Across Continents

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Over the border

China. I’d emerged from the ordered confines of Customs and Immigration, through a small gate and into the waiting crowd, surrounded by money-changers, unperturbed by the guards just feet away. Pushing the hawkers forcibly aside, I headed down the wide boulevard towards what I imagined to be the centre of Khorgas.

I’d returned to the Granitsa, the fortified zone that ran along the border, a few hours earlier. Permitted to enter and ride the five or so kilometres that led to the crossing proper. Finally. Then Passport Control. Brief check that I’d a valid Chinese visa, then a stamp and the nod to proceed. Ahead the road through no-man’s land, a half open gate now the only bar towards China. A few mini-buses waiting, their drivers sat around whilst their passengers had their papers checked.

Thought I’d see if I could ride across, but was quickly turned back by a Kazakh guard, gesticulating towards the mini-buses. I’d suspected as much, but it’d been worth a try. Hardly a commotion, but enough to draw the attention of the drivers, one of whom indicated he’d take Emma and I across once his passengers re-appeared.

The otherwise short journey, a few hundred metres at most, was punctuated by several stops, sometimes the driver disappearing with a sheaf of papers, returning a short while later, other times a Chinese guard peering through the bus’s half drawn curtains, a quick head count. And then, finally, the large, imposing Customs and Immigration building.

Inside, forms to be filled in, fortuitously written in both English and Simplified Chinese. Passport Control. And then the searches. Thorough, the contents of my cameras inspected, the netbook checked for illicit material. But polite and professional. Just one pannier spared, the best my hindering helpfulness could muster. And lots of questions. Had I been to China before? Did I miss my family? Why did I want to visit?

And then the final hurdle, the exit door tantalizingly close. A metal detector, beeping as it sensed the cleats in my boots. Checked with a hand held scanner by a young woman, I apologised profusely, my shirt having not been washed for more days than I’d want to admit. "Welcome to China" she said, smiling.

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2 responses to “Over the border”

  1. Fantastic, at last! There must have been times when you thought that border would never get crossed. Downhill all the way to Hong Kong now (metaphorically speaking…)

  2. Hey!
    Let me know if you need any connections or a place to stay in Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. We are based in Hong Kong but are on the road as well! Heading to Urumqi by train now. will you be around?!

    Take care,

    Sebastian
    http://www.whattookyousolong.org

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