The days whirl by in Chengdu. We're spending a lot of time using the internet and catching up with people we've been out of touch with. We've got a train to book to Urumqi in west China and a flight to book from Pakistan back to Europe. There's photos to upload to Flickr and a blog to update. Laundry. Nothing too strenuous. In fact, life in Sim's Guesthouse is rather relaxed. It's not really a guesthouse, but a large hostel. But it's well-run, and spacious, and very comfortable. Too comfortable probably. I'm trying to put some weight back on, aided by the odd beer and chocolate bar and an abundance of bananas. Gayle is happily researching our route homewards - at least I think they're tears of happiness I see.
Our plan is to cycle from Urumqi to Korla then cross the Taklamakan Desert on a bus to Hotan where we'll ride to Kashgar. Then we intend to take the Karakoram Highway into Pakistan. There's one hitch in our plans - a large landslide about three months ago wiped out a village, killing 19 people, closing the road and blocking the river just to the south of the border with China. With snow melt the river has now turned into a growing lake. (Take a look.) I suddenly become an avid reader of the Hunza Times for news updates. I feel like the man who enters the casino and puts it all on black, only for it to turn out red. There is no other way for us. And we have to book our flight before we leave Chengdu as there's no free internet access in Xin Jiang province. The Chinese government have imposed a blackout there. And then up pops a photo of some enterprising Pakistanis using a boat to ferry people. Okay, so there's transport. We book our flight to Frankfurt. We have received an invite to visit a lovely German man, Reinhard, whom we met at Nomad's Open Prison in Bishkek back in 2008. Then we'll cycle across to the coast of Holland and get a boat back to England.
Our days at Sim's are Groundhog Days as we slowly sort out our plans. Sim kindly comes with us to the station to book our bicycles onto a freight train a few days before our own train. He's got the hang of cycling in the city - you can literally go anywhere you want on a bike, just make sure to avoid whatever is coming straight at you. Bert and Gill arrive after their long ride down to the lowlands, happy to be somewhere warm. There are other cyclists too - one Frenchman, Yann, whom we met at Sim's last November. One evening Sim takes us all out for a meal. Such a lovely man.
And then all of a sudden the time has come to move on - off to the station armed with a two-day supply of pot noodles.