After much delay, hassle, and a total of six visits to the Chinese embassy, I finally got a Chinese visa! Only 30 days, but still, it’s enough for a start. Queued for four hours the first time, got within two feet of the window before they closed. The second time I got some assistance from the crowd, and only queued for 3.5 hours, before getting a visa.
As soon as I got the visa I started heading to the border, to find…the border is closed on Sunday. A major international border, between two large countries, and of course it’s closed on Sundays. Ok…back the next day, get processed through Kazakh customs. Takes a while, I’m in the Chinese queue – should have gone in the Kazakh line. Finally get through, get the stamp. No questions about lack of OVIR registration.
So finally I can enter China, right? Not quite…one last delay…it’s now 11:00, so of course customs is closed for two hours for lunch. Once it opens, can I ride across the 800m between customs posts? No, I have to wait another hour, and pay $3 for a bus. What a scam.
When I finally get to Chinese customs, it’s an absolute breeze. No hassles, very quick, no search for contraband – e.g. maps showing Taiwan in a different colour. Just a couple of forms, and I’m in China!
What a difference too – sometimes it takes a while to notice a new country, but not this time – wham! you’re in China. Total difference. Crappy small roads, with a few shepherds have gone – now I’m in a big city, cars/people everywhere, big city in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve now made it to Kuytun, around 250km west of Urumqi. Great smooth roads, although long ways between towns in this part of China. I’m quite enjoying China, everyone is very nice, and hotels are good and cheap. The first shop I stopped at, they told me to wait, after buying some supplies – and then the husband came out, with some fruit he’d gone and gotten for me. Later I stopped at a service station in the middle of nowhere, and they came up with a guestbook, which a cyclist had written in a few years back. I was asked to add something, and I had photos with the staff.
A bit of fun sometimes trying to work out exactly is in the various packages of snacks I’m buying, but no worries, it’s all an experience right? Long way to go though, the kilometre markers started at over 4800, counting down – I guess to Tiannamen Square? We’ll see, I think I’m following the same road for a very long way. Urumqi in a couple of days, time for a rest there.