I cycle up a mountain. It’s a beautiful setting here. A green misty mountainous area goes past me. Local farmers are busy to harvest. Rice and corn is what grows in the fields here. It is dried along the road. I listen to music on my mp3 player. The temperature is nice. Everything is really relax, I feel good. The Tibetan plateau I left behind me. I cycle now at 2000 meters altitude which no longer requires my full energy. I’m riding in my element when I suddenly am blocked by a black jeep. SWAT officers jump out of an armored car with automatic rifles. They run towards me. Grab my arms. I do not even realize what is happening. My bike is taken away and I get handcuffed. Before I know it I’m in the black jeep between two SWAT officers.

What on earth is happening?

I’m kinda used to the Chinese authorities, but is this not going a little bit too far?

The past few days were not so hectic. I cycled into Dali along a beautiful lake. In Dali I went to see a Chinese girl I had met in Kashgar. She had ordered me a new rear tire via TaoBao, the Chinese Amazon. Of course I could not find myself the right size tire here in China and I had to use already my spare tire.

A few kilometers before Dali my rear axle started to donate me some problems. He probably had no energy left anymore after the 14000th kilometer. Fortunately, I quickly found a bike shop in Dali that obviously was not able to help me directly to a new rear axle.

The guy behind the counter ordered one through TaoBao. That meant a few days rest in Dali. Which was not that bad because here they had delicious coffee again. I cycled for months on instant coffee, which was sometimes just like milk tea. In the following days rest I disabled for the second time my whole rear wheel and replaced the axle.

Now I knew how to do it.

Brand new rear axle, Shimano 105

Of course I was going to enjoy the surroundings. It was on the fourth day when I left Dali with a new rear axle and a new rear tire. I was delighted and ready for the final 883 kilometers in China. Ready for South East Asia. Ready to enjoy the tropical weather. A little bit fast because I had nine days left on my visa. Fast to the border!

Cycling with Chen Li Tau

Fish drying in the sun

Cactus along a road

That went so completely wrong on the second day.

We drive to a police station in a village on a mountain. I have to sit in a room and an English speaking Chinese lady starts to explain me something. “We do an identity check.” I explain that I am not a criminal and am cycling on my way to Laos to be out of the country on time. What in this way is not going to succeed. “You get some rest, police from region department come.” Well, this must be serious. There are already six policemen around me, but obviously only to keep an eye on me.

After half an hour the second delegation enters the room. A lady of the same age as me start to interrogate me at the command of a plain-clothes dressed officer. “There were some terrorist attacks related to the Xinjiang province.”

Well, what on earth, am I a suspect?

“We just do a check and ask you some questions, please cooperate with us.” In a back and forth conversation I explain what my reason is that I’m here in China. Where I come from and where I am going. They ask for my Chinese phone number. Where I bought the SIM card. Which sites I use for web browsing. Which apps I use to be in touch with family and friends. And at some point I get to see a picture of a person and they ask me if I know the person. My phone is completely searched. And my panniers are be checked later.

I feel uncomfortable.

What a hassle and how can they see me as someone who has to deal with what they are looking for. They probably have me as some target for a while now. Because they know that I’ve purchased my Chinese phone number in Xinjiang. But let’s be honest, I do not really understand what is going on.

Fortunately they take good care of me with tea. Moments later, I must sign a Chinese written form. Not only a signature but also fingerprints. I’ve a lot of questions, but just work along with the officers. Hoping that all is well translated in Chinese of what I just explained.

Not much later I’m back at the road where I was arrested four hours ago. I ask them if they want to have a photo with me. Should be unique with all the SWAT officers around me. Unfortunately, it’s not permitted during working hours. They wave goodbye to me and a bit confused I continue my way up the mountain again.

What on earth just happened to me?