Montag, 29. Mai 2017

Eastbound on the south rim of Taklamakan

Three long days in the desert on my way from Kashgar to Hotan. What is there to see apart from sand and stones?
The nicest are certainly the forestation strips 20-50 metres on both sides of the road over many kilometers. The poplar and willow trees are still small (1-2 m) but hopefully in a few years from now will provide shade and shelter from wind.
Sometimes animals like black beetles, brown lizards, and a flock of camels with two humps.
Furthermore mainly human artefacts: a lot of rubbish, mainly PET bottles of various water or soda brands, half of them I already tasted, golden coloured Red Bull cans, remains of car breakdowns like oil patches,  torn truck tires, sometimes parallel grooves in the asphalt caused by rims after a tires has exploded. The torn tires are the enemy of the cyclists because a truck tire not only consists of rubber but also has a mesh of fine steel wires for stability. If set free these very thin wires find their way even through especially puncture-proof bicycle tires. In my last trip in 2010 in China I had a puncture by these wires every third day and this time I already got hit once the day after I left Kashgar.
Sometimes v-shaped irrigation channels made of big concrete plates directing water from a distant river into some villages can be seen when they cross the road.  
Every 30 to 40 km on road crossing little food stalls offer a variety of water and soft drinks and some cookies. I quite often stop at one of these to have a cool lemonade to drink.
The speed of traveling depends mainly on the wind (I am almost feeling like a sailor). In the morning the prevailing direction is from west which is beneficial for me as I am travelling eastbound. Sometime between noon and late afternoon the wind turns to east which makes it very hard to cycle. Going with the wind allows an average of 25 km/h whereas this drops to below 15 km/h when going against the wind. I usually start early before 7 am to make use of the beneficial winds and get a large portion of my daily work done before noon.
After these 3 long days in the desert covering 168, 169, and 185 km and sleeping at very improvised place I enjoy the comfort of a rest day in a hotel in the oasis town Hotan.
 Hotan is a large oasis as here a river from the Tibetan Kunlun mountains flows down into Tarim basin and gives live to a 50 km stretch of land before it trickles away in the sands of Taklamakan desert.
The next bigger town after Hotan is Cherchen (Qiemo) 580 km or 4 day away by bicycle.  The progress is still good, 975 km in the last 7 days and today I exceeded the 2000 km mark since the start of my trip in Islamabad. The course today was very flat through a relatively green part with a lot of reed and some sand dunes, but quite empty, no dwellings on 130 km after Niya. Even twice today a car stopped and drivers gave me water, cola and snickers. Due to no or little headwind I already at 15:30 reached my todays goal and immediately found a decent hotel by asking the police.
Currently I stay in a small town but even here Wifi in the hotel works fine and in the TV I could find among 100 Chinese or Uighur channels the one english-language news channel of Chinese TV which is quite objective and critical. 
Tomorrow I will reach Cherchen (Qiemo) and probably pause there for one day. From Qiemo there are still 1080 km to go through mainly desert area till Golmud in province Qinghai. I hope some oasis towns are interspersed. After Golmud it will go into the mountains again.

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