Thursday, 6 June 2013

Day 40 - Into China

We woke in the home stay to a freezing cold morning. A quick wash in the outdoor sink and a visit to the squat toilet (quite a nice new clean building to provide privacy for a hole in the ground) and it was time for breakfast.

Tintin had used all his persuasive and culinary skills to get the use of the yak dung stove to make some porridge. Add some of Oxfordshire's finest Rowses honey and we had the breakfast of champions.

In 2011 the road over the Irkisham Pass had been a snow covered, muddy nightmare. Today the road builders have been in action and it was perfect blacktop to the border. However, the cold and overnight rain meant that it was covered in black ice and at the top of the pass was in dense cloud.

Arriving at our last border the exit from Kyrgyzstan was as efficient as the entry. They really have understood the benefits of easy travel for trade. The Chinese border didn't open until 10 and we were first through. Lucky really as it is to close from tomorrow for 10 days. Something we didn't know about!

We stopped in a dusty and deserted building. On previous trips this had been the immigration and customs post. Now it was just a security check. Cameras and iPads were checked for inappropriate content and we were asked to carry on to the new post in 120km. There is only one road so no chance of us wandering off into the country.

The next 100km was one long set of roadworks. They are building a brand new four lane motorway to the border. Not in bits as we would but ball at once. Every river crossing had a new bridge. Every pass a new cutting. Every connecting stretch was being levelled, graded and tarmaced. Our route twisted around this on sections of the old road, temporary surfaces and bailey bridges. Extraordinary.

But not as extraordinary as the customs post. It is huge. Acres of lanes for trucks and cars to stop and be processed. Clearly China is preparing for this to be a major land route west. All the road building through the 'Stans now made sense. This is the new road to Central Asia and onto Europe. The new Silk Road is coming. In a few years you will be able to drive from London to Beijing on tarmac all the way. Off road adventurers will need to look elsewhere for their fun.

Then on to the capital of Xinjiang Province, Kashgar.

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