June 23: 3 thousand miles is at least 1,000 too many. I retract my comments that I made about Chinese food, hotels and rapture. That was Beijing. People who think they know China after a visit to Beijing are like those who think they know the US after a visit to NY City. As we have driven west, the food and hotels, with very few exceptions have become worse and worse. China has a long way to go to bring this entire county up to any Western standard. From reading the IHT, I know they hope the high-speed train will connect East and West (of China), but not yet. Health and sanitation does not seem to be on the agenda yet, just energy, roads and infrastructure that impresses.
Wednesday, June 22, was a short day so we ate lunch at the hotel in Kuytun after we arrived. It is hard to know how old this food was, but the same buffet was available again at dinner and the next morning. Who knows if this was even the first day! I became nauseated after lunch. To make matters worse, the toilet in the first room we were offered wasn’t working.
The other good news is Stewball is running well and the G30 is smooth and flat. The Tien Shan Mountains are on our left and flat plains as far as we can see on the right. We only had one hour of unpaved, pot-holed roads, just at the time I was going to catch a nap in the backseat. That didn’t happen but the scenery was spectacular. We had Yurts, horses, camels and a beautiful lake that reminds me of Lake Baikal in Siberia, clear, cold and blue. At one point a horseback rider (Mongolian nomad?) rode along side of us, laughing and teasing us as he rode faster than we could drive! Too bad this road and bridge wasn’t finished and ready for us! Maybe for next years travelers.
Tomorrow is the border crossing, really two borders, first China, then 2km of neutral zone and then the Kazakhstan border. Of course each border requires different documentation. Cross your fingers that our paper work is in order, or we will get to experience Doug’s promised “opportunities for adventure”. We have learned only the driver of the car can cross with the car, Jan along with the other navigators will cross in a bus (make that bribe a driver with an already full bus to let them stand in the isle with our extra luggage for the 2 km trip). No one is allowed to walk this distance and NO photographs. Our support vehicles cannot cross (they are Chinese) and new vehicles and drivers will meet us on the Kazakhstan side.
All I can say, is, if you plan to drive China, be prepared for friendly people, a travel adventure and the lack of creature comfort as we know it. I am REALLY ready for a different country and I am not alone.