5 Days in the Taklamakan and hanging for a shower

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August 22nd 2008
Published: August 24th 2008
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We left Turpan on the morning of the 19th. At this stage we were set for four days in the desert on the way to Kashgar. Big days of driving to make it around the Taklamakan Desert. We were prepared for the hot weather with water and out pants that covered out knees (the local dress code). About 2hrs into the journey we hit a mountain range and it started to rain. As we headed through the range it started to get colder (fleeces out). It rained all day. Lunch was spent in a roadside truckstop and it was pouring with rain! At around 7pm we were looking for somewhere dry to pitch camp. Around the same time the rain stopped and it was as if it never happened ...

Day Two in the Desert ..... Another 10 hr /500km day ahead. Today it was classic desert - hot and dry. The actual desert itself was not very pretty at this point - stoney and grey. We saw some good whirly-whirlies and wild camels but that was about all that we saw (other than the little blue houses every three kms where someone is stationed to make sure that the roadside irrigation system works OK). Just before lunch we came across the start of the classic sand dunes. We stopped to take photos but managed to kill the next half hour throwing themselves off the dunes and then running back up to do it again ... lots of fun! Long Long day of driving. Pretty much cabin fever by the time that we pulled off the road to set up camp (around 8pm). Learnt tonight that we needed to spend another night in the desert (due to our permit to enter Kashgar being put off a day) also that it was likely that we would be going to Iran instead of Georgia and Azerbaijan due to the fighting in Georgia.

Day Three in the Desert .... early start. My group was on cooking so we were up before the sun. (yes we are a long way west) Got underway. Stopped in a very cute twon called Mingfeng so that some of the other cooking groups could visit the market. We wandered around searching for our 'coffee in a can' (not big on coffee here so Nescafe in a can is the best we can do! There is beautiful bread out this way. The normal Chinese bread is full of sugar and doesn't take much to chew it.The Uighur bread is very chewy, baked in a hot over and so yummm.. So paid our 1 yuan for some of that as we wandered around ($1 = 6 yuan!). Back on the truck for an afternoon of hot driving. We were close to Hotan so went on a tour of a carpet factory (I've seen a couple of those before) .... wasn't tempted to buy one. Stopped by a lake for camp this evening which was nice.

Day 4 in the Desert ... really needing a shower now ... feeling very grotty (didn't swim in the Lake ... not sure about the water in it) We popped back into Hotan to visit a Silk Factory. I usually like Silk stuff but the Hotan style seems to be the way that you used to tie-dye T-shirts in primary school ... complete with the garrish blues, yellows and reds ... yep wasn't tempted to buy any! Popped back into Hotan for a couple of hours for the cokk groups to visit the Market. The market was crazy - people and animals everywhere. Got back on the truck for another long afternoon of desert driving (and trying to amuse ourselves ... my ipod battery had gone at this point ... lots of random photos out the window). Made camp at around 8pm. Starting to get very excited about that shower tomorrow!

Day 5 in the Desert ... sand everywhere ... and really ready for some shampoo and a big long soak ... not sure why my arm is silver! Not so far to travel today. A visit to a knife factory (this region is know for its ornamental knives ... no not tempted to buy one ... but spent the next half hour looking for the world's largest knife as promised by the sign! Stopped for lunch in a small town. We went for Uighur Shish Kebabs but seemed to be surrounded by wasps that were attracted to the legs of lamb hanging just behind me. At one stage during lunch the local police came to talk to our drivers. There were some Australian Journalists that were somewhere in the region that they were wanting to talk to. They took the Australian passports - there are two retired Melbourne people and me ... Alas, my descriptions of Kangaroos in the desert didn't seem an issue. (though I am being careful). Driving into the afternoon we finally came to the end of the Taklamakan (and a step closer to our shower). A large beautiful lake symbolised the end of the desert and the start of the adventures in Kashgar.

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