Kashgar to Aksu
Well, we are definitely out of the mountains and into some flat terrain again, at least for now that is. Our rest day in Kashgar was well appreciated as always and gave us our first taste of a big Chinese city and a chance to explore yet another new country and culture.
We are traveling in the province of Xinjiang which occupies a huge chunk of North Western China, also encompassing the whole Taklamakan desert. This region or province of China is unique in the fact that it is mostly all Muslim as it is occupied by the Uigur tribe who are of Turkic descent, where as the majority of the rest of china is of the Han Chinese. The major highlight of Kashgar was visiting the Uigur â€œYekshenba Bazaarâ€ (Sunday Bazaar) which attracts over 100,000 thousand villagers and nomads who gather here to buy, sell and trade anything and everything from camels and sheep to Iranian saffron and loose leaf tea!!
We entered into a whole new world as we rode out of Kashgar and headed into some very desolate terrain. In the north (to our left as we ride) we have the Tian Shan mountains and in the south (to our right) the Taklamakan desert. Leaving the city in the early morning we thought we were in for our first day of rain on the expedition as it looked overcast and very hazy, then we thought maybe it was some disgusting blanket of smog, but we realized soon after leaving civilization that it was all just dust from the thousands of square kilometers of the Taklamakan floating in the atmosphere!! It almost put you into a dream like state as it created such a haze blocking out the sun and making the mountains that were only 500 meters away disappear. Leaving only a faint outline the dusty haze made it hard to determine whether or not there was even a mountain range there.
Our first night out of the city had us sleeping at a grubby little Chinese truck stop in the middle of nowhere with an excellent view of the mountains and where we enjoyed yet another five star meal from Miles, and still to my own amazement he has not cooked the same thing twice since leaving Istanbul!! Last night had us once again camping out under the bright starry sky in the comfort of our tents. Our camp was built around an old abandoned series of what once may have been a few little shops, tea houses and a gas station. One of the old buildings provided a great spot for Miles to set up his kitchen sheltering him from the sun and the wind.
175km ride today brings us into the city of Aksu, leaving us two more days on the road until our rest day in Kuqa. The roads are almost 100% flat and well manicured, along with the never changing scenery of the Tian Shan Mountains to our left and the Taklamakan to our right makes it feel as though we are riding on one huge treadmill. But hey, who can complain we are riding our bikes everyday and the landscape is amazing!!!