In Urumqi

2009/04/24-29:
We have spent nearly a week here. This is only partly by choice, because getting visas for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan takes that long. Each consulate takes your passport away so the applications cannot be made at the same time. Tomorrow afternoon we finish that process by collecting the Kyrgyzstan visa. At the Kazakh consulate, there was a bit of a scrum with the many Chinese Kazakhs who want to visit family. No scrum at the Kyrgyz consulate, but we had to pay double price to get our visas done before their May 1-5 holiday closure.

Meanwhile my bottom problems have gone away by a combination of rest and a course of antibiotics. I have purchased a new bike saddle to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Bikes have been cleaned, clothes washed, correspondence caught up with, and much rest has been taken. Our room overlooks the local elementary school playground and the last two days we have been entertained by “sports day”. Yesterday was mainly group dancing and gymnastics. Today is individual races. We were interested that the school is responding to the articulated skate board craze, and skate board races are held as part of sports day. We wonder what tomorrow has in store.

Today we went to the Xinjiang museum. Situated in an impressive modern building, it has an extensive display of local minorities’ dress and artifacts, along with a display of mummies discovered locally in the 1980’s. The mummies show Europoids (Caucasians) were here over 10,000 years ago. The diversity of local minorities is mainly due to the fact that the Silk Road passed through here, hence the display was a useful introduction to the cultures we will pass through in the coming months: Kazakh, Russian, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Uzbek, Iranian, among others.

Very loud music is played by the Kazakh restaurant/noodle shop below our hostel. There is a bit of a gathering of cyclists here. In addition to Carsten (now travelled onward) and Leon, we have met Ruben and Anna. They are Catalonians from the Pyrennees, who have been travelling for 8 months. Their blog has beautiful photography and is worth a look even if you cannot read Catalan.

C

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