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UPDATED October 13, 2008

BY Brian Hoeniger

IN Silk Route

no comments

UPDATED October 13, 2008

BY Brian Hoeniger

IN Silk Route

no comments

A very windy cycling day- 138 km of misery

I glanced up just long enough to vaguely appreciate the view of purple mountains on my left – but they did little to lift my spirit, as my every fiber was engaged in battling a fierce, gusty head wind which also rammed in brutally from the side from time to time. Slip streaming was out of the question as we were all unable to keep our bikes heading in a straight line and we often came close to disappearing down the steep road embankment.

The passing trucks added to the anxiety. The wind currents they created sucked and buffeted us, occasionally pulling riders in so close to the wheels that collision seemed inevitable. Thankfully, this never happened but the feeling of being slammed at random by an unpredictable, invisible force was scary.

My average speed dropped to 8 km per hour. The sky darkened and the temperature started to plummet. Knut stopped suddenly in front of me. “Enough” he said and disappeared over the embankment for a short sleep out of the wind. I marveled at his magical ability to do this.

I sat on the tarmac and glanced at the straight, slightly uphill road ahead. Was I seeing things? There advancing towards me was a distinctly Western looking character pulling a hand cart. When one meets any non Chinese in these parts, it is a happening – and this guy Chris was indeed an unusual one. He explained that he had been studying photography in Beijing for 2 years, and on completion of his course – he decided to walk home and take photos along the way. The catch was he lived in Germany and his journey home would take 3 years! We chatted, exchanged travel stories and bade each other farewell. I amazed at how normal he looked as he jauntily headed off into the distance.

This encounter was the turning point for me. Every inch I was now riding – he had walked.

The campsite was approaching as my hands and feet were losing all feeling. But not before I spied another anomaly to make me smile. For reasons unknown, the road builders of this desert highway decided to erect a series of life size animals along the way. Initially, I thought they were animals of the area – camels, bulls, but then the giraffe and kangaroos appeared. They are all painted a startling white by the road line painters- and the final specimen to make my day was a dinosaur!

Perhaps the wind is always such an evil force to contend with along this stretch of road that these bizarre animals ensure that no-one suffers a sense of humour failure!

Camping that night was yet another ordeal as the wind never abated. The racket of flapping fly sheets was thunderous – and caused Mike to comment that he felt like he was trying to sleep in a subway tunnel.

Dawn broke weakly. We crawled out of our tents. The wind was still pumping. And we still had 4 more days of 140 km each day. Would we survive?

Joan Louwrens

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