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There is a reason why the road we have been traveling on is so quiet during the day; all the trucks travel on it throughout the night! All night long our wee little paradise of a desert camp echoed with the roar of trucks, the horns of the all night buses and the ‘clunk, clunk’ of the trains. At least the cool temperatures made it easy and enjoyable to sleep! The long distance today meant that riders packed up and got ready to hit the road early. What lay ahead was 175km of mostly flat terrain with a couple of villages along the way. The fact we lost the mountain range early made the landscape feel more like a desert than the last few days. Lunch at 90km and a refreshment stop at 145km made sure everyone stayed well-hydrated and well-fed. All in all it was a great ride until we crossed through a toll booth and hit the outskirts of the city of Aksu; a dusty, industrial, city of over a million. The riders had to compete with horse carts, bicycles, motorbikes, scooters, buses, trucks, cars and pedestrians to finally make it to the Aksu Inn. It seemed like a pearl after the last 10km of riding amongst the traffic. Their arrival was also made pleasant by the Jiang Nan Bath Center, offering massage therapists, saunas, showers and baths to dusty and weary riders! So while some riders slogged it out over 175km, others enjoyed a massage or ate in the yummy little restaurant at the back of the hotel. Miles and the African Routes boys chopped and cooked vegetables (and filled the water tanks) before a crowd of highly amused, excited and curious Chinese folks. The rest of the staff…well we rode, we manned refreshment stops, handled check in at the hotel, fixed bikes and if you were Elaine, then you cleaned wounds and dealt with all the various other illnesses floating around the group at present! Errol, who is the undisputed Captain of the lunch truck at present, serves up savoury crepes, fried egg and toasted sandwiches and all sorts of other goodies (when you are on the road…things like this are gold!). So, we may not be able to write a ‘Rough Guide’ or ‘Lonely Planet’ description that would do any justice to the city of Aksu, but for the 30th of September 2007, it will be remembered as the wee pearl in a 5 day stretch of desert camps along the Silk Route in China…and that’s enough for these riders!
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