Days 252 to 255 Almaty to Bishkek

June 19th to 22nd. 244km

We stuck around in Almaty for a few days. We had a sweet hostel and our ‘city mode’ of relaxing, watching tv and eating international food kicked in hard. The weather turned nasty too, so we put off getting back on the road by a couple of days, sheltering inside from the heavy rain and storms. We did see some of the city, mostly walking from the hostel to restaurants, but we enjoyed strolling along the tree lined streets and through the many parks, taking in the new surroundings. As we mentioned before, Almaty is a real mix of East and West, and a great place to people watch. The buildings are a mix of very ornate, classical architecture, and functional Soviet blocks. The subway was beautifully decorated and clean, but completely deserted. And there was cheap craft beer. It was nice to have the flexibility to spend a bit longer in such an interesting place.

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Days 242 – 247 Khorgas to Almaty

June 9th to 14th. 328km

We were all packed up and ready to leave China. We checked out of our hotel in Khorgas and cycled a couple of kilometres down the road to the checkpoint, stopping on the way to change all our remaining Chinese Yuan to Kazakh Tenge. The gate was closed, which was a bit strange, but there were other people hanging around waiting, so we just found a spot in the shade to sit and wait for them to open up. There was a lone guard behind the gate, so I motioned to him, pointing at my watch to get an idea of when we would be able to pass, but he just shook his head. After an hour or so of waiting, there was no movement, so we tried asking a few of the other people standing around when the border was going to open. ‘Mingtian’ was the reply. Tomorrow.

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What I think of when I think of China

Trying to summarize our 100 days in China (not including Hong Kong and Macau) is a tough challenge, but I will try my best.

Firstly when I think of China I think of the size of the country, it’s massive, we all know this, but once you start cycling through it, you realise how ginormous it really is. As we painfully saw what felt like minimal progress each day as we inched our way across the map, we started to wonder what had we let ourselves in for. In the end we covered a grand total of 5,265km (nearly half of our total cycling distance so far). As Andy mentioned before, if we had taken the G30, the longest road in China, from the port we arrived in to where we exited it would have been 4,243km but we had other plans. We wanted to avoid too much cold weather and in doing so we decided to do China in 3 parts. Each one very different and increasingly more fun and beautiful.

G30 from Lianyungang to Khorgas (not our route)

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Days 232 – 239 Urumqi to Khorgas

May 30th to June 6th. 662km

After four days of 5 star luxury in Urumqi, it was time we moved on. Fresh sheets, a soft bed and buffet breakfasts were great, but we were (ok, maybe I was) keen to get back on the bikes. We went out to explore a bit, had a wander around Hongshan Park and did some shopping to stock up on supplies for the next week on the road. A lot of good food was eaten too, some foreign, some local, and lots of kebabs with flat bread, washed down with cold beer.

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