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Current Locaton : Rawalpindi, Pakistan (Google map)
Last entry date : 23 June 2008

A water crossing on route 218

31/May/08 to 01/Jun/08

My mini ordeal with the chinese customs is over. I soon began to notice that the towns like Korgas and Yinning appears to be huge in size and densely populated when compared to the cities of Central Asia. There are 3 main races living side by side here – the majority Urghur people (of muslim religion with origins from Central Asia), the Hue minority (chinese origin of muslim religion) and the Han chinese. The Urghur people makes me laugh the way they sing the Mandarin language and speaking aloud from one end to another. The good news was that I’ve just savoured Chinese food after 7 weeks on the road.

China has “released” my horse and we can now continue our journey. Its like … feeling free again. Well, almost. According to the papers drawn up and approved by the police, I still need to follow the route which my agent submitted at time of application a few months earlier ie from border city of Korgas to Urumqi, Korla, Kuqa, Kashgar and exit via Tashkorgan to Pakistan – a total of about 2000km distance.

On the map, the Xinjiang route 218 that cut across the Tian Shan mountains looked like a shortcut that I could take to make up for the lost 3 days days. Other roads (the North / South) on the Tian Shan mountains have been closed due to mudslides, etc. The manager of my hotel in Yinning said if the police do stop me and asked questions, just don’t speak in Mandarin, only in French or English and they would not know what to do except let me off. But he did say the Xinjiang route 218 is a difficult road. That I should make the night at Nalati, a mountain resort town, and continue early the next day. From Nalati it’s a 280km dirt road over the mountains, with some rough sections, some parts perhaps closed for construction and there is no petrol station on a 180km stretch up in the mountain desert plateau. He added “No problem for 4x4s so passable on a bike”. Passable on a bike, what does he mean ?? The Xinjiang 218 still looked very attractive on the map so I headed off towards Nalati after the inauguration ceremony at the hotel that early Saturday afternoon. I remembered it was a happy 300km ride. Clear mind and clear skies.

The next morning, I was surprised that my Nalati’s hotel manager gave me a big picnic bag before departure. There was enough food inside for 2 days. She even gave me her mobile phone number and said to call her once I arrived at Balantay. That really got me worried when I set off that morning. Is it really true a main road 280km on an official map across Xinjiang is only a dirt trail section ??

The route started off well. The trail sections started 30 minutes later after passing through  a couple of villages and from there it got from bad to worst. I was taking in the stones, mud and especially the dust. It was a bumpy ride. Many sections had the earth tracks sunk in deeply by the passage of heavy vehicules. With my bike load I could hardly do more than 40km/hr as the dirt tracks continued into the mountains. Along the way, I met some construction workers, truck & 4x4s drivers who all looked at me with amazement as I drove by. The wild scenery was beautiful and I was alone on this road for most of the day as I drive through streams & mud and climb my way up to the snow peaked mountains of Tian Shan.

I saw a number of 4×4 vehicules, but only 2 cars on this road that day. One car decided it was too dangerous to continue further when it came upon a temporary road section where there was knee high melting snow water rushing through. It decided to turn back although doing so would mean a 1000km detour via the capital city of Urumqi and another 3 to 4 days to get to Balantay. The driver advised me to follow him back as he said the current was too strong. When two 4x4s came up behind me at this crossing, I gathered enough courage, sat on the bike and ram the bike safely through to the other side. My boots were filled with water !! Wow !!

Once up in the snow peak mountains, the land is flat for more than 100km on a desertic like mountain plateau – this road I’m told has been under construction since a few years. Its calm, cold and even hot in some areas. There were some nomads with their herds of horses, cows and yaks up there. Some of the scenery were incredibly beautiful up there. I finally reached the town Balantay around 1930hrs that evening and took up the first hotel I found. It was a Chinese style hotel and I was unaware it had a disgusting shared open toilets at the other end.

Now I understood why my Nalati’s hotel manager gave me that big picnic bag to bring along and why even the Chinese themselves do not travel on this route 218 over the last 3 to 4 years. I was physically exhausted that day but was definitely crushed at the end by the Chinese style shared open toilet. The shock encounter of the latter will probably outlast the memory of the various difficulties met during the long hard day on route 218. Sh*t.

17 Responses to « China (part 2) – Taking on the Xinjiang route 218 across Tian Shan mountains  »

  1. so you finally saw what old chinese toilet looks like!!! so funny!do you remember how I felt outside beijing?;)love, Lydia

  2. Hi Sheen,

    i’m very happy to see that you succesfully crossed this area, i remember this road 218 was a long and hard ride… and Balguntay at the end was like a dream you tought you’ll never reach !

    Ride safe

  3. Hi Sheen,

    Very impressive up to this stage ….. keep it up especially with your write-up!


  4. Je suis fiere de mon papa! t’es vraiment courageux et tu reussis a merveille ce que tu entreprends! Bravo!

  5. Siew Hoon & Victoria24 June 2008 à 8:48 pm

    Hi- Sheen,
    Interesting update,beautiful photos. Glad that you were able to enjoy such beautiful scenery. Take care.

  6. Hi Sheen,

    Nancy just told me about an article on The Star Metro today …..


    Check this out …. all of you out there!

    Take Care


  7. Hi Sheen,

    I wish I had your guts. It must have been a bit unpleasant for you but you tackled it well. Like they say, no pain no gain. Wishing you luck and hope to see you soon.


  8. I come across your blog after reading about it in the Star Metro. It’s interesting to see how you travel and get your way back to Malaysia.

    I pray that you will have a safe journey back and enjoy your trip as well.

    the route that you take with your bike across some of the regions, reminds me of the time when I travel to the interior to meet with the Orang Asli too.

  9. Hi Sheen,

    Awesome, mate.

    Your adventure has made it to one of Malaysia local newspapers. Well done, buddy.

    Stay save, mate. You’re nearly there.


  10. lydia and the kids26 June 2008 à 6:06 am

    so proud of what you have done so far! we are thinking of you everyday. take care and drive safely. Lydia and the kids

  11. Hi Sheen,

    Check this out!….. you are listed on the SPOTLIGHT of The Star today.



  12. Yes, Your picture is in the The Star newspaper Central Metro section today.
    mann….so very excited and showed to my collegues…
    have fun…..

  13. Kenny and Cecilia26 June 2008 à 8:07 am

    Sheen your adventure is now getting even more highlighted – even SPOTLIGHTed online – and even more people are picking up on the Inspiring,wonderful,colorful,exciting,at times humorous,friendly,for charity,informative,safe journey.We are really proud of you and are looking forward to your arrival in Segamat.Well done and keep safe,God Bless.

  14. Hi Sheen,

    So excited about you and where you are now and you are ok. I’m showing your pics and news to my friends here in Melbourne. We’re cheering for you. Well done. lucille

  15. Hi Sheen,

    Glad that more people are able to enjoy your adventure via your website, now that it is in the Starmetro today. Alex, Amber, Ruby and myself are very proud of you. So stay safe and we will be praying for your safe journey to Malaysia.

  16. Siew Hoon & Victoria26 June 2008 à 2:29 pm

    Hi- Sheen,
    Hope you are keeping well. Read your interesting interview with The Star Online. (Heard from Peter & Kenny. Thanks,guys.) You are doing so well with your journey, and I am also proud that you are thinking of the needy – children and the old people at The Good Sheperd Welfare Home in Segamat. Take care where ever you are. God Bless.

  17. Hi Sheen Amazing pictures I take my hat off to you, Logging into your site takes me off the old Serpentina for awhile great stuff.

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