En route letters
The legendary team of Avalon HGS has passed the Kazakhstan-Chinese border and is now eating and drinking to its full in the renowned city of Urumqi. Joint knowledge of the Kazakh-Chinese-Uighur-Russian-English languages provides us with food and roof over our heads. We are keeping to a special diet (eat lagman only with shashlik and drink only pine-apple beer). The iron horses are ready to take off but are still grazing at the carpeted cover in the hotel room. We enjoy rare encounters with Russians and other non-Chinese-speaking people (five at all). The climate here is similar to that in Karaganda. We have no opportunity to send our happy mugs yet (let down by the technique here). Love, kisses, handshakes, hugs, nips to different parts of your bodies, we drink to your health (and expect you to do the same).
Executive committee in voluntary exile,
Vitaliy Shuptar and Alexander Yermolyonok
Thanks to Allah and the Chinese God as well! We have found the computer with Russian keyboard layout, thus continuing to keep to Russian traditions in Urumqi (before that we ate a kind of pelmeni and drank kvass). So, there is almost nothing exotic – no fried rats, no boiled frogs (still we eat with the chopsticks – do in China what the Chinese do :) but just in case we have our spoons with us). We cannot find Chinese gas (tragedy), onion (which makes me awfully happy – V.Sh.) and carrots. Today we have found the exit of the city, from which our expedition will set off tomorrow towards the ancient city of Kashgar. Wish us happy way. Thanks very much to those who sent us their wishes. Promise to inform you of our fortune further.
Sillilessly (have already begun to forget Russian) yours,
Vitalya Shuptar and Sasha Yermolyonok
P.S. It would be better anyway to write letters transliterating them for such luck as today is a rarity here.
The bicycle expedition of Avalon HGS has safely, though not without troubles, passed the East Tien Shan by crossing one of its most difficult passes called Tiger Jaws. Just before the pass the expedition was caught by the snow-storm which slowly transformed from rain and hail into snow and led us to a small Kazakh aul. Thanks to this fact our idea got a full authority to be called ethnographic. And we got a splendid opportunity not to die of cold, get warm and guzzle a whole dish of boiled mutton cooked specially for the two great travelers. Crossing the Tiger Jaws could be compared with Suvorov’s or Hannibal’s crossing the Alps, with that only difference that no one out of the local population wanted to take photos either with Suvorov or with Hannibal. We had not even reached the pass when the burden of fame had laid on our shoulders. And when we climbed (or more precisely, shoved our bikes to the top) we got conceited and began taking money for photographs and autographs :-) A portion of sanctity we got when descending, after visiting a Buddhist temple Baluntay. The feeling of goodness was secured by the beer we drank before the sunset. Having descended to worldly vanity, we petted our stomachs and kidneys irrigating them with watermelons, tomatoes and grapes. We are now in Korla, the town, the village I would say (a small Chinese settlement, with about two million people we suppose), having a rest and preparing for crossing the greatest Asian desert, Taklamakan (going just by its edge, don’t worry;-)
Your V. Shuptar and A. Yermolyonok
The Avalon team is moving forward in the Taklamakan desert. We ate to our full and washed the dirt off in the town of Korla with its Dungan pelmeni and lagman. Then the expedition set off for Aksu, the next destination of its civilized rest, catching the fair wind and (more often) going against the wind which blew exactly in the face. These adventures proper will be described in the given news-list. We were going along the desert for quite a long time but did not see the desert itself – agricultural oases and industrial enterprises have taken away the most part of Taklamakan’s territory. However, on about the third day of our journey we finally saw the dunes which we waited for so much. And in a few days the desert became a usual thing for us. We organized a real race in the ancient narrow streets of Kuqa, which amused greatly the local population who thronged the street to observe this wonder. The expedition was immensely successful in the town of Xinhe where its members decided to bathe in the water from the tap, which was located in the street. The number of spectators broke all possible records, so there will not be anything surprising for us if since that very day the tap with that water will be ranked among the sanctuaries of the town of Xinhe, whereas the water from that tap will be thought of as healing :-) The life is contrasting, so Sanya and I would not see so much water after Xinhe. We were cycling, cycling and cycling. And in the middle of this ‘nowhere’ we ran across a motel (which was strongly associated with the movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’, but in a quieter and lighter variant). The great travelers were allowed to eat and drink at the expense of the institution, which made them extremely happy. Besides food and shelter we were offered something else (more precisely, someone else :-). But we said, ‘Ulusso tulisto oblico morale!’ and declined that indecent offer and bicycled further. The evening came after the long and oppressive road in the desert, the wind absolutely unfair, with the slice of bread and half a liter of water for supper and breakfast for the two of us. We were recalling that institution dropping our scanty tears :-) At this moment we are in Aksu, the town on the White river. Here we got acquainted with a local teacher; try to taste all the charming dishes of Chinese cuisine, as well as other pleasant and interesting fruit of life.
Your V. Shuptar and A. Yermolyonok
The great travel is finished, yet it’s not over! Yesterday, on September 12, 2006, at 6.30 GMT the team of Avalon HGS was standing in front of Etigart mosque in the center of Kashgar, commemorating themselves for the eternity in various poses. Behind us are 1300 km. And the significance of this number can be judged perhaps only by our …legs you should have thought. But the tragedy of the situation and the burden is well felt by that very place from which these legs grow;-) Behind us are mountains and over the thousand kilometers of the desert; behind us are dozens of interesting meetings and hundreds of wonderful landscapes. Still what is in front of us? Having a rest in Kashgar, investigating its surroundings, mosques, the mountains of Pamirs, the way to Kazakhstan via the Torugart pass, coming back home, newspapers, magazines, television channels, endless interviews and talk-shows, on the whole, usual world popularity :-) See you in flesh soon!
Your V.Shuptar and A.Yermolyonok