May 29, 2012

Plausible deniability

I’d intended something interesting in China this Spring: an unsupported, continuous East-West traverse of the Tian Shan, from Urumqi to the Kazakh border at Korgas. Travelling light on foot at or about the 3000-4000m watershed, carrying food for a couple of weeks at a time, dropping out to small villages for the occasional resupply; no maps available, no communications, no realistic chance of rescue if it all went wrong. It would’ve qualified as an ‘adventure’, I think.

It might still happen - but not this year. Even as I was fleshing out the details, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t a go-er at the present time. The violence in Xinjiang kicked off again (link - and no, I haven’t been able to see that page here). It complicates access in a region that is already paranoid about foreigners. Recent developments have only complicated the relationship between the Chinese and us bignoses (BBC link).

All that might have been manageable if it hadn’t been for China tightening up visa regulations. In order to come here this time, I had to get a letter of invitation from my Chinese partner, flagging her up on the state radar. If I misbehave, any of the shitstorm I might generate rolls back down onto her. That’s an unacceptable risk, one I’m not willing to take. Popping into the hills for a few days at a time is probably OK, but not an unexplained absence of a month or more.