Luckily, I seemed to remember that customs were in Ulugqat. I wasn’t sure, though, so we started our cycling day as usual. We found the customs building almost once we’d left the town… and we were lucky. It wasn’t easy to find.
The thing is this is the place were they put a stamp on your passport when you leave the country. Yes, again, 140 kilometers away from the real border. Which means if you don’t stop here and cycle all the way to the border, you might need to go all the way back. If you want to do that, go ahead; if you don’t, you’ve been warned!
This time we decided NOT to cycle all the way to the border only to come back. It seemed like a long distance through a desert, and we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to find food/water along the way. So we went through customs, where they told us we needed a taxi in order to get the stamp: it’s not allowed to cycle between Ulugqat and the border.
When we tried to get the stamp and continue cycling, every excuse they gave us was quite lame (it’s for our safety, you’ll go through the motorway and bikes can’t do that -we had on previous day and there was no problem, even police waved us goodbye-, and some other bad ones), and we tried to answer every single one. So finally they came up with “either you get a taxi or I don’t give you the stamp”. And that’s what we did. 400 yuan for a taxi to the border (there was 4 of us altogether so that made it 100 each. Bikes were free).
No, we didn’t pay any bike-tax when entering nor when leaving the country as we had heard we might have to.
The road to the border was VERY nice. Hard to cycle, but spectacular. Snowed peaks show up little by little amongst desert mountains with unbelieveable shapes. Camels can found in the middle of the road. Wild rivers here and there. But it’s a desert, so be careful. Only one remarkable town also, at km 100 aprox.
And then the border. Leaving China was easy (no extra baggage check!! And we were allowed to skip the neverending truck queu), and getting into Kyrgyzstan was even easier (almost no check at all). Still, you must cycle those 4 km between them. By the way, we changed our yuans on the chinese side, in a small shop. It was a good decission, since the Kyrgyzs side was a little bit… well, poorer is the only soft word I can find.
And then cycling again. In Kyrgyzstan for the first time. And everything was different.
First thing: the scenary turns greener. That’s a good sign.
Second sign: forget about soft slopes. In this country the road goes up and then down, no matter how hard up or down it must go.
The first little mountain was just a warning. The second one was a killer. It felt really hard. You’ll find signs saying 8% of slope, even if it can vary from 5% to 10% easily. It seems as if there was an offer of signs saying 8%, so you’ll find them in lots of places around the country (no other number than 8).
If you manage to cope with all of this, you’ll find some of the best views of this world. Snow-covered mountain ranges and green flat valleys, filled up with ancient-living gurtas. Honestly, it won’t dissapoint you.
Just for this, it was worth coming to Kyrgyzstan!