the right 'angle,' for the photograph to take back home (on the bus)! The vista I must say pretty spectacular of the Loch and river valley below.

I was asked several times to pose with various Chinese tourists, as I'm somewhat of an anomaly in China (an old foreign man on a bicycle). I told 'Tom,' I feel like a 'movie star' in China!

I must say again how hospitable the Chinese people are (atleast to me)! Always friendly, always encouraging, except when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle! They are always telling me how 'strong' I am (doing what they think impossible). But, it's like when you know you don't deserve the 'compliment,' as riding a bicycle long distances relatively easy for me as much experience (seven years now).

The night before departing I decided it would be best to sleep inside 'Tom' and Mr. Gong's room (food storage too), as it was frosty in the morning and best to pack the tent when dry (the night before). So, I slept in my sleeping bag on a metal bunk facing the door, 'Tom' and Mr. Gong in a 'double' together behind.

I go to bed early, the others, in this case 'Tom' and Mr. Gong, later. I also arise early, as I like the early-moring silence to meditate.

But, I don't sleep as much as 'drift off,' and in and out of... I remember, them getting into bed about 2200 hours / 10P.M., and turning out the light (one bare bulb).

I have the 'older' urination problem, I wouldn't normally mention but since it figures into the following 'ghost story,' I must. In order to not have to get out of bed I have a bottle with top, a handy affair I purchased in our first village (unnamed) on this trip for such. Thus, I don't have to get out of bed, putting on clothing and walking to an 'outhouse' 100-meters distances (sometimes)--in the mountains, cold!

During the night, while 'awake' I 'heard' and saw who I though was 'Tom' move out the door (don't remember him opening it). From the back it looked like 'Tom' at least, thus nothing 'out of the ordinary.' And although 'Tom' rarely gets up to go to 'the toliet' in the middle of the night, I didn't think anything about it, it was so obviously 'Tom.'

At the same time I'd been having 'the urge,' and now wondering if I should do now, or wait until after he returned and was fast asleep again (I guess I'm modest not liking to pee into a bottle privy to others). So, I waited, but then when he didn't return for so long, I hurriedly pissed into my bottle (easy for men, impossible for women). Now, 'relieved,' and snug in my sleeping bag I got worried what was taking 'Tom' so long? Note, I get concerned when anyone is missing for too long (as 'guide' responsible)!

Finally, I turned on my 'torch,' (headlamp) to check to see who was in bed. Sure enough 'Tom' (and Mr. Gong) were fast asleep, but now 'Tom' asking, 'Anything I can do for you?'

I instantly knew what I'd experienced was a 'ghost' (male image going 'out the door,' although it didn't open the door, just went through it!).

Now, I wasn't concerned at the time nor now, as I've had experiences with ghosts (polstergeists) before. The last in Big Bend, Texas, in 1995.

Interestingly, as I explained to 'Tom' and 'Ceres,' the following morning: 'They' (spirits), at least to me, always appear in remote places, and in old buildings. I don't think 'they' like crowded cities (too much crazy energy) or modern facilities (as they're 'old').

I also explained this about the phenomenon: 'We are energy in form. When we 'die' the matter (the bodily form) returns as to the earth (in different form). But, the energy remains.

'Ghosts' reconstitute themselves 'in bodily form' with the help of other 'benevolent' energy (mine in this case, as they 'know' such). They are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they are afraid of us, and don't want to scare us into some kind of strange behavior.'

Conclusion about Loch Kanas... I'm not sure about monsters in the Loch, but I know for sure there are ghosts in the village! I experienced one as described.

Early, I also mentioned... two other unusual things happening to me! Both of these cycling back, as we had come, but both still in the Park. The first, with a camel, cycling with 'Tom,' but following behind with the camcorder (thus, he didn't see this).

Now, you have to understand here in Xinjiang Province, camels are the 'beasts of burden' of choice! The Kazaks and Uyghurs, use them as such, also to make money with, as the tourists like to ride (Rucha, 'Tom' and I did such outside of Turpan, months ago). They happen be prevelant in this region of Xinjiang (we've seen and videotaped) many on this trip surprising me (as not desert).

I was cycling up a hill, a herd of sheep to our left, much vehicular traffic on this highway causing me some anxiety (no room on highway). I hadn't noticed the group (Dick ? ) of camels behind me! Suddenly, and talk about an unusual feeling, one camel, scared by a vehicle, ran almost over me (bumping past to my right). But, the impact enough to cause me to recover from falling. When I realized what had happened or what could have happened, that rush of fear! But, at the same time, amazement! I've had some unusual experiences in my cycling career but this was a first!

Speaking of 'An Exaltation of Eagles!' (see footnote #2 on this page), I got to hold an eagle on my arm further up the highway! Of course, this cost 'dinero' (RMB in this case). I had seen this eagle (and the woman 'handling') on the way down, but couldn't get to my cash). Now, with 'Tom,' we stopped to videotape such (cost 10RMB or $1.50 U.S.)--the bargain of a lifetime!

The eagle is the symbol of America, holding in one hand olive branches (for peace), and the other arrows (for war). Note, you can see this on any U.S. paper money, the eagle looking in the direction of the olive branches (although I think in this day and age, 2006, the eagle is looking in the direction of the arrows).

I don't know what kind of eagle this was, I said 'Golden,' (to 'Tom and Ceres') as western terminology. Of course, is wasn't 'bald' (with white neck feathers), but a truly glorious predator! At only one-year of age (we found out) weighing atleast 5KG (13lbs), and the heavy enough to struggle holding up. Of course, we have this on videotape for you to see (eventually)! It's the first eagle I've ever been close to, and wonderful to experience (not in a zoo). I can die happily now!

So, like I said earlier... In the space of a 24-hour period, an experience with a ghost, a collision with a camel, and holding an eagle on my arm!'

Haqi, Hutch, and Alexander (for Rucha).... 'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!'

Somewhere in far northwestern China, making magic with you!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

100909 Saturday or Sunday...?

I can't even keep track of the days! Thank God! Maybe someday I'll lose track of everything, and live in the 'real' world! This is my goal!

What have we been doing?

I remember yesterday, cycling 110KM, up and down through mountains, then down, down, and more down setting speed records gliding into the Chinese city of 'Burchein.' This in far northwest China (not far from the Russian border).

It was the 9th day of our 'In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster!' cycling video, and the best so far! This in comparison with the hardest three days ago.

Interesting the mental aspects of any physical endeavor... I was teaching the kids... Three days ago, we had what I thought was a short and easy day, a mere, 57KM. But, add 10KM of dirt road in 'Ghost City,' and da feng, it turned into grueling. It seemed to never end taking some ten hours. And why? I'd told myself it would be easy (wasn't prepared for the uphill grind at the end)!

For the 'hard' day yesterday, I told myself it would be such! And guess what...? The easy day turned out to be difficult and the 'hard' day, pure pleasure. Best to prepare, but also, best to be accurate about such preparations if you're that kind. Best yet, be open to all things, neither anticipating, nor not anticipating (this is the Taoist 'track').

Wow, 'Burchein,' a Chinese town I could live in! For one thing, less people than other Chinese towns! For another the weather... heavenly! Sunny, cool, and the air... Pure! Both 'Tom and Ceres' (living in Shanghai) have noticed the air.

Coming down from the second range of hills, I have never gone faster on a bicycle. The highway perfect, little traffic to contend with 'Tom' recorded 55KM per hour, and I passed him (as heavier). And 'the down' seem to go on and on, possibly ten kilometers of this and our 'flying.' I had taken the opportunity during other 'downs' to 'shoot' 'Tom and Ceres,' but here, wanting to 'max out,' I held on with both hands. One mistake at this speed and it would be the hospital!

This area of Xinjiang reminds me of Wyoming in the U.S., dry desert mountains, with rivers. This town, 'Burchein,' has a big, clean, wide river flowing through it. Yet, another reason for living here. If only I can deal with the cruel winters (something like -40C.) last. But, now it's warm and wonderful, the kind of weather that makes me lasp into reverie. Thus, the attraction!

After arriving, the first thing we did was find a restaurant and eat a late lunch (1600 hours)!

Then across the street to the spectacular 4-star 'Mystic Lake Grand Hotel,' where we checked on the rates... Oh Lord, way too expensive for this project, at 400RMB per. We saw the rich tourists unloading from SUVs.

We went on our usual hotel search in a new town. We priced three others, one which was reasonable, but we would have to 'hump,' our gear and bicycles up three flights.

Most hotels in China (outside of the major eastern cities) don't have a 'lift.' We always have to consider... What to do with the bicycles?

While waiting for 'Tom' to return from asking in one hotel, 'Ceres' had engaged a man that had told her of a 'hostel.' My first reaction was negative, but I finally said, 'Let's check it out!'

Boy, am I glad we did, as it turned out to be the perfect place. Off a street, and down an alley, single rooms face a court yard (perfect for bicycles). And the price 40RMB per person. I paid for the extra bed in my room (total 80RMB), and with a hot water shower that worked, maybe the best situation (hotel living) we've come across on this trip! The owners a family who 'we' ('Tom and Ceres') hit it off with right away.

After tea, and getting my laundry to a 'laundry shop,' I 'connected' to the Internet (email) right in my room. I always find this amazing, as having to have dealt with Net Bars and cold water! Of course, much thought and effort have gone into creating these good situations.

After dealing with email, I took a shower, which relaxed me so, I barely made it to the good bed.

There are beds and then there are beds, and this a good one. Clean for one thing!

I had a wonderful night sleeping (you can remember this if you're me - as old and forever waking up during the night).

I slept in until 0700 which is late for me.

I think not much stirred until 0900 when 'Tom' appeared. I got the news that Mr. Gong had arrived and was taking a shower in Tom's room ('common').

Mr. Gong, another interesting story...

We had met him in front of the Silver Birches Hostel in Urumqi, a couple weeks ago. He was very enthusiastic at the time, and expressed interest in our trip. I thought it was interesing he is a Chinese 'lawyer.' I'd made a mental note to tell 'Tom' to stay in contact with him. But, he was the one that pursued us, sending text messages via mobile.

We would get these text messages while cycling, and out in the 'middle of nowhere.' Note: You're never 'out of touch' in China! He always expressed interest in what we are doing: not only the cycling trip, but www.haaqi.com (the business). At one point, I understood, he would change his plans and work with us in Shanghai. I thought this unusual to say the least!

Finally, just two days ago he sent a message saying he wanted to join us for the trip up to the 'Loch' (lake). I found this even more surprising; very unusual for a Chinese man to do this! All he requested was 'room and board.' I thought about this, and agreed, at least for a 'test week.' This remembering about Mr. Jing, and what had happened with him!

On the otherhand, I know 'God,' sends me 'guardian angels!' Of course, you'll understand, or explain these things to yourself in a different way. But, trust me, it's the truth!

Thus, I allow us the 'luxury' of being 'taken care' of. By this I mean I've learned to allow 'unusual' things to happen, trying not to interfer.

So, now Mr. Gong is with us, and he turns out to be similar to me in some respects: wanting to live free on a bicycle, with no family to speak of. An attorney (the only big difference)! I couldn't have imagined this if I'd tried, or maybe 'we' did! He turns out to be a very nice person too! Wouldn't I have known? 'God' does not send us anyone but to help! And we, in turn, help them!

We spent the day renting him a bicycle for the trip, but first having lunch in a Chinese restaurant. No noodles for Tom, but 'chao mi fan' (fried rice) for me. They ordered potatos, tofu, and mi fan (boiled rice) in addition. So, everyone was satisfied.

I'm suddenly 'in love,' with 'Burchein,' as my kind of Chinese town (so far from anything nothing but an occasional Chinese tourist). We're 'the show,' wherever we go: Three Chinese ('Tom, Ceres,' and Mr. Gong), and me, on bicycles no less!

We're far from the 'madding crowd' in 'Burchein,' the 'gateway' to Kanas Lake! Gosh, I doubt if you could even find on a map of Xinjiang. Maybe that's why there are so few people!

And the locals have told us... There is 'a monster' living in the lake!

On the road with 'In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster!'


Making magic with you!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

080906 Somewhere on highway #217 in N.W. China

A grueling day yesterday! The first really! This a good lesson in understanding the mental aspects of touring on a bicycle.

I had asked the day before about the distance to our next 'sleeping town?' It was only 57 KM. We'd done much longer before, so I thought, 'Ah, easy day!' But, we failed to take into account several factors.

First, we stopped at 'Ghost City of the World,' a 'Monument-Valley' type natural park on the way. We cycled the 10KM dirt road up and down some hills, whereas most take buses.

We stopped and recorded some fun at where they offer camel rides. I 'interviewed' a camel. All the Chinese tourists are guileless, wanting to know where I'm from. Also, about our cycling trip!

Then 'da feng!' We're talking the first strong wind in our faces (at '2 O'Clock' - the direction if you're pedaling toward '12 Noon')!

We came across a 'fellow traveller,' a young Chinese student going to Loch Kanas also. Turned out he was from the very village where 'Ceres' is from. They had a good chat enlivening 'Ceres.'

Then up and more up, a series of rolling hills through some desolate country! We're talking the first 'going up' of our trip!

But, combining both you have a 'challenge!' One is enough, but coupled together, something that makes cycling a challenge. Especially with weight!

It was an all-day affair, this 67 KM: Departing about 0930, and not arriving until 1900 hours / 7P.M.

By the time, we reached the village, I had pretty much had it! Why? I had thought it would be an 'easy,' versue 'difficult' day. Thus, the lesson about the 'mental aspects.' Be prepared mentally, and it will go easier, no matter what you face, wind, hills, flats, etc.

Finally in the 'town' 'Tom' found us a hotel on a 'side street.' This, after three inquiries (it always takes some effort).

He talked me into a 'common room,' for only 60 RMB, and quite possibly the best deal so far. This was plush with carpeting and a hot-water shower, an electric tea pot for hot water! The only 'downer,' the time it took to check into a Chinese hotel. They're not into customer service! Many forms, questions, talk, etc. This was the first hotel that asked for my passport (probably few foreigners stop here) But, finally. I could barely carry my gear the one flight up. I remember thinking, 'I'm getting old!'

I had enough strength to go with 'Tom and Ceres,' to eat zhao fan at a nearby restaurant, but not much more.

Interesting... We met a Chinese lawyer on the street in Urumqi. Now, he's calling us, and wanting to join us (cycling and at www.haaqi.com). So, I told 'Tom,' who asked what to do. 'Tell him to come, of course! We're happy to have him! We're looking for motivated people, especially lawyers!'

I fell into bed at 2200 hours, without taking a shower. I had eaten too much!

About 12 midnight a knock on my door! I open it in a haze to be greeted by a uniform. The PSB official, could only muster the word 'passport,' but I understood.

Thus, ensued a half-hour long ordeal of who and what I am. I quickly told him where to find 'Tom' in room #218. But, he couldn't rouse 'Xu Tan' from his deep sleep. I immediately called via mobile, and luckily 'Tom' responded (the young Chinese are like Pavlov's dogs when it comes to that mobile sound). He put on his clothing and came to my room to explain. After some discussion the policeman departed (with the owner) seemingly satisfied.

As I have explained to other Chinese before. You get out into the wilds of an 'Autonomous Region' (What Xinjiang really is) and the police are more viligilant when it comes to 'lowei!' Additionally, they're generally 'bored,' with nothing much to do. So, when I come along looking so exotic on a bicycle, they just can't help but make a big deal out of it!

Anyway, the latest from 'In Search of the Lock Kanas Monster!' Now, only five days from the actual 'Loch!'

But, now we have a Chinese lawyer joining us in two days!

Making magic together (with you)!

070906 Somewhere in N.W. Xinjiang Province

070906 Somewhere in N.W. Xinjiang Province

This is day #7 of our 'In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster,' cycling video! We're about 450KM N.W. of Urumqi, in some named (?) village of which I can't. But, the hotel is luxurious, compared to where/how we've been staying.

I'm in a private room with hot shower for 100RMB / $12 U.S. It's on the 3rd floor and quiet (up from the street traffic). Although there were drums in the evening (maybe the full moon?).

Upon arrival, at 2000 hours, we were beseiged by curious Chinese, including the hotel owner. Some cute Chinese kids also couldn't resist, and I gave them candy as always.

I don't know where I left off my epistles, as so much has happenned so rapidly, and not always time to convey.

Mr. Jing is no longer with us for one thing. This was the 55-year old Chinese cyclist from Urumqi, who regaled with song and stories of his career as a professional wrestler, and musician. We had wanted him to stay, at least through Loch Kanas, but he didn't want to and yesterday morning knocked on my door at 0800 and headed back to 'U-town!'

We all thought his behavior was 'strange,' as first he wanted to go with us (and did). Then we were going too slowly for him. Next he couldn't stay with us unless we paid his expenses, which we did. Then he wouldn't stay with us, except for the entire trip which we couldn't afford. So, for 'hazy' reasons he departed to return home.

I had 'Tom and Ceres,' participate in the decision, as it would cost 'the company' money. They labored over such, both wanting him to stay (very engaging personality), but not understanding all his demands!

I figured it out later, on a 'cosmic level.' He was but one of our 'guardian angels,' (had been quite a help with 'Tom's' many flats and getting us to Karamay on a new highway). But, his 'job' was completed once we were safely in Karamay.

Sometimes 'life' is challenging to understand! But, if you're 'open,' to possibilities you can!

We're spent a 'rest day' in Karamay, not doing too much, except staying off our bicycles. We'd had lunch with Mr. Jing and his neice, at a Uyghur Restaurant, and gone to the Giant Bicycle shop.

Walking to restaurant, his neice (name ?), a woman who works for Avon calling,' bought some figs my favorite fresh fruit. I learned that these grow in southern Xinjiang where I had been living (Kashigar). Yet, in the months there I'd never seen or got to partake of, until now. These are slightly different (round and green), but definitely of the 'fig' family! I remember hearing about a huge fig tree near Hotian (on our Taklimakan Desert trip, but we never got there).

At the Giant Bicycle Shop we bought a new 'post,' for 'Cere's' saddle, this so she can sit higher. We also bought 'the best' tubes money could buy! The owner made sure we understood that they came from 'Taiwan!' Seems 'Taiwan' means quality! They cost 28RMB each / $3 U.S.

'Ceres' and I went to the 'Super Market,' where I bought the usual bottled tea, yoghurt, sugar, tea, and 'whole milk powder.' You learn to 'stock up,' in 'cities' as the smaller villages don't have much variety.

We went to bed after discussing the situation about Mr. Jing. This, at 2330, or too late for me. I'm an 'early to bed, early to rise' kind of guy later in life.

Rising by 0700 I got online to discover some interesting news. An old ABC Sports colleague, Bryce Weisman, had died (this from another such in L.A., my old friend Eric Kaldor). He had received our www.haaqi.com T-shirt and is contributing another $50U.S. to the cause! Thank you, Eric!

The news about Bryce caused pause. Of course, it made me think back to those halycon days of the Sixties. Byrce, I'd always envied, as he always got the 'jobs' at ABC Sports I wanted. Now, he's died!

It occurred to me, cycling through the day, how lucky I am! Still healthy! Still going, and having the 'time of my life!'

But, that very same night before... A strange dream occurence. I was fighting with another man (maybe Bryce?), and I bit him. But, I bit my own 'sleeping' hand so hard that I still have a mark on my knuckle! I think this is one of the few times in my life where a dream manifested itself in a physical way!

Yesterday, after Mr. Jing's departure I let the kids sleep in, and we didn't really depart Karamay until something like 1120A.M. This after packing, breakfast, and 'shooting' our video in two different 'locations' in K-town.

The first 'location,' was in front of the Giant Bicycle Shop where we asked curious onlookers about 'the monster' at Loch Kanas. 'Yes, there's a 'monster,' and if we were 'lucky,' we might 'see' 'he or she,' early in the morning. This while 'Tom' had his rear tire pumped up.

Then to 'People's Square,' the brand new center of Karamay. Here I saw something I've never seen before, a very unusual fountain, whose 'performance,' requiring a powerful 'jet,' of rising water carries a decorated 'cap' of dragons high into the air. This is the centerpiece of Karamay, this rich oil town. It's suppose to symbolize oil 'gushers!' Next to it is a fountain whose many singular streams respond to music played.

But, after recording a 'stand up' piece, we made our way out of this city. One, that entices me to live. But, the winters...? Mr. Jing's neice said the lowest temperature last winter was -28C.

Now, the weather perfect! Warm, but cool enough to make cycling in the afternoon bearable.

And the sunlight... Nostalgic for me! This is challenging to describe, as sunlight is a 'sense memory' device for me. Yesterday's definitely 'Fall' like.
I reminded 'James B.' (he 'rides' with me as my helmet) of all those 'colorful pageants of the Autumn Spectacle.' Or, for the unintiated, 'College Football,' speaking of ABC Sports. Note; James B. Feeney, my best friend at ABC Sports, forty years ago, and I produced NCAA College Football games.

But, 'sports fans,' that all I have time for this A.M., although much more to convey, as the trip allows. I've run out of time this A.M., as must pack, and get my things down to 'Tom and Ceres' on the 1st floor, before they go off for 'Chinese breakfast.'

We're off north ('bay' in Chinese) to 'Monster City,' in quest of... Then on to Loch Kanas, about 400KM further (about six days for us).

In the meantime, wherever you are! Remember... Life is but a fleeting thing! Take every opportunity to enjoy the moment! You never know...

'Spanning the Globe to bring you the constant variety!'
Making magic together!

Monday, September 04, 2006

020906, Day #2 of our 'In Search of the Loch Kanas Monster!' (video on bicycles)

Somewhere about 160 KM NW of Urumqi (on the 'Green' Highway).

And where is Urumqi?

The Provencial Capitol of Xinjiang Province, China.

And where is Xinjiang Province, China?

In the far western part of China (in the chicken's back ).

And where is China?

China in about opposite to the U.S., across the Pacific Ocean!

If you don't know where that is, you don't know where you are! And if you don't know where you are, you're ain a heap of trouble!

Today we departed out 10 Yuan per room '-5 star hotel,' and boogied on down the highway.

We weren't that far when I noticed Tom's rear tire going flat. So, we pumped to check, and we discovered we were going to have to change his tube. Of course, it had to be the back tire, which causes the most work! Luckily, we found a nice and 'flat' (no punda) concrete part of a service station to do such.

Thus, poor Tom whose bike it is, had to do the work. But, Mr. Jin pitched in and helped. I videotaped the entire 'repairing flat' affair which took almost one hour.

Back on the road no more of that! Thus, I sang, 'Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I've got a beautiful feeling, everything's going our way!' Note: I sing this refrain (from R&H's, 'Oklahoma,' everyday shine or rain! Flats or no flats, life is good!

No rain today, but overcast. With the clouds, warmer with less 'da fung.'

This on a two lane highway, filled with truck and bus traffic. Thus, much honking! Oh, the honking-madness of Asian street traffic, it stresses me.

The clouds dissapate, and the sun comes out (hotter day).

We stop for Chinese breakfast in a village. The owner doesn't like the U.S., but China, and Mao. He makes sure I know this when he finds out I'm from Mei Guo (America). I've been in China now for over one year, met hundreds of Chinese from east to west and this is the first time I've ever heard this from anyone! He is quick to show me a calendar with Mao reciting some bit of Mao 'wisdom' for every month!

Here there are only noodles, so I opt out, videotaping the slurping of... This makes 'Tom' laugh!

I get the idea to record the owner talking about Mao. But, he, being of the Chinese version of the 'KGB' has his daughter recite the 'party line!' She does this like the 'machine' she is, indoctrinated of course .

Now, I've got nothing against Chairman Mao, except that he was the typical politician, with some good ideas, and some really bad ideas (like the 'Cultural Revolution' for one).

Since there's not enough 'light' inside, I have them do this outside (in the sunlight). Mr. Jin holds the calendar, while 'Tom' holds the microphone and I 'shoot.'

We draw a crowd, of course, as this is an unusal thing! Everyone wants to know about us, which Jin, 'Ceres,' and 'Tom,' explain. I pass out my postcards, and take photographs! We are a big 'hit!' the talk of the village by the time we crank out, heading northwest. Even the 'KGB' Chinese owner is happy we came to eat at his restaurant.

Soon we hit a stretch of highway being constructed, brand new and with little traffice (except a few motor bikes and construction vehicles). This is the second time this has happened to me in China, the first with Mamat last October on #314! It's an amazing cycling experience, gliding down a just laid surface, the entire highway to ourselves!

It's a lovely day, with the wind helping. I'm thinking this is perfect: A smooth, new highway, and the wind at our backs; weather ideal (sunny, but cool)... I tell Yali and Tom, 'Remember this day! It doesn't get any better!'

Mr. Jin and Tom sing, cranking down the highway.

But, soon there is some trouble with Yali's bike, or so she complains. Tom trades to ride, to get a better idea. We stop and make some adjustments with Yali's ('Ceres') bicycle, a rental from the bike shop in U-town. We think the problem is Yali, rather than the bicycle, her 'style,' as an inexperienced rider. I can't get her to shift gears, for one thing (and she has 21). But, she's learning little by little. Another thing her 'saddle' is too low. A point I made many times on our test rides in U-town prior, but fell on deaf ears.

At 80 KM (1730 hours / 5:30P.M.), with no sign of a hotel (for the night) we're wondering what to do?

At 90 KM stop we stop for dinner in village, at least 'Tom,' 'Ceres,' and I. Mr. Jin opts to pass, and will crank ahead to scout a place to camp out for the night.

We have wonderful diner, entertained by Chinese children who skateboard and scooter around on an empty 'ballroom' floor. Note, above there's the old-fashioned rotating mirrored ball, reflecting colored lights. Amazing... I think I'm in the Aragon Ballroom circa. 1950!

I get chao mi fan! I get kai shui! All of it (dinner for three) costs 25 Yuan / $3 U.S. or $1 each!

We call Mr. Jin on his mobile . He's waiting for us ahead.

The restaurant 'family' sees us off (we draw a crowd wherever we go).

Not far down the highway we find Mr. Jin, sitting, waiting, having eater three 'ears' of roasted corn (popular in China). I thought he would be camped out by now, but no wants to go on. O.K.

Onward, as I'm told there's a village and 'hotel' in 15KM. Now, however, it's 1900 hours.

Arriving in the village Mr. Jin gets idea to stop and ask a couple out 'shifting hay,' about camping out next to their house.

After the usual long Chinese discussion we end up in Government quarters for free... But, you get what you pay for... Hard bunk beds no water, no facilities, no electrical outlets, one bare bulb, a thatched roof above. Worse, it's dirty!

But, each of us get his own room with at least 30 beds in each!

Outside, we hear Chinese people eating, socializing, what they love to do more than anything, talk!

Mr. Jin, asks us to watch his things, as he wants to take a ride around the village. 'Tom' carries his things into our room.

But, then we 'crash!' Me up top on one of the thirty beds. I stare up at a living roof, as the sun sets.