Chinese bureaucratic nightmare

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i pedaled past miles of trucks waiting to go through the border patrol.

There is little left for me to do but circle around to the western side Qinghai and hope to cross into Sichuan through the mountains. The entire southern half of Qinghai is close to foreigners. I pedaled a long 60 km into the wind to find a huge border patrol forcing me to return. I asked to speak with the superior officer and found myself in a room with several Tibetan monks sitting on the dirty floor. The superior told me the monks did not have proper identification and had been held in custody for 2 days.

Qinghai-Adventure-Routes-Map

I was headed south from Golmud and planned to take side roads to Yushu. I am now headed east of Golmud and hope to cross near the yellow river.

I begged the officers to let me through as this was the only southern road to Sichuan. But was repeatedly told that the road also went to Tibet and in order for me to move forward I had to have a permit! Imagine being in California and being unable to visit San Diego because the same road that took you there continued on to Mexico!

After rejoicing the end of my hardships, I am back into the cold windy desert. I will try again to find a southern passage to Sichuan. If I fail I am not sure what to do.

The Horizon is a Mirage

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The sky, once blue is now covered in dust. At night I faintly see the moon, a few nearby planets, and the lights of a nearby quarry. It is in these long stretches that I begin to break down. Days of pedaling into a dry mundane desert landscape, with strong gusty winds pushing me across the narrow road. My physical strength wavering brings anxiety, doubt and fear.

17_Qinghai map

My location is very near Youshashan, in the northwest of the province. I am headed south east to Golmud.

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Small roadside village, Qinghai

In the six days of Xinjiang desert I experienced a wind like no other country. Relentless, dry and full of sand. Sometimes I would stop and cover my face, for what seemed like several minutes while a blinding sand storm passed. Within a few kilometers my teeth, nose, ears and face are covered, and breast pocket begins to fill. A night my sleeping bag feels like a sand box.

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Some friendly Chinese employees working at a remote power station, they served me breakfast and gave me a few packets of tea.

My mood suddenly changed as I got within 100 km of the Xinjiang/Qinghai border. The forever flat desert gave way to steep dry mountains and I began to climb into a fresh cool atmosphere. The wind stayed strong but was no longer filled with dust. Trucks constantly passed and the roadsides were piled high with trash, and un-recycled junk. I stopped at a small roadhouse and watched the few Chinese travels toss their litter into the desert wind.
The air slowly got thin and cold as I climbed to 9,000 feet. I smelled the air for the cargo of the trucks passing; coal, oil, and sometimes hay. Other rather scentless ones carried wire, plastic pipes, and really smelly live stock. On one occasion I was passed by a truck carrying a load of large pigs, as it passed I was sprayed with water but as I looked over I noticed it was a large pig peeing off the side.

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High desert camping, temperatures dropped well below freezing and I awoke to a frosted landscape.

The few people I encounter are friendly and courteous. Being stereotypical one would expect to find weird, socially strange people operating small business in the extreme remote but in China they seem completely normal and treat me with respect and trust.

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Roadside military, my passport and visa would randomly to checked in the most remote locations.   

The remote landscape once a refuge has begun to frighten me. A few sections of my route took me through single-lane roads covered in sand. With no traffic I felt that if I stopped pedaling I may never be found. I push on, I am 450 km from the city of Golmud, if all goes well I should be there in 4 days. There are police check points everywhere and I constantly give false information as to my destination (which is extremely close to the Tibetan border and may potentially be forbidden to foreigners without a permit).