(China) To cross the desert in the winter is really cold!!!

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It was really hard to cycle in the middle of the winter. Sometimes I had to cycle in the snow. I was cycling around the desert area that the distance between cities was quite far. So I had to cycle until late sometimes to get to a hotel.

 

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I wore all the clothes I had when it got really cold.

 

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When I cycled in Finland in the winter, everywhere was covered by the snow. But I saw the desert more often than the snow in western north China. Sometimes the view was blocked by the strong sandstorm. There was nothing to do except keeping cycling to my destination.

 

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I couldn’t believe that I got the flat tire with my new Schwalbe tire!! I only used two weeks, but how come I had already a problem??? Schwalbe was the strongest tire that every traveler used it. This time I tried a different product. I used Schwalbe Marathon before and it was super strong. But this time I bought the different one, Schwalbe Mondial and I was having the problem already after two weeks. Usually, people got only one or two times flat tire when they used Schwalbe tire. I hoped it was really bad luck and it didn’t happen again for one year.

 

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I was heading to Dunhuang, a desert city. I thought if I cycled harder, I could arrive at Dunhuang in one day cause the road was flat. But there was strong wind and I got the flat tire. So I had to cycle until the late night. I was really hungry but it was a desert area that everything was far to reach. I had a very late dinner at a small restaurant.

 

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It was a new record. I cycled from 9 am to 2:30 am that I was on the road for over seventeen and a half hours. Then I made 216 km (134 mi). I thought this record would be never broken on my trip that it would remain as the longest distance in one day cause it was only possible in west China. There was the highway that I didn’t need to stop by a traffic light. Also, it was an empty area that there was no big city to stop or to tour.

To be honest, it was a useless record cause the next day I couldn’t do anything. I was too tired to go out. When I spent too much energy for a long distance like 17 hours cycling, I couldn’t’ sleep deeply and at the next day, I cannot do really much thing cause I got too exhausted. So actually if I cycled this distance in two days, it would be better. haha.

 

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After having enough rest day, I had an amazing desert tour.

 

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I really loved the desert so much. Desert was my favorite scenery in nature.

 

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At the one side of the desert, I could see Crescent Moon Pool. It was quite interesting to see the temple in the desert.

 

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Mogao Caves was a very important place to visit. It was really different from the cave around Turpan that it was 100 times more impressing. Mogao Caves was a bit far from the city that I took the bus. There were only a few times a day for the tour that I had to check the time before going there.
When we started having the tour, we watched 3D first to understand the history. 3D Movie was very detailed that I felt like I was in the cave. So I took the picture cause I knew I couldn’t take the picture in the cave.

 

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The cave was really dark and I must need a guide. I was the only foreigner that I had my own guide. My guide told me she could speak Korean. But it was quite difficult to understand. I was wondering if I have a guide speaking English, it would be better.

The guide had a lantern to point to the wall and she explained many things about the cave and Buddhism. I had seen only Christianity and Islam for a long time on my trip. So it was really interesting to see different religion.

 

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The entrance of the main building was a bit far from the cave that we had to take the tour bus to get there together.

 

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This food was really spicy that my stomach was too sore.

 

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This was typical Dunhuang food. It was donkey meat. The taste was good and I didn’t feel any weird thing from the meat.

 

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On the way to get out of Dunhuang, I couldn’t believe that I had a flat tire again. French cyclist I had met in Turpan told me he had a problem with Schwalbe Mondial as well. Some traveler told me he didn’t have the problem with this tire. I felt like this product was really not good cause Schwalbe was selling faulty one and good one mixed together.

Later I sent the company email to ask a new one cause I got a faulty one. But they just ignored me that I didn’t get any answer back. I was very disappointed by this German Schwalbe company.

 

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After Dunhuang, there was a really interesting lake that I was wondering how this kind of ice was made.

 

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Sometimes I slept at a gas station cause the next city was too far. The place where I pitch my tent was a resting area. But the staff turned off the light in the night so it was kind of my own place.

 

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I got scared when there was the sandstorm. My worry was if cars couldn’t see me, they just could hit me. Also to have the balance with the strong wind was difficult.

 

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Although I was in a remote area, I kept connecting to the world. There was a big news that Korean National Assembly approved the presidential impeachment motion. I was so happy that finally, we won against the wrong thing. When she became a president four years ago, I cried so hard since I knew she was a very wrong corrupted person. I was more upset that how come people voted for her. Now many Korean people knew she was not a good person
Many times things happened with the reason to teach us. Park, the ex-president, opened many people’s eye that people had learned they always had to watch politicians and choose the right person.

Democracy never came for free. So many young Korean people died and missed from 40’s to 80’s after fighting against the dictatorship. Also, more than 2 million people stood on the street to impeach Park. Although South Korea still has so many corruption’s problems, S.Korea is the most democratic country in the whole of Asia. Big respect for the people who always fight to bring the freedom and justice. They were my big inspiration.

 

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After watching the amazing news, I kept cycling. But I was really hungry that I wanted to eat warm food. I couldn’t find any restaurant. Then I opened my magic food. I found it in a grocery shop. Someone would complain that it had too many plastics. But I was really starving and I did want to have warm food. This was a huge gift for me.

There was transparent water and I poured this into some product inside. Then suddenly it made heat. So I could eat warm food.

 

(I made the video of how to eat.)

 

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In China, it was not possible to use Google map. I had to turn on VPN to use google map. VPN is the program to change IP address. It was very uncomfortable to use it. Maps.me, offline map app, was not accurate.

The map showed I could go into the city with this road. But the reality was just like the picture that it was blocked. I didn’t want to cycle in the night that I just lift all my bags and bicycle to go over.

I used Baidu map in China. Baidu was like Google in China and they had so many services. Actually, when I tried to use Baidu map for the first time, I gave up because I couldn’t understand Chinese characters well and there was no English menu. Then I found Google map and Maps.me were too bad to use. Then I installed it again and tried to use a few times. At some point, I realized I didn’t need to understand any letter there cause map didn’t need many functions. It was just about touching a few different things on the screen to find a route or hotel.

 

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It was really freezing cold that the lake in the city was frozen.

 

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But my passion about crossing China couldn’t get frozen that I kept cycling.

 

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I cycled really hard in this cold winter in the desert area.

 

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I had visited the end of the Great Wall of China.

 

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This was a very unique thing in the park in China. They wrote with the water and it was gone quickly.

 

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Later I visited so beautiful place. It was called Rainbow mountains in Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park. It was 35 km (21 mi) far from the city. I cycled to go there cause the bus looked complicating. I had to cycle 35 km (21 mi) to come back to the city as well. So it was quite a long distance.
Around the sunset, it made the Rainbow Mountains more beautiful. But I would be honest that I added more color on my camera and editing program because to take the picture was the art to me. I liked to emphasize some color to express the most important thing on that moment. For example, I made redder when I took the picture of sunset or sunrise. To take the picture is a similar thing as to paint. To put more color at the thing I like is just skill of the art. Although I added more color, this place itself was beautiful still that it was really worth to cycle a long distance in this cold weather.

 

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After the sunset, the color became a bit darker. To drive a personal car or ride a bicycle were forbidden that I had my own driver which was included at the ticket price and he dropped me at the important place.

 

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It was one of the most impressing places I’ve visited in China.

 

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After touring, my cold cycling started again. -9.1 (15.62f)!!!! It was really freezing!! I used my thermos very well which I bought in Urumqi last month.

 

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When there was a strong wind, I felt colder.

 

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I was really hungry but I couldn’t find a restaurant. I must stop to give some food on my belly.

 

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But first, this mask was really uncomfortable.

 

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There were a few challenges at cycling in the winter. The first thing was my fingers and toes were frozen all the time. The second thing was to keep the heat on my body. The third thing would be a running nose all day!!!!!!!! Seriously my nose was running for like 10 hours to 12 hours when I cycled. I couldn’t blow my nose every 10 minutes while pedaling. I didn’t want to eat my nose. So it was a really annoying uncomfortable thing. Sometimes I had a headache after too much a running nose.

 

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I had a tea to melt this coldness. Having snack and tea, I kept one side of glove between a leg so that I could keep the heat when I wore again.

 

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Late afternoon, I found a very small restaurant running by a family.

 

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Before sitting on a chair, I must put my wet mask, gloves, and others on the heater. One hard thing to cycle in the winter was everything getting wet. Whenever I got the chance to have a heater, I must dry my wet clothes.
I was really hungry that I was so happy to get some food. As soon as I tasted, I was very disappointed that it was lamb meat. I was sensitive at the smell that I really didn’t like the meat of goat or sheep. I had the meat of goat and sheep quite often in Central Asia. So, when I came to China, I was happy to run away from lamb meat. But soon I realized I still had to eat lamb cause someplace was Muslim area in west China. I just tried to breathe with the only mouth to avoid the smell.

 

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Sometimes a small village had a beautiful scenery.

 

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Mostly it was semi-desert and lonely road though.

 

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I really liked Chinese foods. Definitely, the best food is Korean food for me cause I am Korean. Except Korean food, I felt that Chinese foods are the best in the world. Their foods were quite different from Korea that it was really interesting to try.
But this best food was sold in uncomfortable places so many times. Chinese restaurant was very chaotic for me. People made a huge sound when they ate cause they didn’t close their mouth. Also, they kept spitting. And they smoked at the inside of the restaurant. They had a strong accent that it was very loud when they talked. People threw garbage on the table and on the floor that everywhere there was garbage in the restaurant. And all those things were mixed always in one place. It really happened at one time together people smoking, spitting, throwing garbage everywhere, making big noise for eating, speaking loud, ….Sometimes I felt too chaotic to eat at the restaurant that I asked to take away to eat in the hotel room. But it was not possible to run away from the sound of spitting. People spit endlessly that even I heard at the hotel room while eating.

When I was in Latin America, I had to hear boys making a kissing sound at me all the time. In China, I had to hear spitting sound all the time. The difference was Chinese spit just for themselves, not at me.

One time in the hostel, I saw a young Korean traveler eating with making a big sound. And I was thinking Korean would be similar to Chinese. I was sure I made a big sound during eating when I was in Korea. But I had learned at some point that to make a noise during eating was not the good manner in many countries. So I tried to eat quietly. Then now the sound people making during eating was bothering me. Weird..

 

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When I was worried about where to sleep, I found this hotel in a very small village. The toilet was outside but it was a quite warm place to sleep.

 

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Chinese Nomad wore a green long coat and it looked very cool(I mean awesome).

 

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Sometimes I paid like $15 for a good hotel. But if I couldn’t reach to the hotel, I used to sleep around the gas station. It was a small gas station in a village. I asked to pitch my tent around the gas station. They told me it was so cold that I should sleep on the inside.
Although China had a big population, I had felt it was empty cause the density was not that high. Many times I felt like I was passing a ghost town cause they closed shops so early like 9 or 10 pm. It was Christmas Eve but all the restaurant was already closed that I bought my dinner from a grocery shop. Yes, this was my Christmas Eve Dinner.

 

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And this was my Christmas Eve free hotel. I could sleep at the next heater that it was a quite good place.

 

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At Christmas day, I was cycling to the east. China was Buddhist country that they didn’t care about Christmas, which was good for me who was staying alone that I didn’t need to feel lonely. When I bought some emergency foods at the gas station, they gave me an apple. I heard they usually gave an apple as Christmas gift. But I didn’t know I would get it. So it was a surprising gift to me.

 

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I hoped everybody had A Merry Christmas.

 

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This was quite interesting!

 

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There were many minorities in China. So, I could see suddenly different hat or clothes.

 

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A farmer was preparing the winter.

 

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I got always scared when I saw a car accident. I wished nothing happened to me when I saw this kind of thing. But my wish didn’t last long.

 

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There were many trucks and they dropped sands. And the edge of the road became muddy. I had to cycle on this black side cause I couldn’t cycle in the middle of the road. At some point, suddenly the road became like the ice that it was too slippery because trucks kept moving and pressuring the side road and it made the road very slippery like the ice. I couldn’t control the balance that I was hitting the road too strongly. I couldn’t stand up although my bicycle and bags were in the middle of the road. If there was a car moving very fast just behind me, I could be hit, which would be always the worst thing. But there was no any car that I was fine. But it was too painful that I couldn’t feel anything on my knees that I just lay down on the road. Other cars went over me slowly. Then local people came and collected all my things to the side of the road and helped me to move to the side. After 10 minutes, I could feel my knee. Then the people from the garage call me to wash with hot water at their place cause my clothes became very dirty from the mud.
From central China, there was always dust on the road and I used to see this kind of mud road sometimes, which made me too scared.

 

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After the big accident, I started cycling again. Yes, it was really painful. But this was my life on the road. I was sick, but I had to keep moving because I didn’t have any home near.
I really wanted to get to Xian on that day. I went to the highway because it looked like there was no such a small road. But at the tollgate, they didn’t let me go. Always small roads were more dangerous, but they didn’t agree. So I had to go around and went to up this one mountain

 

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Then I saw this. I really wanted to send this picture to people who said I couldn’t go to the highway. LOOK!!!!! IT WAS BLOCKED!
In Xinjiang, west China, it was no problem to cycle in the highway. There was no even small road.
But since I moved to another province, I was denied to enter the highway. Sometimes it was okay though. Sometimes I just sneaked in. Sometimes the police officer stopped me and I kept saying I wanted to cycle here cause there was no such a small road. Then later they gave up and I kept moving on. But this time, no luck.

 

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I found the way to pass and then it was very steep downhill. I was really worried about what to do if this road was not connected to another road. Luckily later I found a small road at the end of this dirt road.

It was already getting dark that I gave up to get to Xian. My goal was to arrive in Xian on 30th of December and made friends in the hostel to have a new year party on the 31st of Dec. But now I couldn’t follow my plan.

 

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At the next day, I arrived in Xian. It was one of the biggest city. The city was really famous for Terracotta Army.

 

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It was the 31st of December. I was not sure I could find any friend to spend the new year together. Um.. I really didn’t want to be alone on the last day and new day of the year….. Let’s see whom I can meet at the hostel.

1 Comment
  1. Nice to see you back in a big city again with lots of people. Some of us are worried you have been chatting too much with strange camels in the deserts of Western China.

    Fantastic pictures, videos and writing as always.

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