across the language barrier 16 to 20-09-2014

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The Pamirs

After a surprisingly cold night we head out into the cold morning, past the fluttering flag of a political party and some goats, to the road. It takes us five rides to get to the southern Kyrgyz town of Osh. The guy who gives us the second one has picked me up before he says though I don’t recognize him. I feel guilty for having gotten so blaze that I can’t even remember somebody who I probably spend an hour or two with. I take a closer look into his eyes. I get a feeling that I’ve seen them before.

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Just after Kyrgyzstan’s border post

A few days later Andrea and I get to the border in an American truck, the contact details of an Arizonan company is still listed on the door. I can’t imagine how it got from a landlocked American state to a landlocked Central Asia country. Though I don’t know what’s more out of place, the truck or the two blue eyed blond Europeans riding along in it.

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The border village’s main street

Getting out of Kyrgyzstan presents no problem. Getting into China however is a bit of an undertaking. The Chinese border post runs on Beijing time. The nation’s capital is well over 6000 kilometers away, but its directives still overrule the local reality. We spend the night in a village on the border, dozens of residential buildings but most of them seem empty. I guess the the place can’t provide an income for enough people to populate them all. We get a room in a hotel, three bunk beds, some greasy blankets and pillows, an old TV, a DVD player and some karaoke DVDs. Andrea somehow manages to tell the guy who runs the place that she’s looking for a toilet, it takes us a while to figure out there is none, not even a hole in the ground. I guess calling the village a shit hole gets pretty close to a literate description, the streets double as toilets.

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The road to the main border post

At one point Bart, a cyclist from the east of the Netherlands on his way to Australia, joins us. We actually met at a police checkpoint earlier in the day. We are surprised he made it to the border, but he tells us that occasionally he manages to go 80 kilometers an hour going down Kyrgyzstan’s steep slopes. The border post sits in stark modern contrast to the village. Everything goes smooth, though we have to take a taxi to get to the first town after the border 140 or so kilometers away where we’ll be more thoroughly checked and get the all-important passport stamp. The interlaying area is no-man’s-land, and the soldiers won’t let us hitchhike our way across. Though hitchhiking lore does tell of how a guy who, after pitching his tent and refused to leave by any other way, was allowed to go. That just seems too much trouble, we submit to the soldiers orders

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A sign in Mandarin and Uyghur

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