Hitchhiking 15 000 km through China (5/5); Nightbusses and Bundesliga

Polizei China Trampen

09:40

The policemen asks me into the police station to have a look at my passport. Not that they would be interested in checking my identity. No. They just want to have a look at the German passport. Afterwards photosession.

Flashlight thunderstorm this morning near Yinchuan. As German representative it is also my job to meet Chinese officials, show my passport stamps and shake hands.

Seriously there were five people in a line taking photos if this scene. Like on a press conference. I think Chinese police is super friendly. Always curious and very young fellows.

Treffen mit der chinesischen Polizei

I’m approaching the big deserty west of China at the moment. After two difficult days with only 1200km in total, it smells like a good hitchhiking day is upcoming.

10:24

Nothing stops here. To avoid further complications I sneak out of the highway, walk through the backlands to get directly to the intersections. Hopefully nobody saw me.

After 14 minutes I should have a ride. They give me 2kg of pickled, ready to eat, soy bean stuff for my proviant bag.

11:49

Some truck picks me up, which I saw at the gas station before. Terrible ride. Really creepy guy. Wants money from me. And there is a Co-Driver who is the same. Both are talking to me, want to see my notebook. I pretend that I don’t understand anything. Then they want to see my passport. The two most precious things I have. Not for you guys. These are the kind of people I would suspect to rape me, if I would be a girl.

He is still bothering me. Pretending he would leave the highway on the next exit. I tell him, that I want to go out. He says no. Pulling over and in the last moment getting back on the highway. Don’t know what pissed me off more, that he is kidnapping me, or that I would move into the wrong direction. Definitely strange humor of this guy. I don’t get it.

In the end he gives me a can of coffee as farewell and let me go out at the place where I wanted to go.

13:05

Woman who picks me up speaks English and they buy me ice-cream. Something different!

16:04

My eating situation gets a bit worser those days. I have only that 2kg of pickled soy beans left and beside that only very few supplies. No real meal since two days, beside cookies and those little cakes that taste like gasoil. Even water is running short.

19:38

1400 km ride. Four guys in a van. We are getting into another cultural sphere. They offer me bread and onions. We open a WeĆhat group chat, so that we can communicate with each other.

21.05.2016, 04:38

Strange scenes at the toll station. We pass three policemen, which where standing in front of the little house, where you pay. Suddenly screaming in my car. We accelerate. The policemen scream as well. We break hard. Full stop. Our „boss“ looks out of the window, waving with our card and saying something like: „We were just looking for the card. Everything alright.“

Just when the same happened again, i realized what was going on. The guys tried to get through the toll station, without paying. If you pass through close enough with the car in front of you, you can get through the gare as well. Second time we manage to do, by the way.

06:00

No clue why we left the highway and driving through this city now. I ask whats going on and they tell me I should wait 15 minutes in the car. I think they go praying. Sunrise is near.

Finally I can have a short sleep in the back of the car. All night long there was a lot going on. Three times they will move the car, while I am sleeping in the back. Don’t know what is going on here. However, then is breakfast time. Noodle soup. My first real meal since two days.

I also will smoke three cigarettes during this ride. The first out of politeness. The third because I want to. Little exception.

19:35, near Urumqi

Several lifts push me forward. Then a bus stops. Same kind of driver than this trucker that picked me up the day before. Same game, not believing, that I don’t have money. At the end he drops me at the next police control. Not too bad to be honest.

19:45

Policemen is very friendly. Thinks I am a professional football player, because of my Alex Meier picture in my passport. Photosession.

Polizei China

20:01

Now the whole police station is there. In general thos control points are not that bad, but they can mean boon and ban at the same time. Often the policemen are a bit slow and unable to find the next ride. Especially if they don’t believe in the power of hitchhiking. Here are two candidates who doubt very strongly, say I would never get a ride without money. Because it is not working. Bullshit.

20:30

And who is at the control, talking to the cars to find myself a ride? Yes, the skeptical minds. I need to take action. This will last forever otherwise. But it is so difficult to get a ride, if you have people around, that produce such a negative aura. I could have had a ride three times already…..

Polzizeikontrolle China

21:30

They told me to sit and wait. I get some bread and water. Okay. Can’t do anything about it now. I need to wait. Like in Venezuela. There they put me into a bus later.

22.05.2016, 00:58

And again today. What a nice bus. Even bed in it. They are a little too short for me, but who cares. The bus will go 16 hours for the next 800 km. Pretty slow. I would have been definitely faster with hitchhiking.

But you know, that is the dilemma in those situations. I had to say, that i do not have any money, because I am hitchhiking. Every explanation is too difficult and confusing. Well and then it creates a certain dynamic where you can’t get out in the end. And then you gotta take what you get, even if it means that neither you, nor the people who pick you up, want this.

10:28

Lying in the bus. I am hungry. I decide that I will use some money again, when I arrive in Kaxgar. This travelling-without-money is nothing for me.

Nachtbus China

15:08

Arrived in Kaxgar. I think I am at the bus station near the city border. I did not wanted to enter the city, as it is so difficult to hitchhike out. Now I am going to charge my batteries. Smartphone and Laptop. Updating my China report. A little bit like airport here. Going to brush my teeth, take a breath and stock up my supplies, before I head back towards Kazachztan.

Good run anyway. 6 days and 16 hours for more than 5500 km and in between climbed onto and fall off the chinese wall.

19:00

And there we go, back on the track. On my way out of the bus station I bought fr around 4€ as much food as I can carry. Also I had some local specialty. Rotten camel milk. Tasted a bit strange, but refreshing as well. Short talk with the vendors and then I was back hitchhiking.

21:35

Very good run out of the city. Made the first 200 km already. Smoked another politeness-cigarette in the sunset. Smells like a good night is upcoming.

22:32

Walking three kilometers to the next service area. Almost no traffic here. A bus is passing by, but I ignore this.

22:45

Same bus at the service area. Five man are waving me towards them. Where I am going? Ah, they drive to Urumqi as well. I tell them, that i won’t pay. 400? No, no money. 200? No, sorry. 100?!? Nada amigos. They can’t believe. I have my principles. In the end we joke around a little bit and they drive off, while I approach a group of truckers, which have no space for me.

22:47

Coming back from the truckers. The bus stopped. Five arms are stick out of the door and wave me towards the bus again. I can come. 1250 km night lift to Urumqi. Again a bed for me. The drive will take around 22 hours. The only concern now: What if I get in the same police control like yesterday evening. How will they react, if they see me again, without money, sitting in a bus into the other direction?

23:50

Everywhere are children lying on the ground. To get out of the bus seems like a obstacle run. Aggressive mother animals try to prevent you from passing through. Others climb cautiously over the shitfaces. We are laughing about everyone who has to pass through.

Kleine Kackbratzen

03:34

My supply bag is exploding. Feels like EVERYONE in this bus gave me some food or some drinks already. Heartly welcome.

23.05.2016, 14:04

Break. I am looking for some coffee and my neighbor forces me to sit down and have some pasta with him. And tee. What a fabulous tea. Tastes so delicious. I try to find out, what kind of tea that was. They say it was called chai. Ah. Of course. Chai. Really delicious.

18:47

And then again a police control. The Chinese try to control their minorities. All smartphones get confiscated. I can keep mine.

20:38

In Urumqi. Only 600km to the border. I get a lift with some Kazakh Chinese guy.

23:01

Service area. They have Internet here. Two hours to the relegation match of the German Bundesliga Nürnberg against Frankfurt. I can not risk to be on the road during this game. Better wait and configure my computer to get around the Chinese firewall. Priorities.

23:50

I was wondering why the game already started. Listening since 15 minutes to the football radio and getting really upset, because we caught already the first goal. Then realizing that it i just the replay of the first match.

24.05.2016, 00:30

Only me here at the gas station, sitting at a table in front of the toilets. Stream is not working but the radio is. FORZA SGE!

04:20

We remain in the first league. I am done for tonight. My nerves. Let’s go back hitchhiking.

04:22

One car, one ride. My hitchhiking is as first class as my team.

06:08

I mean, those are things you really need to become conscious about. Standing at a random service area in western China and singing the hymn of your favorite football club. Alone. Passioned. Happy.

07:15

Super nice trucker picked me up. We had breakfast in one of those little sheds at the side of the road. A bit dirty, but I love those localities. Always the best food there.

Straßenfood China

12:00

BMW stops. I get into the car and tell him „No money, okay?“. Shortly after I feel a bit stupid, cause this guy has probably more money than my whole family together. But no money, okay?

15:16

Finally Kazakhstan. What a fight. First i did not find the border checkpoint, because on the chinese side everything is a mix of shopping center and immigration control. Then the Chinese didn’t wanted me to cross by walking. I was not allowed to ask a truck driver as well. How stupid is that. In the end I talked to some passengers of the only bus which was there. They said I should ask the boss. He agreed to take me. It came out that it is a huge wedding party. A whole family rented this bus to go to Kazakhstan, having a wedding. Two weeks celebration. One week with the bride, the other week with the groom. Very funny. I do not want to know, how much Kazakh relatives will attend to the party.

As I came to the Kazakh side there where eight buses waiting. Everything was very slow. I think they would not pass the border before midnight with their bus. I tried to slip through and walk the 15m from the immigration control to the gate. Not allowed. So I had to get into the first bus there and could get in that way. What a stupid border. Even Canada seems easier to enter.

15:40

In Kazachztan. Feels immediately 28° warmer here, although I am just 1km away from China. On my way to the last control a guy waves me towards him and says he can take me. For free? Autostop! Really? Without money? Yes! So I got my first ride in Kazachztan, without even hitchhiking. Liked that country from the beginning!

16:00

My driver is a taxi driver. He does not want any money, but tries to ripp me off while changing money in the end. Thank you and goodbye. I have to go on.

16:20

My ride just takes me to the end of the town but holds me a long lecture about why I should believe in Allah and stop to believe in Jesus. Again those kind of people who think they have to missionary. But the Catholics in Brazil have been more annoying.

16:59

Audi, Audi, everywhere Audi. And 3rd generation Golf. They drive the same here like the Russian-german immigrants in Germany. So funny. A truck takes me three hours forwards, makes a phone call and we go another 3,5 hours towards Almaty. My next destination. Nice ride!

25.06.2016; 00:28

Secured parking area. A lot of nice Kamas trucks here. A crowd of truckers and security is approaching us: „Ah Karl Marx!“, they welcome me. The boys are super friendly. Know a little German. Just the important stuff: „Komm Kamerad! Schnaps! Schnaps!“ I ask if I can sleep there and they agree. Next morning we have breakfast in a freight container of the back of a Kamas. Truckers living room. Very stylish.

When I came to Almaty a guy approached me. „Welcome to Kasachstan! Autostop?“ How could he know? He is poitning on my uniform. People know my hitchhiking uniform here. Awesome. I feel like home immediately. Running 15 000 km through China and then being welcomed like this!

2 Comments

  • Hi!
    on the first picture on this side your checking a map. I want to hitchhike trough russia, mongolia and china. Right now i am looking for good maps. Did you were happy with yours, or do you have a tip? i dont want to rely on a phone.

    thanks in advance

    • Hey max,

      for China I used a smartphone. If you want good maps, you usually buy them in the country itself. That can be a hustle. Depends on the country. In Myanmar back in the days it was almost impossible to find a proper map.

      I wasn’t using a smartphone for a long time and I was travelling around without phone for 1,5 years. I know how you feel. But in the end it is just super practical and worth. Imho.

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