China # 2 – Kashgar – August 2014

May 2, 2018

Back in the days of the Silk Road, Kashgar was one of the most important trading stops along this historic Route. Having survived the treacherous crossing of the Taklamakan Desert east of Kashgar, many merchants probably stopped here for weeks to bargain and exchange goods before returning home. In essence, it was a giant marketplace and bazaar which continues today. Our wonderful guide, Green, had some other ideas to explore and we followed her obediently.

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Kids are kids anywhere in the world!

We would be preparing most of our food on the road which included Green. As luck would have it, she was a pretty good cook herself. Our next stop was a giant produce market. Along the way we passed the hardware bazaar which is always fascinating. Wandering along alleys of “Old Kashgar”, we started to get a close-up look at the Chinese people, at least at this end of the country. They were Uyghur, an ethnic Turkic group.

Leaving Kashgar we started our journey southeast of what would be a series of superhighways. We needed to cover distance each day in order to keep on our route. We would rather have followed the many secondary roads through villages in the distance, but these main highways were protected and guarded by 2 or 3-foot metal guardrails and eight-strand barbwire fences behind them. We could drive an hour or two before there was even a place to turn off the highway.

Yes, women really do wear these amazing prints and colors.

Yes, women really do wear these amazing prints and colors.

We had hoped to stop at the famous knife factory in Yengisar, but we missed the turnoff and there was no way to make a U-turn on these highways for miles. We later suspected that Green may have missed the turnoff on purpose because Yengisar was an Uyghur Moslem town, and Green was a Buddhist Han. The majority of Chinese are Han. There had been some recent uprisings and it’s very possible that an authority ordered her not to stop as it might have endangered her and our safety or so they thought. (A political incident with foreigners needed to be avoided at all cost.)

We were starting to understand that China is not a unified nation. With so many different languages, conflicting religions and cultures it turns out that there seems to be a lot of people who don’t want to be “Chinese”, which represents quite a problem for the controlling communist government.

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Unintentionally, the boy was displaying his sister’s pretty dress.

Then there was wild camping. RV parks or campgrounds were nonexistent, and as one overland traveler observed, if there’s a flat piece of land anywhere near the highway, someone is growing something. That was mostly true further east. Around 5:00 in the afternoon we would start watching for empty lots, gravel pits or ???. By 6:00 we got less picky. There had to be a dry flat spot for Green to set up her MSR tent.

Now we had barely a month to play, minus the two days it took to get into China and the two more days it would take to get out of China, (talk about bureaucracies), and unlike our normal mode of travel, “Don’t take the trip. Let the trip take you.”, we did have somewhat of a march route. As previously mentioned, we also had to exit China at an exact place on an exact day. There was lots to see over the next 4,286 miles (6,897 km). We were following the Silk Road and our Eurasian Odyssey goal of driving ocean to ocean, wheels on the ground, was in sight.

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These kids loved posing for us.

Without running on about all the incredible things we saw, as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you glance through this selection and read the captions, you will get a feeling for the experience we were having on our first real day in China. The first night on the road we prepared American style spaghetti, and Green was learning how to eat noodles with a spoon and fork instead of chopsticks. She was a real sport.

3 Responses to “China # 2 – Kashgar – August 2014”

  1. Your adventures bring back my memories of China in 2011. Agree China has a very diversified people and the kids are so much fun (kid language is universal). I no longer lump “Chinese” people as one group, they don’t even look alike to me anymore. I, too, puzzled about the holes in baby/kid pants! And the markets are so colorful! dried stuff in bags everywhere too! And the super highways . . . I truly doubt if your vehicle would have been able to take secondary roads, they don’t usually lead to main highways, mostly dead ends at villages, then back-track to highway.

  2. We did take some secondary roads in China, see upcoming blogs. We had to travel such long distances each day to cover the 4,000 miles that the super highways were sometimes our only option. We would have much preferred to travel in a more leisure pace but were restricted by our 30 day visa and also the high cost of having to have the route organized by a Chinese company, approved by the government (huge fees) and the mandatory guide. The Turtle V is a four-wheel drive expedition vehicle. It was built specifically for back-road travels. We have logged hundreds of miles on dirt roads and two-tracks in the U.S., Mexico and across Eurasia. Some were very challenging to say the least. Others you wouldn’t even want to talk on.

  3. Toddlers with open rear end pants: Very practical indeed. Chinese are saving millions on diapers and landfills. The first time I spotted one was about 11PM at our hotel parking lot. The mother marched her son onto the side walk where he pooped right in the middle of it. She wiped his butt with a tissue, left it there and back they went. Quite shocked I told Green about it the next morning. Her answer: it’s OK. Children up to 2 or 3 are expected to do just that. Even she did it. What about clean-up? Street workers. Hmm.

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