Just outside the passport control we are in China, assaulted by guys who want to change our money illegally.
And so we are in Xin Jang "autonomous" region, the biggest province in China, which borders 8 countries and is one of the "hottest" areas in China in political terms. This regions is indeed home of many minorities, most of whom are muslim, the Uighur in particular are a majority in the region, despite the government attempts to "Chinesize" this area. There's a strong independence movement which is strongly repressed with an iron fist. Xin Jang is also the less densely populated area of China after Tibet, and is home of many nuclear power plants and military experiments.
1. Total illiteracy but, despite what everyone said without ever being here, there is more people who speak English than any other place visited during this trip. All the cops at the border spoke English.
2. Smoothness of the asphalt. wonderful. half the effort cycling.
3. Funny 3 wheeled electric scooters and motorcycles of different sizes everywhere.
4. This should be a small town but it's indeed bigger than many Kazakhtan district capitals.
We enter for the first time in a Chinese mini-market, there are a lot of things already cooked and vacuumed. Let's try the tofu in the evening. Ah, the first day in China we can also do the SIM card. We had heard it was a complicated thing but just take a document of identity and they give you the card. As it is the case in Italy. Just it seems strange to many having to give a document. And last but not least, luckily the guy in the store spoke a bit of English.
For sure there are millions of stereotypes about all peoples and countries of the world, but perhaps even more on China.
The next morning, my gut tells me that he hadn't greatly enjoyed tofu.
This area is full of vineyards, seems that China is trying to boost wine production from this region. But wines are quite expensive here so we don't have the chance to taste it. There's also a nice lavender garden where we stop for a rest and buy a nice lavender honey. Also here there's plenty of marijuana, but not wild as in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, here is planted on purpose to take the bugs away and leave the lavender to the bees.
After 40 kilometers from the border, the road splits, you go north or south, both mountainous, both along the highway. Alessandro, who we met in Bishkek last year, and who did this road in the opposite direction, recommended the north one, passing near a beautiful lake.
The road to Sayram Lake is a continuous ascent, from 0 to 2000msl in around 40km. The scenery is pretty nice, with white cliffs, green trees and a lovely stream that runs through the valley. As we climb we meet two other cyclists, they only speak Chinese so we can not switch me much information. Almost at 2000msl there's a 2 km tunnel ending on a huge turnpike. We reach the Sayram lake at 6pm.
It starts to rain and the weather gets chilly, the the highway goes along the lake for about twenty kilometers, but we stop now, we don't know where the next barbed wire break could be.
So finally we found the Kazakh nomads, whom is no more possible to find in Kazakhstan after Stalin's purge.
Thanks to our Chinese skills (?) we can make it clear that I don't eat meat while Daniele does. We go to the main yurt, where they live, and we eat with the whole family, around 12 people. Fried eggs, fried potatoes (which here are cut into narrow strips) and boiled sheep meat. We taste for the first time the local style of tea with milk (horse, sheep or yaks we don't know). Really good.
Let's get back to our little yurt and sleep under 5 blankets, too many, we can not move, but there is no heater here.