Friday, May 26, 2006

30 April 2006


After much planning, we (Rotraut Boyens, ‘Tom,’ Xiao He, our driver, and me) departed Kashigar to investigate the Taklimakan Desert (southern Xinjiang). NOTE: ALL OF THESE ‘JOURNAL ENTREES’ (formerly known at ‘The Daily Dosage’) IS AFTER THE FACT, THUS IN PAST TENSE.

We loaded up Xiao He’s ‘Santana’ (Volkswagen) with all we thought needed, including camping gear. It was too much as always but Xiao He squashed it all inside his trunk somehow. But, we had to keep our backpacks up front with us.

Toby Wheeler, our American friend from Alaska, saw us off giving us a parting gift of some ‘nan’ (Uyghur flat bread). He and his friend ‘Indira,’ were visiting Xinjiang, China from nearby (500KM) Biskek, Krygyzstan.

We’re off at 1000A.M. right on schedule. Ah… ‘Prior planning pays off!’ An old Army admonishment! And so true!

We took highway #315 east, bound for Hotian, via Yarkand (Sarchen in Chinese ). The highway, in contrast to #314 (we cycled down from Urumqi to Kashigar last October), is in disrepair, thus bumpy. Xiao He had to slow way down (at my ‘suggestion’).

About 50KM southeast of Kashigar is ‘knife village,’ (I call it as can’t remember its name.). It’s where are made the famous Uyghur knives. Not interested in knives, I can’t tell you much about them, just know there are for sale everywhere in Xinjiang Province .

Not too long after ‘knife village’ we passed a lake on the right. Then the desert! There are deserts, and then there are deserts, and this part of the Taklimakan is one of those… We’re talking not much of anything, not even sand dunes, just flat nothing, too barren to support any flora! An endless hazy brown as I remember.

I never knew there were so many shades of the color brown until I came to Xinjiang Province.

Thus, the landscape becomes ‘brown bleak,’ when the ‘chamal ’ (desert wind) blows… The feeling of being in a gray-brown cloud, as there is no horizon (earth and sky blend together).

After two hours of driving we stopped for a break, and it so happened this by a rushing canal (brown water). But, I feasted on the sound! Rotraut sat in the shade, ‘Tom,’ the ‘rock hound,’ searched the bank for rocks, and Xiao He, got bored. I did the ‘W.C. number’ behind an abandoned adobe ‘house.’ Just before departing I took a photograph of the group with some Uyghur men who had grown curious of us.

Yarkand, only 180KM east of Kashigar turned out to be a ‘city!’—similar to Kashigar, but even older. If you’re a ‘city,’ you get a Bank of China branch. If you’re ‘old,’ that means an ‘Old Town’ (Uyghur section).

After several tries we found a very good hotel, set back from the madding streets. This hotel wasn’t approved for foreigners, but they took a chance and we were glad as it was quiet, clean, comfortable, and inexpensive (80RMB per)—it had a good hot water shower for one. We ended up staying two nights as I was trying to recover from a cold.

We also partook of the history, visiting the tombs of Uyghur royalty. Amanisahan for one, the woman (‘great Mukam master and queen’). She lived from 1526 to 1560, and is acclaimed as being the one who collected the ‘Uyghur Twelve Mukam ,’ which China considers, ‘one of the priceless treasures of Chinese culture.’

We also visited, on a very warm day, the adjacent ‘cemetery of kings’ which began in 1533, this after ‘buring’ (burying) the Sultan Saidhan, the founder of Yarkand (Saidiya Dynasty, 1514-1682).

Next door is the Altan Mosque built by Sultan Abureshidhan, the second emperor (son of Saidhan), the Mosque completed in 1533A.D.

But, as always what thrilled us were the street children in ‘modern’ Yarkand. Additionally, we were invited into a Uyghur house, and offered tea. This an example of the kind of hospitality the Uyghur people display. Can you imagine walking the streets of New York City and being invited into a person’s flat? I’ll take Xinjiang (China) you can have New York City!

Back in the hotel without English books, I took to watching Chinese television. On the ‘Movie Channel’ I watched a Chinese movie. I also discovered that the U.S. corpo, Johnson and Johnson (New Jersey) is one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, 08.

China is being ‘anglicized!’ via TV. And if you think America is the bastion of capitalism, you should visit China!


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