Sunday, December 15, 2013

The pakistani haven

After planning my way out of Beijing through the toll station and writing a goodbye letter I start hitchhiking on that pay toll at about 4PM. That means an hour until dark. My hitchhiking soon gets interupted by the toll guards who tell me it's not possible to hitchhike on the highway. They call the police but the police never comes and you can feel the decision-making despair on their faces: they are only trained to follow and now they are helpless.
One of the toll station ladies is quite touched by my stories and tries to stop cars for me since I don't get to do it but her coworker stops her: "don't go there, it is... illegal".
Some lady who is half police, half random guides to to another toll station situatied not on the highway but on the side road which joins the highway at some point.
I finally get a lift... to the north of Beijing. Some family is going home and decides to take me with them. Appearently, the chinese are way kinder in the civilized provinces than in rural areas.  I am sleeping about 10 kilometers north of my Beijing friends. If something goes wrong, I can be there in a few minutes by metro. But they promise me to drive me to the highway at 7 AM so I will have a long hitchhiking day, I can be sure to make it to Zhangjiakou.
My host home 10 kilometers from my friends 

Not many people eager to pick me up but a bus saves me. Buses save me very often in China. The bus goes all the way to Zhangjiakou so I have won for the day. Easy. But today is far from being the easiest battle, Zhangjiakou is only here to serve as a base camp for the real journey: to Erenhot.
I get to Zhangjiakou at 9:30. God it's cold! I thought it would start to chill when I'll enter Inner Mongolia but I already can't put my hands out of my pockets for too long.
It must be -5 during the day and wind.
Zhangjiakou, freezing

Umer, the guy who accepted to host me has been up all night last night and is still ready to help. I wonder what kind of Chinese person would come to such extremes to help others. I get the answer when he comes to greet me near the bus station: He's not chinese, he is Pakistani.
We share stories, turns out the decision to go around and not through Pakistan was founded, it's really dangerous out there. He shares the same dissapointment as me about China on almost every level: sure humanity has died in China. However I disagree about chinese food.
Chinese food and chopsticks are two wonders are two wonders that I won't ever criticize.
Umer lives with roommates one of which isn't there yet. Umer and his remaining roommate are so welcoming that I almost feel as in Beijing. I get my own room and internet and food and time.
I rediscover the dearly missed Kazakh tea with milk. The pakistani version is even better.
As everyone is telling me in the last few weeks, he says that my warm clothes are not enough. It is reckless to go north dressed like this. He worries that I'm going to freeze and that's a touching thought since he only knows me for a day. But I am leaving only for one or two days. I enter and exit mongolia and then I'll be in the warmth of Beijing again. At least that was the plan before.
In the evening my girlfriend calls. And we make another plan.