09-16 Day 68 (The Chinese Border)

How hard will this be?

Mileage

Date9/16/2019
Travel FromNaryn, Kyrgyzstan
Intermediate Location 
Ending LocationKashgar, China
Starting Odometer33,287
Ending Odometer33,388
Miles Driven Today101 Miles
Total Trip Mileage8845 Miles
Countries visited TodayChina
Countries visited on trip US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China

I’ve traveled almost 9000 miles so far, and crossing into China will likely prove to the most complicated and procedural border crossing of any so far, and of any in the world. But, who knows, perhaps the processes that we follow on day one, will be non-existent on day 2, avoiding the need to continue to process paperwork on day 3. But, who knows.

Today’s Ride

Sleepy time

Unfortunately, as a result of a later than desired night, a little bit of computer work that was necessary to get a post or two out, combined with a restless night, means that I did not get much sleep. I hate when that happens, especially when I know I’ll be riding on roads that are technical, and perhaps dangerous. But, this is an adventure trip, and shit happens.

So, I got up, got dressed, packed the bike, and with steely eyes, I readied myself for a 6:30 AM departure.

Departure

All of China operates on a single time zone, so when you factor this in, you’ll need to account for losing 2 hours from Kyrgyzstan. So, we planned on leaving the hotel at 6:30, and with roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive, with another 15 minutes, we expected to arrive by 11:00 AM, which would give us enough time to clear through Kyrgyzstan, then get to China before they take a lunch break.

But, when we woke, and went outside at 6:30, it was still pitch dark. So, our departure was deferred until 7:00 AM. And, at exactly 7:00, with the sun coming up, we left Naryn, headed for China.

Tired along the road

As we rode over the pothole infested section of road that covers the first 25 miles or so, I began to feel the exhaustion creeping in. When this happens, I start to yell at myself to stay awake. In this case, I cranked the music, focused on the road, and went about my business.

The road gets better

As we progressed, we found that the road did start to get better, and by get better, I mean that the dirt and gravel became tar, and the tar became tar with less potholes, which eventually led us to a road that looked more like a proper road. And so, we progressed into the mountain pass, enjoying a road that did not have millions of potholes

Frigid temperatures

As we progressed in distance, we climbed further and further into the pass. As we rose in altitude, the temperature began to drop. For a long period of time, we experienced temperatures of 35-36 degrees. It was very cold, especially when riding a bike.

Leaving Kyrgyzstan – Remote outpost

The Kyrgyzstan border crossing that we’ve chosen is remote, to say the least. Very few vehicles use this crossing, and prior to arriving at the crossing, we passed through a military checkpoint, which ensures that no person will pass through this gate, unless they have a permit for this area, or a valid visa for China.

I’d like to show you a video of the border crossing itself, but we’ve been asked not to produce video of the Border Crossing.

Give me 40 acres and I’ll turn this rig around

Approaching the border, we were told that there might be a line of trucks at the border, but not to worry, if there are any trucks, we would simply ride in the left lane, the opposing lane, and even ride on the shoulder if necessary. We’d pass the trucks in no time, and we’d be at the checkpoint. But, I could not have been prepared for what I was about to see.

As we got to within about 4 or 5 Kilometers of the border, we started seeing trucks, parked, and waiting in line to be processed, in hopes of crossing into China. The line of trucks went on for a couple of miles, perhaps 3 miles, maybe a bit less. But, try to imagine a line of trucks 3 miles long, each truck could easily take at least 10 minutes to process, and while there might be some parallel processing of trucks and drivers, these border crossings are not known for their efficiency objectives. So, our guess was that it could take days, perhaps 4 days for these trucks to cross into China.

No Man’s Land

As you leave Kyrgyzstan, you once again travel through no-mans land. This is the area between countries, where no country takes ownership, and so the road can often be dirt, or in disrepair. In our case, it was a bit of both, and to make matters worse, as we approached China, the temperature had dropped to 31 degrees

Riding a motorcycle in this temperature is quite dangerous, and given that we rode through a mountain pass, where portions of the road are blocked from the sunlight for most of the day, it is highly likely that we’ll be confronted with Black Ice, which would be impassible on these bikes. Worse still, if we dropped a bike, given the ice under our feet, it would be impossible to get the bike upright again.

Distance, and barbed wire

The area of No-mans land is not only remote and desolate, it is locked in with barbed wire, and razor wire on both sides of the road. I guess they really don’t want you escaping into the freezing cold desolate land that is no-mans land. Hmmm, go figure…

The Chinese Border

When you arrive at the Chinese border, you’re not actually at the border. I mean, this is the border to China, but nothing really happens here. Let me explain. This gate is the entrance to a waiting area, where you can meet your guide or family member. You see, everyone entering China is expected to hire a guide, to ride along with them as part of the trip. Once your guide arrives, you enter through the gate, and in our case, we park the motorcycles, and get ready for the first of many “reviews of our passports”. At this point, we’re about 5 miles away from where our vehicles/bikes will be scanned for contraband.

Wait for our fixer

Once we arrive at the border, we must be accompanied by a representative of the Chinese government. In this case, this is someone that knows the processes, and can smoothly get us through all of the checkpoints, with the least resistance.

After about 30 minutes at the gate of China, our Fixer showed up, and we started the bikes, and rode to the other side of the gate. Once inside, we stopped immediately, and began the first of many inspections, and passport checks. Our bags were scanned, our passports were checked, and our vehicle registrations were compared to the license plates on the bikes. When all was deemed acceptable and accurate, we were allowed to proceed.

Is it Christmas?

You’ll recall that I had said that it was pretty cold as we arrived at the Kyrgyzstan border crossing. Well, the Chinese gate that I described, is about another 5 miles or so from that point. The route takes you across some low lying tracks, up into a pass, and by the time we got to the gate, it had began to snow.

5 miles to inspection point

After we left the gate, at the entry to China, we needed to travel about 5 miles, to another staging area, where our bikes would be inspected. As it turns out, the “inspection” was a process where the bikes were x-rayed, while sitting on a dirty concrete floor, in a big, open warehouse.

Xrays are everywhere

The X-Ray building is actually 3 large bays, each one is about 150 yards long, by about 40 yards wide. There is a central bridge, where the bikes were ridden to their x-ray point. Our bikes were setup side by side on this bridge, in about 6 rows, totaling 12 bikes. After the bikes were parked in the “right place”, we were told to exit the building, and stand outside of the painted lines. These lines were probably 50 feet from the open doors of the building. These doors were large, floor to ceiling garage doors. But, there were no doors installed, that I could see. We saw only the opening from our vantage point, about 50 feet away.

The X-Ray machine went into action, and sirens were blasted, horns were blasted, warnings were blasted, and after about 2-3 minutes, everything silenced, and we were able to wait for the results. As it turns out, all of the bikes passed, but the truck/van had to go through a second x-ray process. After the 2nd round, the truck also passed.

35 miles

After leaving the X-Ray building, we were to travel about 35 miles, to reach our destination. Our destination would be another area, called the quarantine area, where we’d have to leave the bikes overnight, and take a bus to Kashgar, where we’d spend the night.

Along this route, we found many interesting things to see.

Empty Villages

I counted at least 5 villages, that either were deserted, or had never been populated with people. Some of these villages looked old, and were likely desserted, while others were big, gleaming complexes, with amphitheaters, and were also not inhabited. It was very strange to see all of this housing and infrastructure in place, and no one to take advantage of it.

Military “sites”

Spaced at logical intervals, of perhaps 20 or 25 miles, there were military bases, or establishments of some type. At these locations, you could see numerous soldiers, with their guns and other weapons, ready to be called into duty. I’m not sure what these bases are used for, but nevertheless, there were a good many of them.

Checkpoints

Along the way to our quarantine area, and over this 100 mile drive, we encountered about 5 immigration and customs checkpoints, where the police and military folks performed at least 15 passport checks. You might ask, how is this possible?

Well, it was common to walk into the building, and have our passports checked. We might then have to insert the passport into a scanner, where it was checked a 2nd time. As we exited the building, we would sometimes be asked to show our passports again, and the folks outside of the building would perform some form of security check as well.

We don’t know exactly why there are so many security checks, but we’ve been told that it has to do with the specific region we’re currently in, and that the rest of China is more relaxed.

REPORT FROM THE ROAD

Today’s report from the road is very short. You see, it was not a great distance until we got to the first military checkpoint, and we’re not supposed to use cameras at any of these posts, checkpoints, or crossings. So, today’s report includes only the morning report, prior to departure.

What will tomorrow bring?

Tomorrow, we’ll need to take a bus from Kashgar, back to the quarantine location, and work to get our bikes imported into China. They had been quarantined, but we’re not sure what that means, so I can’t provide any more details. Sorry folks.

Once we’re back at the Quarantine location, we’ll spend a little bit of time processing paperwork, with the hopes of being back at the hotel, with our bikes, by 1PM.; A 1 PM arrival at the hotel will allow us to do a little sightseeing.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

  1. Good Morning Cliff, Hope all has been going well. Wonder what was in all of those trucks? Looking forward to “the rest of the story”. Stay safe, hugs.

    1. Hi Kathy, we never did find out what was in the trucks, but China is one big bureacracy, so each day brings with it a new set of challenges, as we try to explore this country, and enjoy the food, which is frankly terrific. On our first night, we had a noodle dish, with lamb, and a broth. Ummmm, to die for.

    1. You sound like Johnny Cash. I’ve been every where man, I’ve been everywhere. Kashgar, Ashville, up along the Patomic. I’ve been every where man, I’ve been every where.

  2. Cliff!
    I look forward to your posts. Thanks for sharing your amazing adventure with your friends. The connections you have made especially with so many people are heartwarming. Continue to enjoy your trip! I know we are!

    Janice

    1. Hi Lee,
      No sir, you have not missed anything, but I’m in China. And here in China, it’s sometimes impossible to get access to my website, or to YouTube so that I can post videos. On top of all of that, due to the large number of security checkpoints on any given day, we might spend up to 5 hours of riding time, sitting at checkpoints, or waiting for gas. Sorry about the delay, but I’m givin’ it all I can captain. I could sure use some diluthium crystals.

  3. I had a thought this weekend that it’s been a long time since we heard from you and then I was confused when I saw the back-dating on this post. Glad to see you’re responding to messages today – does this mean all is OK and you just have a backlog?

    Hugs,
    Ashlan

    1. Hi Ash,
      Yes, all is OK, but when you’re very dependent on the Internet, and it’s taken away, it can be impossible to get caught back up. Today was a good day, I stayed in the hotel and got mostly caught up, but I was not able to publish any videos. Perhaps in a few days. Wish me luck.

    1. Lee,
      Good to see that tracking is still working. Yes, I’m in Dun Huang, watching a show that describes the story of the caves and the dunes. It is preceded by an auction, during which I chose not to bid. But, I think I heard him say”welcome Cliff, and all the great motorcyclists from the West”. But I could be wrong.

Comments are closed