Documentation of police incidents during my bicycle tour through the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Xinjiang (2019)
First police incident (Reshui, Qinghai)
On the 29th of April 2019 I arrived to 热水，a village located 60 km North from Qinghai Lake and 110 km from Qilian town. I had been cycling 8 hours, 100 km and up to 3600 m, a height I had never been up to with the bike before. When I arrived, it had already been dark for approx. one hour and the temperature had fallen to -2°C. I was happy to finally arrive and decided to have dinner before looking for a place to sleep. I ordered two main dishes and chatted quite a while with the other guests and the family who owned the restaurant. They were very hospitable and gave me additional bread after I had already finished my dinner. I asked them about the cheapest place to stay in the village and they recommended a place very close to the restaurant to me, on the other side of the street.
When I checked in to this 宾馆, it was almost 23.00 o’clock. The place was run by an old man with a long beard, wearing a round hat typical of the Hui Muslim minority that lives in this region of China. I showed him my passport, paid the room (60 RMB = 8 €), locked the bike in the corridor, went to bed and fell asleep immediately.
Next morning: wet coughing and blocked nose. My cold that I had caught in the night in the wet sleeping bag some days ago had worsened. I decided to stay another night, went down to the reception office and asked the owner if it was possible to extend the stay. He agreed and I started to do some minor maintenance on the bike in the corridor. Shortly after, a group of six or seven police officers, among them one woman continuously taking photos, entered the building and started to chat with me in a friendly way, expressing their admiration for my journey several times. They did not show any sign of what was coming after. Then they entered the reception office and started to rail at the old man. I immediately knew what was happening: The hotel owner didn’t hold a certificate allowing him to accept foreigners. After, the police left without talking to me again.
I asked the old man if my assumption was right and he nodded his head, hesitantly telling me he had been charged a fine of 1000 RMB (=135 €). This was obviously a lot of money for him and I felt very sorry for the man. I asked him if I had to leave the hotel now. He said he didn’t know and I was supposing that I could stay because as far as I knew, the meaning of the rule that a hotel can only accept foreign nationals is to let the government know where foreign nationals are located in China. And in this case, obviously, the police had gotten to know my location. After all, I thought, if this is a government regulation or law, the police would have to tell me in person that I would have to leave. (Haha, think again, Johannes.)
Two hours later, when I had already unpacked all my stuff to look for the right medicine to take and tidy my bike bags for the next day, the hotel owner knocked at my door and told me the police had just informed him that I would have to leave. I pointed at all the medicine around me on the bed and told him that it would not be possible to go on cycling that day since I was sick and needed to rest for at least one day. After all, temperatures were still close to zero and there were more ascends to come on the road ahead. The man said that if I would stay another night, they would probably charge him another 1000 RMB. But he seemed to also understand my situation and told me that if I was really sick, then he would not force me to leave. I decided to go to the police station together with him to clarify the situation. We took his car down the road to the police station (just a few hundred meters). I found about 15 police officers in a newly built police station in their lunch break. The conversation didn’t bring any result. “Just the rules” and “not us personally not allowing you to live here”. Which other hotel I could stay in in this village? “None”. Trembling from the temper I was in, I told them that I was not able to leave the village on that same day because of my sickness and if they wanted to force me to leave, I would first have to talk to their boss and my embassy. I also asked them why they hadn’t told me right away in the morning. No answer. Then they talked to the hotel owner, very fast and in local dialect so that I didn’t understand. It seemed to me he was accepting what they were telling him and then he beckoned me to leave with him. For a few moments it seemed to me the police had accepted me to stay. But on the way back, the hotel owner told me, that they had just said they would allow me to live in the hotel for another night, but if I would not have left by two o’ clock, the hotel owner would have to pay the second 1000 RMB in any event. I couldn’t believe the flagrancy they were passing on the “problem” of having a foreigner in the village to an old poor man. Because I didn’t want to cause this man further financial losses, I decided to check out of the hotel and instead go to the police station, this way definitely passing back the responsibility to where it belonged. After packing all my stuff, I rolled down the mountain to the police again. I arrived at two o’clock sharp and by that time, almost everyone had left, only two policemen in big SUV-like police cars were playing games on their phone and sleeping. I didn’t care, at a pinch I would just stay there the whole afternoon, evening and night. However, after a short time, the man from the hotel appeared again. He told me, after seeing me at the police station again; they had just made a phone call to him and told him to “solve the problem”. He pulled my arms, begging me to leave the police station with him, explaining to me that my behavior would just fall back on him. I finally realized that no matter what I was doing, they would just make it this poor man’s problem. To convince me, the old man offered me to put my bike on his car and take me to the next village. But his old sedan was far too small for my bike to fit in. The two big police cars though would have easily fitted my bike in, but the two officers did not show any willingness to help. Since staying in the police station any longer seemed to only make things worse for the hotel owner, I decided to leave the village on my bike. The police had achieved their goal.
In this first incident, the police has clearly shown an abuse of power (threatening a civilian to charge him, if he does not take out a task the police is in charge of), has put me in a dilemma of causing a financial loss to a poor man or putting my health in danger, unveiled their cowardice by choosing to exchange nice and friendly words instead of telling me in person that they would force me to leave the city.
Second police incident (Yeniugouxiang, Qinghai)
The second unpleasant experience happened on the 5th of April 2019. I had rested in Qilian town for 3 days, a town surrounded by the Danxia area mountains to the North and the Qilianshan mountain peek to the South. During these three days I had been very cautious not to get in further police trouble. I knew that my hotel (100 RMB) was not allowed to accept foreigners either, but I wasn’t willing to go to a more expensive place in the town (Later I learnt that there simply was no hotel at all excepting foreigners). So I decided to only leave the hotel if necessary and cover my lower face with a bandanna when going around by bike. I was lucky and didn’t get in trouble in these three days.
My further goal was to reach Jiayuguan by first cycling within, then crossing the mountain range in Northwest direction. From Jiayuguan I wanted to cycle on the main traffic way to Urumqi that most Silk Road cyclist ride on. I started early that day and got into rain after 60 km. I reached a village named Yeniugouxiang 野牛沟乡 after 80 kms and entered a restaurant to eat a late lunch and warm myself up a bit. Soon after, two police men followed, wanted to see my passport, took photos of it and to My further goal was to reach Jiayuguan by first cycling within, then crossing the mountain range in Northwest direction. From Jiayuguan I wanted to cycle on the main traffic way to Urumqi that most Silk Road cyclist ride on. I started early that day and got into rain after 60 km. I reached a village named Yeniugouxiang 野牛沟乡 after 80 kms and entered a restaurant to eat a late lunch and warm myself up a bit. Soon after, two police men followed, wanted to see my passport, took photos of it and ld me I could not go on cycling on this road. The reasons that I was told were manifold: military area, depopulated area, wolves, adverse weather conditions. Everything just for my “safety”. When I started to disagree with them and tell them that I am not trusting them because I had been mistreated by police before, they started to record my voice. I immediately stopped talking, pretended to not understand their Chinese anymore and turned the conversation to English. This led them to leave the restaurant and wait outside in their car for me to come out. After some 30 minutes, I understood that I was blocked and asked them to come in again. He used a translator to tell me what I had already anticipated to happen: They told me there is no place for me to stay overnight in this area and that for my “safety” they would bring me to a city where I could stay overnight. Having no other option, I agreed.
They deported me to a place on the road I was planning to reach later in Jiayuguan, 285 km in total and with emergency lights on. On the car, I told them, that I am used to signs indicating the boundaries of restricted areas and asked them about road signs indicating this in the area I had been cycling. They didn’t know any and just evasively answered that China might “not be as developed yet as the place I was coming from”. I thought: You can put high tech surveillance cameras EVERYWHERE and not indicate a restricted area via road signs?
What a ridiculous excuse! I asked them where the allegedly restricted area started and ended. They did not know either, just contended that the whole area I was in for more than one week already was blocked for foreigners to stay overnight, including the road along Qinghai Lake. However, they were not able to say where it started. I told them outspoken that I was not going to believe their vague explanations. My last question: Where to get these information on the internet, or is there any other way to get information about restricted zones beforehand and BESIDES ending up in them and being deported? They didn’t know either. All these questions I asked to the two policemen who had first found me in the restaurant, then also to their boss. It was always the same answer à We don’t know, and we are just caring for your safety. When I we arrived at the hostel in Zhangye that they brought me to, my farewell words were: “I think you personally are not bad people, you were friendly to me.” But,” I said, “I hope that in the future you can come to the understanding, that blind obedience can be a source of danger as well. Today, you did not do anything dangerous, you just wasted four people’s time. But blindly following rules that you yourself don’t understand the meaning of can very quickly make things slide into evil ways. Just look at the history of Germany, then you might understand what I mean.” Their silence gave me a little bit of satisfaction. But I also knew that next time it would be cleverer to keep thoughts like this for myself.
In this second police incident I was striked by the obvious lack of knowledge and the lack of access to knowledge the Chinese police obviously has about the rules they are enforcing. These police officers only knew what they had to do, nothing else. Many rules seemed not to exist in any written form, but just orally received from a higher level person in the hierarchy. This lack of understanding of the meaning of their own action seemed not to influence their zeal to fulfill their “task”. Obedience – no matter what, seemed to be the highest precept.
Third police incident (from the Gansu-Xinjiang border to Hami)
The third incident happened in Xinjiang. After a long day of strong headwinds and some stormy weather I had arrived to Guazhou 瓜州, another town with only few, and very expensive hotels that could legally accept foreigners. After discussing this issue with the owner of a smaller Binguan, she agreed to give me a room in her little Binguan for 80 RMB, less than a quarter of the price of the cheapest hotel legally accepting foreigners. This day, I was planning to reach the border of Xinjiang. However, as soon as I had left the town, I encountered even stronger headwinds then on the previous day, pushing my speed down to 6-9 km/h and creating dangerous wind turbulences every time a truck was overtaking. I decided to hitchhike to Xinjiang. Soon after, a minivan stopped. The driver, his wife and his mother were in their last stage of a 3000+ km trip from Gansu back home to Hami, the first major city after the Gansu-Xinjiang border. At the Xinjiang border, I had a first police interrogation. They took photos of me, my passport, the driver, his ID card and of the driver and me in front of his van. I apologized to the driver for the inconveniences I was causing. The police allowed me to stay in the car which I had not expected. After another 20 km, still some 40 or so kms from Hami, there was another police checkpoint. The police needed a long time to discuss what to do, then told my driver that he was not allowed to take me any further in his car. I gave thanks to my drivers, took one photo and then they left.
Now I was alone with the police. It took about 60 mins for them to stop a private pick-up car to bring me to Hami. The people inside this car were road construction workers. They were already taking my bike on the cargo bed when I asked the head police officer who was going to take responsibility if my bike got damaged in the course of the transport. He said bluntly that nobody is gonna take responsibility for this. Great, I thought, I am forced to put my bike on a random private car, but if they destroy it, it’s my problem. Also, wasn’t I just taken off a private car? What was the difference, except for the fact that it was a lot unsafer for my bike to be transported outside on the truck bed of a pick-up car? I inquired again and this time the answer was, that it was allegedly not allowed to transport bicycles inside of cars. This was either a lie or the other police officers in the following days bringing me from station to station were all violating this rule. I entered the construction bed of the pick-up truck and took my bike off. But the police was definitely not willing to get me a car that I could transport the bicycle inside (they had to maintain their excuse after all). Another 30-45 minutes later, the policemen stopped a small truck. At the same time, a police pick-up truck had arrived that I was rather willing to put my bike on, so that in case the bike was damaged I could directly hold the police liable. But the head police officer was in a bad mood already and didn’t allow me to put it on the police car. Meanwhile, a Swiss guy who was hitchhiking through China had also arrived to the police station. After almost two hours, we left the spot and the driver of his car and my driver were told to follow the police who would drive in front of us with emergency lights on. A long odyssey through many Hami police checkpoints with heavily armed police men, passport controls and the same questions over and over again followed. Officers seemed to either not communicate with each other or bothering us on purpose. They were continuously confusing their roles of “police officer on duty” and “bored person wanting to small-talk with random foreigner”. They themselves seemed to be convinced that they were doing all this for safety reasons. This was overly ridiculous, for many reasons, amongst them the fact that we were continuously forced to get on cars without seatbelts. In the end, the Swiss guy’s drivers were also not allowed to take him anywhere further and we ended up in front of the Hami train station with a group of about ten policemen, not knowing what to do (“we are waiting for our bosses’ response”). It was after 0.00 in the night already and we were both exhausted and angry. We told the police that we were not willing to live in an expensive hotel. The police controls had taken about 5 hours up to this point and we would have come much further than Hami. The situation of being stuck in Hami at night was only caused by the police. We ended up being brought to a homeless shelter where we could stay the night for free. I made sure from the beginning, that I only agreed to go there if they would let me go on cycling on my own on the next morning. I was assured that they would not bother me anymore in the morning. Another lie, as I would find out next morning. The “homeless shelter” was more of prison than anything else. The administration took away our passports and locked us up (“for your safety”). Metal grilled windows everywhere and surveillance cameras in our room, pointed on our beds. No showers as previously promised. Not allowed to take more than a handful things into the room. They told us they would open the doors at 8.30 the next morning. We fell asleep long after 3.00 a.m. in the night.
Next morning, I woke up a few minutes after 8.30. The doors were still locked. At 9.00, I started to shout in the direction of the shelter’s office. Another ten minutes later the doors were open, but the man at the front desk refused to hand out our passports, which was against what we had agreed on the day before. At about 9.20, the police arrived. Two little boys, barely adults, one with a machine gun. Only then we got our passports back and could leave the building. I said good-bye to my Swiss friend and started to cycle, but the police was behind me now. I told them again that this was against what I was assured the day before. They did either not know or pretended not to know. They followed me several kilometers, then told me would leave me alone. A sandstorm was coming up, but it was not so bad that I could not cycle through the city anymore to look for a place to have breakfast. I was spotted by the police again. They stopped me and said I could not cycle due to the sandstorm. I already knew that their actions were anything but caring for my safety so I told the officer it was not true that I could not go on cycling, that I was still intending to look for breakfast no matter what he thinks about the sandstorm and left. The officer had been on foot, but not a minute later he overtook me with a big police car full of heavily armed officers (machine guns again) and forced me off the road. This was a dangerous behavior and debunked the claim they were caring for my safety once more.
A few seconds later, another 4-5 police cars arrived on the spot and the place was crowded with officers, uniformed and heavily armed. I told them the original officer had put me at risk and they repeated they were only caring for my safety and were concerned I would cycle in the storm. I guess, at this point they were just afraid they could not track me as easily as in normal weather. I told the officers to keep a distance to me, which they accepted however not without insistently repeating their lies about their duty to care for my safety. No words of apology for putting me at risk in the traffic. They also told me that in the direction that I was riding, there were no restaurants to get breakfast. Just another lie: When I cycled along this road later on, I saw some. Instead, they pointed to the other side of the street, telling me there was a restaurant to find breakfast. Next to their police station, of course.
I spent about two hours in the restaurant, eating and waiting for the sandstorm to be over. Two cars that had joined the previous scene were waiting for me in front of the restaurant. These cars were no police cars, but I had seen them before and knew there were policemen inside. No chance to escape. After the winds had calmed down, I left the restaurant and immediately, one guy, more of a boy than a man, got off the car. He was in plainclothes and I remembered him to be with the other officers before. I asked him to prove me that he is a police officer and he showed me his police badge. Then he told me I could not leave yet. “Wait a moment, wait a moment.” (It’s never just a moment.) After talking to his superior on the phone, they allowed me to leave, but at the same time told me that he would follow me from this point on with his car to further “care for my safety”. He also said I was “very free”. I had no choice and started to cycle. They followed me for about XX km, then overtook me, stopped me and told me that from that point on, they would not follow me anymore. On the following km, there were several cars overtaking me in an abnormally low speed. I suppose these were police cars as well. I reached a fork in the road with the right way leading to the motorway and the left way leading through little villages, but mainly also going in my direction. Near to the road, there was a big car with people already waiting for me. As soon as I had chosen my way (the left one), the car that had followed me before overtook me again and waited for me. As I reached them, they told me they would follow me again. My facial expression couldn’t hide my contempt and fury and for the first time I noticed something like a sense of discomfort and shame in his eyes. He said, he himself would also rather choose to go home and sleep instead of following me, but he had to follow his boss’s orders. They followed me another XX km and as soon as they had reached the first police station after the city, they turned and were gone without talking to me again. The freedom didn’t last for long. I had police cars from the new district overtaking me very fast and very slow soon after. The landscape was vast and easy to overlook, so there was no place to hide, especially with the heavy bike. When I made a break, a police car with two men stopped next to me, let down the windows, but didn’t do anything. It started to feel like a psycho-terror to me. I told them right away that I felt bullied by them. They didn’t react. I could cycle another two kilometers, but then it was over. They didn’t allow me to go any further for my “safety”. They told me to get on their car and let them bring me to the motorway. Riding on the motorway was safer than on small roads and the road I was cycling on would be blocked by sand drifts from the sand storm. I didn’t believe a word and told them the previous policemen had allowed me to cycle this road up to their police station. They seemed to have no information about this. I sat down on the floor and called the German embassy. The embassy staff was very understanding, but told me in clear words, that they had no power to help me and that I had to follow all these directions the police was giving me, no matter how stupid, random, contradictory they seemed. It was true that in every new police district I was at the mercy of the police being in charge and they would do just anything to control me as closely as they could, until I had left their district. They confirmed my previous assumption that the officers themselves might not know why they were doing the things they were doing and it matched the observation that they were constantly on the phone, assuring the next steps with their superiors. The conversation hadn’t brought any great help, but hearing a German voice understanding me and confirming my views gave me some new confidence as I felt that somebody shared my take on the situation. After hanging up and understanding I saw I had no other choice. I agreed to put the bike on the car and let me be deported to the motorway. They just dropped me off at a point that was about 15 km back. I told them to bring me to a further point on the road that is at least equal to the progress I had made on the parallel road. They finally agreed and put all the stuff on a different police car. I had a chance to talk to one of the officers and complain about the lies I was constantly told by the police. He asked me to understand, that some of these inaccuracies I am finding between what police tells and what I am finding out later on, might be due to the fact that, “the police in Xinjiang might have some secrets”. It was the one and only time, I heard a police man telling something different than the usual “It’s all about your safety” argument.
One police man of this checkpoint brought me to another checkpoint where I had to register again. Since there was no chance of these police controls to get less and I apparently was only allowed to ride on the motorway, I decided to hitchhike to Urumqi. Since I was at the checkpoint and it was about to get dark, I asked the police to help me to stop a private car to hitch a ride. After about 90 minutes a driver of a really small car stopped. I had to disassemble the bike, but everything went fine. On the way to Urumqi, there were numerous police stops, but luckily, I was allowed to stay with this driver
Fourth police incident (S101, Southwest of Urumqi)
The fourth police incident happened on my way from Urumqi to the Kazakh border, on that I was trying to cycle one more time. It happened on the third cycling day after leaving Urumqi and I suppose I had only come so far, because some of the roads I was cycling on were blocked for cars, so that there was no police around. The area was very sparsely populated and I had run out of food, so I stopped at a yurt to buy bread and vegetables. Close before, I had overpassed a police checkpoint but it had looked like nobody was there. I entered the yurt and found they also served some vegetarian dumplings. Soon after, two young police men entered the yurt and began to ask me questions. They told me I should first finish my dinner, and then I would have to “register”. In anticipation that I would be told the region was not safe and there is no hotel to stay and for that reason would be deported again, I asked the couple owning the yurt if I could stay overnight. They agreed, but from their faces I could vaguely read that they believed the police would not allow it.
After finishing the food, the police told me they would have to call police men from another station since they wouldn’t have the necessary gadgets to do the registration process. They arrived two hours later when it was already getting dark. The other police men were older and seemed to do this registration for the first time. It took them an awful lot of time and it was night when they finished. The oldest police men wanted to see the photos I had taken with my phone during my bike trip. Then he wanted to scare me by saying there are wolves around and it would not be safe to sleep in a tent.
I was prepared for this and told him that I had asked the couple from the yurt nearby if I could stay with them. It got even more ridiculous and he said he was afraid they would be drinking in the night and it would not be safe. I told him I was not buying any of his lies. I told all the police men that my intention was to go on cycling and if they were ordering me to get on their car, I would have to follow directions, but it would be against my will and an act of force. They maintained I was a very free person and I could do what I want (but still I had to get on the car). I fixed the bike on the load platform of their pickup. The road was very bad and the ride extremely uncomfortable. I was afraid about the bike and told them the value and that they would be responsible if something breaks. They reduced the speed. In the middle of nowhere, another car came our way. They stopped at the same spot and began to chat. Suddenly, they ordered me to change the car and go with the other car. Changing from a police car to civilian car in the middle of the night? I refused and told them I would not go anywhere on a random car. They told me the other guys were also police men. I asked for their police batches. One of them seemed to not have it, the other one found it after a while. I had to change the car after all. The guys in the new car could not understand why I was not going to have yet another police-small talk. I told them I have been lied to and tricked on many times by the police. He asked me, if I thought he personally was a bad person. I said I did not feel free to speak my mind.
They gave me two options where they could deport me to. One was to a village not too far from the spot, but on the same road and further in the mountains. The other one was on the main highway in the valley about 50 km from the place. I told them I wanted to get off their car as soon as possible and choose the valley in the mountains. Unfortunately, this road got increasingly muddy so that the 4WD police vehicle was sliding a lot. I began to doubt if the next day I would be able to go on riding on this road and was afraid to be trapped in a mountain place the day after. I asked them to stop and checked the road. I couldn’t see if it was possible or not. The only chance was to get deported to the main road in the valley. On the way there, I told the police that if they bring me to any police station, I would be trapped in their system of endless deportations again, but they refused many times to let me get off their car in the villages we were going through, however promised that they would release me in the city so that I could find a place to sleep on my own.
We ended up in a checkpoint with heavily armed police men again. Anything the police men of my car had said before was irrelevant now. Our car was escorted by another police car to the next bigger police station. I was guided into the police station and had to register again. It was somewhat about 2.00 o` clock in the night. I told the police men I had been trapped by the police for more than five hours and the previous police men had promised to release me in the city so that I could find a place to sleep on my own. The police men refused to let me go and wanted to deport me to the next police station instead. I knew that over there, it would be the same story again, so I refused to. By then, everyone except for me, was enjoying the situation that I was stuck. They asked me where I was going to sleep and I told them I was not willing to pay a room in an expensive hotel, just to get some few hours of sleep. I asked them if I could just sleep on my mattress on their floor. No, this was “against the law”. They called their boss. This guy was rude as fuck and seemingly also intended to make personal use of the situation by showing off in front of his colleagues. Of course, he could have decided to let me sleep on the floor of their police station. I explained my problem of being trapped in a system of endless deportation to next police stations over and over again. They didn’t care. After some phone calls, their boss told me, they had contacted the hotel in the closest city and they were all booked out, but that in the next city there would be a hotel that still has a free room. Also, the police would be paying for it. (I had read some reports on the internet, that they sometimes pay for train tickets, so I was buying this story after all. He added, he would already have contacted the next police station in this city so that they would not bring me to any further police checkpoints. In the end, agreed to get on their car again. Of course, the policemen at the next checkpoint didn’t know anything about this. It had just been lies and lies again in order to get me on the car and get rid of me. From this station, I was deported one more time and in the end I found a police officer who had some mercy and let me sleep (from 5.00 a.m. to 7.30 a.m.) in their checkpoint – however not without placing a surveillance camera on a chair next to me and recording my sleep.
When I awoke, I asked the police men if I could leave, but they refused to let me go. I was deported once more and to my surprise, in the next police station, after the registration process I was released.
Fifth police incident (Between Shihezi and Kuytun)
The next police encounter happened on the same day, just some 30 minutes later. I had just overtaken a Chinese couple on bicycles, when a police car stopped me. They asked me the usual questions and then told me they would follow me in their car. Meanwhile, the Chinese couple reached us and when the policemen saw their faces, he just beckoned them to go on. They said they would “just” follow me to the next police station so that I could register again. I said I would arrive there anyway, because there was only one road. It didn’t matter. I decided to make a long break to make them tired following me. It didn’t matter. I told them, that they could be happy, if they would come to my home country, not to be treated this way. It didn’t matter. I gave up and just wanted to get to the next bus station in order to take a bus to the Kazakh border. At the next police station, I told them to catch a bus and asked them if they would bring me there. Another three or four deportation in various police cars followed and two hours later I arrived at the city border of Kuytun, where the highway checkpoint police wanted to hand me over to a checkpoint at the city border. The boss of this checkpoint was in fury. He railed at the police officer who had brought me to this place. I left the car and approached the group. I learnt that apparently it is against the rules to hand foreigners over between different divisions of the police. If I had arrived all alone, I could have registered and entered the city. The situation had encouraged me to be rude to the police men who had brought me there as well. It was after 2 p.m. and I hadn’t had lunch, so I told him if he wanted to keep me detained for any longer, he would have to provide a proper lunch to me – not just the shitty instant noodles I was offered before. He finally agreed to release me, not without asking a civilian to take a photo of me and him in front of the police car (Wtf?!). I went straight to a restaurant to have lunch first.
Hiding from the police in Kuytun
I cycled back to the checkpoint where I had been before to enter the city with the long-distance bus station. I asked the police men about local information on the bus schedule. One of them wanted to help me and looked something up on the internet. However, I noticed, that the boss had noticed he was helping me and he got also railed at. After a while, I asked the boss directly if he could help me to get information on the bus schedule. He hesitated, but apparently also didn’t want to refuse right away. He ordered another police men to look up this information. They gave me some times. Soon after, in the city, I noticed that the information they had given me were all wrong. The next bus to the border was on the next day only. I wanted to buy the tickets, but the ticket desk informed the police that there was a foreigner. So I had to register first (1+ hour). After, I wanted to find a cheap hotel, but on the internet, not a single one was registered. I found one on maps.me, cycled there and realized that this one had been closed not long ago (according to the travel agency next to it). I went to a more expensive hotel and learnt, that they were not allowed to take any foreigners. They gave me name and directions of the only hotel in the city that was allowed to accept foreigners. I cycled there and learnt that prices ranged between 500 and 800 yuan (70-115 €), whereas locals usually can find something between 100 and 200 yuan. I decided, whatever happens, not to go to this hotel. After all, it was enough time to find a place in the nature and sleep in the tent, I thought. I spent the next hours until evening with hiding from the police. Later, I took a road that was leading out of the city and found a very small piece of wood between a gas station and a settlement.
It was not visible from the street and the only thing I was worrying about was to be seen by somebody walking their dog on a trail nearby. I set my tent in the thicket and also cut of some additional twigs with leaves that I stuck into the ground in front of the side of the tent facing the trail. Sunset came and I fell asleep. Everything went well. However, in the night, I dreamed I was found by the police and charged a big sum of money for breaking various rules. In the morning, I left early for the bus to the border.
Having to leave last night's hotel (near to Horgos)
I arrived to Qingshuihe without major problems during the various registration procedures on the highway (hitchhiking / taking busses without a lot of luggage still seems to be possible!). The most annoying was probably that at one checkpoint, the person in charge of the registration process was in his lunch break, which meant that the whole bus had to wait half an hour for my registration process to be finished. From Qingshuihe I still had some 20 km to left until the border. I decided to try cycling again and everything went well. Just, I had not showered since Urumqi (4 days), so I really wanted to find a hotel. I knew that my choice was very limited since most of the hotels could not accept foreigners. I entered a newly built one, and to my surprise, the two girls from the reception told that, they were able to accept foreigners. I asked them to double check, but after some phone calls they made, they convinced me that they really had the relevant documents to do so. Great! I checked in and took a shower. After about an hour, they knocked at my door and said they were very sorry to tell me that they actually lack some documents and that, after all, I had to leave the place. I told them I didn’t know where to go and they helped me to find a long-established hotel even closer to the border that really had the permission to host foreigners. They were so sorry, that their hotel arranged that I could stay for the original price in the other hotel (apparently, the second one would usually have been much more expensive) They even organized a car leading me to the hotel and that I just had to follow with my bike.
"Safety check-up" of my phone at the border
On the following day, the very last thing before leaving China was that the border police wanted to check my phone. I was not quick-witted enough to hand over my spare phone. But it didn’t matter: The police man was too stupid to find the location of the photos in my phone and of course, I didn’t help him to get there. He checked about five minutes without any success, then the phone crashed and he didn’t know how to turn it on again. What a pity!
Crossing the border, then arriving to Kazakhstan, I felt a great relief.
The whole nonsense echoed in my dreams, in that I was beeing chased by the police for about another week, than the terror was over once and for all.