Korla is attributed little touristy meaning, what could have been the reason why we had such big problems finding a hotel room. The majority of the cheaper hotels are not equipped to accommodate foreigners, i.e. they do not have a scanner to scan the passports that can be reported and thus of course no licence to accommodate us. But fortunately there is always something – a little bit outside of the city center but since it was already dark for some time we were glad – you have to stay somewhere anyway!
Korla, located between the Tianshan Mountains and the Taklamakan desert, one can describe it without false modesty as the “Dallas” (well, who remembers the series?) of China. This village was a few years ago just a couple of ramshackle mud huts, but nowadays the center is dominated by skyscrapers and exquisite hotels, western oil companies, as well as the above-average wealth speaks for itself.
The days spun away, not only because of the locals. You do not see tourists here often and so there were mainly Uyghur residents here in the western province of China, Xinjiang – their hospitality made our stay in Korla to a special experience. On our second visit to the night market we were greeted like old friends and the internet cafe staff was pleased with us every day! Finally, after a short trip west, we took the bus back to Ürümqi passing by Turpan, the second-lowest point on earth, and quartered us for the last few days in the Silver Birches youth hostel before flying back home, where we met again some other cyclists.
After a week in Ürümqi the time had come: the Kazakh Air Astana flew us with stopover in Astana to Frankfurt. In Astana, since 1997 capital of Kazakhstan, transit passengers from China to Europe apparently tend to be exotics, or how else can one explain that we were taken only on demand and some back and forth in the waiting room for our connecting flight in the transit area? In addition, the Kazakh customs suspected in our exceptional cases (where the bikes were in) huge TVs – but who’s to blame them – since we came from China! After some time, when we were just waiting, quite suddenly two uniformed officers approached us. If we were the two Germans, one would have proclaimed us. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the loudspeaker announcements – first Kazakh, then English, much too quiet – therefore, the officers had personally come to us. With the help of a German-speaking Kazakh and one sentence (“No, these are bikes”) the problem was already off the table.
Once in Germany we were overwhelmed by the green – so much lush green if you are coming from one of the driest areas in the world – quite a shock, but a very nice one! In the past year we’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot and enjoyed being on the road. But for now it is over and we are looking forward to old friends, new challenges, not at last to have a home again!