23. July (day 1.)
Arrived 10 hours delayed in Beijing, because I had to fly over Paris instead of Frankfurt, due to a delay in the domestic flight in Denmark. Result: There were none to pick me up at the Airport and to make things better - my gear was left back in Paris by Air France. I fortunately had Siegfrieds private address and the address of his working place - the Belgium embassy. But I couldn't find his apartment despite intense search in the diplomatic quarter in central Beijing. Really friendly Canadian diplomats tried to help me, preventing me from panic, but nor could they find it. We gave up and they let me sleep in their giant apartment.
24. July (day 2.)
I went strait to the Belgium Embassy and meet Siegfried after one hour of waiting in his office. He was quite busy, making everything ready for his assistants before departure next day. His Chinese friend took me to the apartment, where Stijn and Peter were sleeping after a long flight. We went together to an outdoor store after changing money for buying the last necessary things. Peter and I later rushed to the airport to pick up Jim and my gear, which the staff the day before promised me would be there. My things had to my big relief arrived and the bike was in one piece. Jim was delayed, and hours were killed on plastic chairs in the small airport.
25. July (day 3.)
The jetlag in our bodies made the 6.00 wakeup felling torturous, but we had to rush to the Beijing airport to catch our morning flight. The landscape next to the Airport highway was covered by big billboards commercials for .cn websites. The thin foundation of those, somehow expressed the weakness of all so-called new economy firms - firms predicted to die like flies. The speed the taxies were going with on the highway matched the life of the firms - fast, and highly risky lives. Our volumes luggage attracted attention, not only from the other passenger, but also of more expensive character, when the officials began their counting weight. We landed in Urumqi a few hours later, the capital of the autonomous province, Xinjiang. A representative for a local firm took us to the administrative center for the firm, there the nice boss invited us out for dinner at a local Uyghur restaurant.
Three of us rented a room at the Airport hotel, after major language difficulties, while Sieg and Stijn joint the Uigur for a city walk. We were disturbed by the staff while sleeping, and they tried with body language to tell us something important. I couldn't understand her, but several visits to the airport itself revealed that they couldn't understand why someone had not picked up his hand Luggage. This guy was Stijn. Again our gear attracted the attention of the staff. Again money for overweight, despite Sieg's assurances of being able to handle the staff. The flight to Kashgar went smooth and we soon drove in taxi convoy to Besham Hotel late in the night - this the old Russian embassy was a place with the usual overpriced souvenir counters, but different by its Uighur stile.
26. July (day 4.)
We needed about 7 days of food for base camp and we only avoided being ripped off because of Sieg being able to speak Chinese. The Kashgar market is the core point on the Silk Road and every imaginable things have been traded here for centuries. The atmosphere is dense with the smell of horses, goats, mules, and the like. We left the market satisfied with our deals and took a 5 yuan taxi to the Chinese state owned travel agency, CAAC, where Jim and Sieg bought their flight tickets back to Beijing. The info about 40 % student discount I had been told turned out wrong, but I wanted to try another place in order to be sure. We met the guy who I talked with after I bicycled the Karakoram Highway, at Kashgar Mountaineering Association. This powerful build man was just as friendly as last year and offered to sell us gas bottles, but not cheap at 12 $ for 400 ml. We canceled our plans about hiring a private minibus to Subashi, when Keyoum offered us the same for about the same as we expected to pay to a private person (about 950 yuan each way). I went to one of the many email places late in the day, and used some hours in modern surroundings, before back to basis on Mustagh Ata. Later I joined Luc and Stijn for a beer at John's cafe next to our hotel.
27. July (day 5.) I was really in a hurry that morning. The others were going to leave at noon, while I insisted on my mad plan to bike to Base camp some 240 km from Kashgar. Somehow I felt this was the only ethical right way to make the record and I would for sure thereby also set an unofficial record in biggest difference ever cycled. Now reality moved in. Nothing had been packed and I began to organize something out the mess while Sieg still slept, but barely reached anything before the others were about to leave for breakfast at the Oasis cafe. They had already loaded our blue truck with their gear and were now only waiting the landcruiser to arrive. I joined them down to the bank of China where I only could draw 2000 yuan from my account, which according to a guide I later meet was a common problem in China, due to the backward computer systems. That didn't help me and I had to lend money from Sieg. I hardly registered their departure, before I was alone. I buy my return ticket for Beijing, and I "just" need to assemble my bike, which I completely disassembled before going to China. It takes me three loooong frustrating hours, and means I left very late in the afternoon. If I just had known what I was about to go through!!