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The Trip Starts July 3, 2005 and ends August 25, 2005 (see route & schedule)
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Stage 8: Urumqi to Korgaz

Sweet Pain -- We Made It - 88 kilometers
Korgaz -- Tue, Aug 23, 2005
Today is my brother's birthday and I was biking for him. I miss him as well as all of my family and friends. It's been a wonderful, but long month and a half, but we have finally made it 5000km across China.

It was a very fitting day -- a mix of bitter cold and awe inspiring views and a little sweet honey to top things off. I set off early in the morning and the winds were still blistering through the mountains of Salima Hu. It was the coldest weather I have ever biked in and I was in absolute pain for the first hour. But around me as I glided down the mountain were incredible moss covered peaks, unspoilt beauty that is hard to find in the world today.

To take a card out of the Passover book -- the cold and beauty were symbols. The cold symbolized the difficulties that others face (the salt water and parsley per say). The things that you and I often take forgranted, being able to communicate, to understand, to live the lifes we live. And the incredible landscape represented the purity of helping others -- of choosing your values, your morals and living by them. Ok yes I'm getting too deep, but go with me here for one more line. And together they represented "sweet pain" -- you have to give to get, etc., etc.

And well the sweet honey fresh from the combs at the bottom of the mountain -- well it was just damn good, I'll let you hypothize about that one. It was another 50km to Korgaz across a snow-capped mountain landscape. Not a bad place to spend a few days.

I celebrated that night in YiNing with great bottle of crappy Chinese red wine (yes it exists, but it shouldn't...) and some Chinese-Canadian friends I met at their restaurant. We headed to the discotheque for some dancing and celebration until 4am. The mix of Uyghar, Kazak, and 15 other ethnicities was a fun sight -- along with the Madonna esque "show" at 2am...

Thank you for your support. I miss you, love you and hope to see you soon!

Uphill to Wind Lake - 143 kilometers
Salima Hu -- Mon, Aug 22, 2005
143km of some of the hardest biking of the trip -- 100km uphill and then 30km winds blustering me back for the last 20km. The day started out nice, beautiful scenery, lots of little towns and activity to keep me occupied.

And then the climb began. It was gradual at first -- I had expected it, I had been warned that there was a good climb up to Salima Hu, I just wasn't sure how much of a climb it was. It became hot quick and I started to sweat began pouring, slowly moving the crankset, over and over up the hill.

The towns began to fade and I was left with not much other than the large trucks blaring past me (or struggling past me) up the road. I had a nice lunch of Ban Myen, ready to take on the rest of the hill. And it just kept going and going and going. I was hoping for a nice easy day -- arriving around 3pm, it wasn't going to happen.

I finally reached a plateau and at the top was an incredible blue water lake with mongolian yurts around it. I was elated, I had made it, I hadn't felt the wind yet... I go around the first bend and the winds begin to blow -- a little bit, maybe 10km to my left, to my right, not really deciding where to blow.

Then as if they were heat seeking -- the wind began to center on me and gain strength as I approached the mountain surrounded lake. It was still beautiful but it was no longer fun. The hills were a piece of cake compared to the 30km winds blasting me in my face -- tormenting my every meter.

I finally saw my yurt village 5km away -- it would be 30 minutes until I reached it. Rain drops began to fall -- very fitting, luckily I made it just before it began to pour. I spent the dinner with a great group of Hong Kong travellers and then bundled in to my cold, cold room in which insillation was a foreign concept. One more day to go ;)

Biking The Prisoneer Highway Along the Red Pepper Mountains - 243 kilometers
JingHe -- Sun, Aug 21, 2005
What does that title mean... Well today was the second longest day and it was a beautiful one. Sadly my camera has broke so I'll have to share the images with words.

A good portion of the road today was still under construction, but the road itself was perfect. So I more or less had the road to myself. Snowcapped mountains on the right and prisoneers finishing the road on the left. At first it was a bit disconcerning to pass guys with M-16s on my bike. I had images of them gunning me down after yelling out to me and not hearing them over the drone of my mp3 player. Now I am assuming these were prisoneers working -- but I don't see much reason for the boss to have an M16 otherwise... although some managers might disagree with me...

And the red peppers: now imagine the mountains surrounded by arid grassland and then all of a sudden a bright, glowing patch of red off in the distance. It was mezmerizing -- what was this incredible bit of color in this five-tone landscape. Well it was drying red peppers. The farmers would spread huge patches of red peppers on the ground to dry them out and it would create an incredible blend of colors on the landscape.

I know its not as good as the pictures but its the best I can do ;)

Chinese Mothers - 182 kilometers
TunHe -- Sat, Aug 20, 2005
I'm back to biking solo -- making the last stage by myself -- in large part because of one Chinese mother, Mrs. Fang. Now I have never met her, but from what I have experienced of her through Fang Wen Guang, she is an amazing, albeit interesting woman.

First I must mention that she has done an incredible job raising two boys after her husband died so suddenly of a heart attack. She is a market vendor -- there's millons of them in China and they are all selling the same damn things. But she seems to be one of the few that innovates. She focuses on one food product and tries to change it ahead of the curve, right as it gets popular and other people are not selling it. Right now she sells jellyfish... Supposedly she has been pretty successful for a street vendor.

But she wasn't too hot on Fang Wen Guang biking across china. As any mother would, she was worried about her little boy. And I must credit Fang Wen Guang for doing what I've have found most chinese children won't do -- do something their parents don't fully support.

But as time grew on -- instead of getting more comfortable with her son doing great things half way across the country, she got more worried. The issues began to roll in over the phone and the phone calls became a once, twice, three time daily event (in addition to Fang Wen Guang's damn girlfriend... another story.)

So here are the top five reasons Fang Wen Guang's mother thinks he should go home (these are actual quotes via Fang Wen Guang):

5. It's not safe -- Kazak and Uygher bandits will rob and stab him
4. He needs to mediate her relationship with her new boyfriend
3. Fang Wen Guang needs to solve her business problems
2. His brother is going to get in a fight -- Fang Wen Guang needs to come stop it
1. (For Real) -- I am going to sell him to some woman in America when we get to Korgaz!!!

Although I had thought of selling Fang Wen Guang, the offers were just too low. Though if anyone does want a 21 year old chinese boy for chores, cleaning, and whatever your pleasure... let me know and I will see what I can do when I get back to Beijing...


Biking Update
--------------------------------------------------

Today I biked along Tomato Road -- I passed or was passed by literally thousands of trucks filled to the rim with plum tomatos. At times the road was covered with squashed, dried red skins and some trucks would leak the juices from the bottom tomatos onto the road. The smell of fresh tomatos permeated the air -- which although it sounds nice, it gets old after a while of being sprayed by tomato juice.

Finally out of desert territory and there are a lot more towns around and changing scenery. It makes 180km a lot more barable. Although surprisingly, the population changed dramatically back to Han Chinese. I had expected more Uygher and Kazak people as I neared Korgaz, we'll see if this was a silly assumption....

The Final Volunteer Day
Urumqi -- Fri, Aug 19, 2005
We have now spent eight days volunteering at schools for children and young adults with autism across china (Shanghai, Nanjing, Hefei, Zhengzhou, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, and Urumqi). The following is a summary of some of these experiences and the impression they have left on me.

1. 5000km on a bicycle is a joke compared to what some of these organizations have accomplished. Fighting bearacuracy and a lack of community support to provide the only outlet of support these children have.

2. China is making incredible strides in terms of awareness of mental disabilities but it still has a long way to go. America deserves a pat on the back in this regards but can't stagnate and needs to push the boundries of research.

3. Inclusion is a great thing. If you own a business -- an incredible deed would be to hire someone with a disability. It's a large responsability but an even bigger deed to society in helping give someone a sense of purpose.

4. Mental disabilities are facinating -- they are so varied and complex. We have so much work to do -- even in terms of termonology to specify what we are really talking about. I believe we need some paridigmn shifts in how we think about autism.

5. People really desire access to medical information in developing countries -- a great service if someone can figure out how to provide it. For instance, facilitating discussions between these schools and schools in America -- these schools have a big desire for something like this.

6. I am going to miss these kids -- they are some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. XOXO

thousands of Chinese people reached and an incredibly humbling feeling gained for the amazing things that

Another great volunteer day. Reporters from XinJiang TV and the XinJiang evening news where there to report on it. We had over 100 people from the city sign our flag. We played all sorts of games with the 20 something kids that attend the school.

 

Trip Diary
Pre-trip
Stage 1: Shanghai - Nanjing (7/3 - 7/6)
Stage 2: Nanjing - Hefei (7/8 - 7/9)
Stage 3: Hefei - Xi'an (7/11 - 7/19)
Stage 4: Xi'an - Lanzhou (7/22 - 7/27)
Stage 5: Lanzhou - Jiayuguan (7/29 - 8/5)
Stage 6: Jiayuguan - Turpan (8/7 - 8/16)
Stage 7: Turpan - Urumqi (8/18 - 8/19)
Stage 8: Urumqi - Korgaz (8/22 - 8/28)

Date Title Location
Aug 23 Sweet Pain -- We Made It Korgaz
Aug 22 Uphill to Wind Lake Salima Hu
Aug 21 Biking The Prisoneer Highway Along the Red Pepper Mountains JingHe
Aug 20 Chinese Mothers TunHe
Aug 19 The Final Volunteer Day Urumqi
Aug 18 Urumqi, What a City Urumqi
Aug 17 The Last Day for Wen Ray and Fang Wen Guang Urumqi
Aug 16 Rugged Desert and The Police
Aug 15 The Second Lowest Place in the World Turpan
Aug 14 Toilet Paper vs. Prostitutes QiKeTai
Aug 13 Sunset is Nice, Biking in the Dark Isn't YiWanQuan
Aug 12 Meeting Our Match Hami
Aug 11 Dry to the bone Hami
Aug 11 Gobi Down Hami
Aug 10 Small Town China Small town on edge of desert
Aug 9 Chinese Customer Service (Negotations) Dunhuang
Aug 8 Let's Talk About The Roads Dunhuang
Aug 7 Kao, Kao, Kao Lamb's Barn
Aug 6 Sick Returns Yumen
Aug 5 Volunteer Day in Jiayuguan Jiayuguan
Aug 4 Being a Chinese Wingman Jiayuguan
Aug 3 The Desert Has Arrived QingShui
Aug 2 Talking Politics in China Zhengye
Aug 1 Biking the Great Wall Zhengye
Jul 31 Where's the Beef... No Lamb? Small Village
Jul 30 A Toilet Seat Would Be Nice WuWei
Jul 29 Being a Celebrity TienJou
Jul 29 The Faces We Pass TienJou
Jul 28 Volunteer Day in Lanzhou Lanzhou
Jul 27 I got a visa ;) Lanzhou
Jul 26 The Six Questions Lanzhou
Jul 25 Why Bike Across China? HuiNing
Jul 24 The Mountain Climbs Begin LongDe
Jul 23 The West Has Arrived YongChuang
Jul 22 Sick or Not the Kilometers Must Go On YongShou
Jul 22 Three Stages Down -- Five to Go YongShou
Jul 21 A Full Volunteer Day in Xi'an Xi'an
Jul 20 Leaving Relics at the Terracotta Warriors Xi'an
Jul 19 And I thought I was ok... Xian
Jul 17 Longest day ever TongGuang
Jul 16 No Hot Water Until 6pm Luoyang
Jul 15 Volunteer Day in ZhengZhou ZhengZhou
Jul 14 XuChang to ZhengZhou ZhengZhou
Jul 13 Zhumadian to XuChang XuChang
Jul 12 News Clip from Nanjing Newspaper Zhumadian
Jul 12 10 Days Down Zhumadian
Jul 11 Chinese law is not always written Xin Yang
Jul 10 Biking at Night Huang An
Jul 9 Easy Day to Lu'an Lu'an
Jul 8 Sad I Don't Have the Answer Hefei
Jul 7 The Chinese Countryside Quan Jiao
Jul 6 Teaching English in Nanjing Nanjing
Jul 5 Rain is a beautiful thing Nanjing
Jul 4 Happy Independence Day in China Changzhou
Jul 3 Hot, hot, hot in Suzhou Suzhou
Jul 2 Autism in Shanghai Shanghai
Jun 23 Autism In China -- An Amazing Day Beijing
Jun 18 Training -- Beijing to Baoding Baoding
   
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