Jiayuguan to Hami – 22/6/16
The best thing observed was the lane discipline followed by trucks and heavy vehicles on the highways and expressways, unlike India, which could avoid accidents and ease flow of traffic. We could drive at 120+ speed fearlessly.
Several mobile towers were installed on the highways. Providing power to them were solar panels and even wind-mills at some places, thereby providing undisrupted network for travellers. Every two hours, we could stop the vehicle at a convenient place for toilets, refreshments, store, petrol bunk.
After travelling all these days through the green grasslands and colourful mountains, today we were passing through dry barren desert natural reserves of China. We could see nothing but barren land, bare mountains, rocks, etc with no greenery at all.
Hami city is in eastern Xinjiang. It is well known as the home of sweet Hami melons. Hami is the first city to be reached for travellers exiting Gansu province. The Hami area is known for its large amount of high quality raw resources with 76 kinds of metals already detected. The major mineral resources of this area include coal, iron, copper, nickel, gold.
Today we had Uyghur street food for dinner which were the famous Kebabs, Draft Beer, etc., at Hami.
Tomorrow we leave for Turpan.
Hami to Turpan – 23/6/16
Today, the drive again was on the High Speed Motorway through the barren deserts of China.
On nearing Turpan, we decided to see the Flaming Mountains or Gaochang Mountains, barren, eroded, red sandstone hills in Tian Shan Mountain range, Xinjiang, China, near the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert and east of the city of Turpan. The striking gullies and trenches caused by erosion of the red sandstone bedrock give the mountains a flaming appearance at certain times of the day, hence the name.
Then we visited the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave, a complex of Buddhist cave grottos dating back to the 5th to 14th century between the cities of Turpan and Shanshan at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley, a gorge in the Flaming Mountains, China. They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains. The roasted egg in the sand is a popular food there. We understand that it has a flavour quite different from the boiled and fried ones.
We then arrived at our Hotel, Huazhu-ji in Turpan where we stay for two days.
Turpan – 24/6/16
Turpan is also known as Turfan or Tulufan, a city located in the east of Xinjiang,
Turpan has a historically long tradition of growing grape and other fruits, using the karez underground irrigation system, which we visited today. It is famous for growing the seedless white grape, the manaizi grape. Raisin and other dried fruits were being sold at the tourists’ area.
The Jiaohe Ruins is a Chinese archaeological site found in the Yarnaz Valley, 10 km west of the city of Turpan in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It is a natural fortress located atop a steep cliff on a leaf-shaped plateau between two deep river valleys.
Turpan to Korla – 25/6/16
We had breakfast at DICOS, burgers and coffee and left for Korla a 380 km drive on the Expressway. After several Police checks on the way, managed to reach Korla around 4.00 pm. Checked in at Pear City Garden Hotel, facing the “Peacock River”. Went down for a nice walk along the river to build a nice appetite before a heavy buffet at the Hotel. A lovely spread awaited us with beer included.
Korla is a mid-sized city in central Xinjiang, known for its “fragrant” pears.
The hotels in the whole of China that we travelled were very good and costed us on an average Rs.3800/- on a double occupancy.
Today we completed 10,000 kms since we left home on May 20th, with 200 hours of total driving time, another 40,000 kms still to go.
Korla to Aksu – 26/6/16
Again today had several rounds of police checks on the way, but a smooth highway all throughout. After driving down the Taklamakan Desert, we arrive at Aksu city which means “white water”. Aksu, is a city in Xinjiang prince, lying at the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. Drove around 550 kms from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm with lunch break, filling up fuel etc, before we checked in at Holiday Inn Pudong.
After relaxing for sometime we met again for dinner at the hotel Oriental restaurant. Had a tough time understanding the menu. The menu was in Chinese script and English script but both said the same thing. Thanks to Susanne and her Google translation, managed to order an Italian soup for us. The picture in the menu showed bread alongside, but what came along was a piece of pastry. When we requested for bread, the steward who was supposed to be understanding English went to the kitchen and brought back some more pastries. Probably he understood we wanted some more pastries and did not know what bread was.
Susanne and Michael had ordered for Pizza and they seem to have liked it except that it had the usual Chinese aroma. Probably they had used some Chinese herbs.
After dinner went for a small walk when we noticed the old houses by the side of the service roads. Locals were happily enjoying themselves sitting out, children playing, someone selling Kebabs and Naans.
Akesu to Kashgar – 27/6/16
Today, we had about 470-km drive to Kashgar on the Expressway. We started around 9.30 from the hotel, reached Kashgar around 4.00 pm. We checked in at Qinibagh Royal Hotel, a day before we leave China to Kyrgyzstan.
Kashgar is the westernmost city in the Xinjiang Uyghur, located near the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kashgar is strategically important city on the Silk Road between China, the Middle East, and Europe. Kashgar is part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor.
After a small freshening up session we went to the local market. It was huge with shops selling clothes, dry fruits, herbs, handicrafts, silk, woollen clothes, blankets, etc. Michael and Suzanne tried a few caps. Michael bought one cap for his son. We tasted quite a few varieties of dry fruits, bought some dry fruits too and then went for dinner to a restaurant suggested in the Lonely Planet book. We had to meet up with our guide, Adil for the border crossing to discuss the border crossing process. Had a nice dinner of seekh kebabs, aubergine & peppers, mutton soup with naan.
Kashgar to Torugart – 28/6/16
We were ready at 9.00 today to leave for the border crossing. Navo Tour had arranged a local guide to help us with our paperwork and cross the border. We reached the border immigration office at around 10.30 am and we’re locked by money changers. We were conned into exchanging money at 50 percent less than the market value. After about half an hour another money exchanger came and offered us 6.00 Kyrgyzstan Som for 1.00 RMB as against 5.00 offered earlier, when we even exchanged some money. After negotiations he paid us 8.50 Som for 1 RMB. We felt cheated and our agent was a party to the cheating as it was his confident confirmation that we fell for it.
After a long wait of about 2 hours managed to cross the Chinese immigration office and proceeded to the Torugart pass which was located about 110 kms away from the pass itself at an elevation of 2000 mtrs above sea level in Ulugqat County of the Kizilsu KirghizIt. It was the end of China roads, we came across muddy, pot holed roads, blocked by flock of sheeps. Crossing all the hurdles reached the army check post at Torugart and it was closed for lunch. Again we had to wait for more than an hour and half, after which they opened and let us pass by.
Completed our paper work with the Chinese officials and we’re let out from the Chinese side to the Kyrgyzstan side. After driving for about another few kilometers of the very scenic road, we reached the Kyrgyz border gate with barbed wire fencing. After a wait of 20-25 minutes he let us in after doing a preliminary inspection of the vehicle, documents, etc. At the immigration and customs, we got our passports stamped for entry into Kyrgyzstan, a former was filled and copy handed over to us for Customs. We were asked to buy insurance for our car at Kyrgyz SOM 1000 for which he issued an official receipt. Our cars were inspected thoroughly and then we were let to go only to be stopped at 2 more barbed wire fencing gates where they again checked our papers and then let us go.
We could see the scenic Lake of Chatyr-Kul lies near the pass on the Kyrgyz side. However the road to Naryn stretching for some 200 km was narrow but very scenic.
We finally reached Naryn with about 25 kms of no road as the entire stretch was under repairs.
Happy to cross one more border and enter another country.
This completes our China blog.
To follow our complete China journey, it is recommended that you view
China Part 1