> On The Silk Road - Xian to Turpan


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Well the big silk road trip started!

All did not start well - as I had to spend most of the previous week in Delhi trying to close a deal. I finally got the end of the "absolutely must do before you go list" about 5 hours before the flight by working though the night.

This meant (as I discovered later) that I flew with Delhi belly, no sleep and a cold. I arrived in Xi'an in western china after a 10 hour transit with China Soutern (sort of the chinese version of Ryanair without the service) feeling "a little off".

The original plan was to head to Dun Huang the next day but I ahd to cancel that and spend the day recovering in Xi'an and making arrangements - it all turned out for the best but it was a shame to miss dun huang. Xi'an is a reasonanble size city - most of which these days seems to be mobile phone shops (that is a change since I was last there). I spent most of the time in the muslin sector eating and generally hanging.

I managed to get a ticket to Turpan at the edge of the Taklaman desert - the travel agent said "no chance - you need 7 days notice" the station said "what train do you want"!

So off I headed on my 35 hour trip to Turpan (first class of course). The first night was through China but after that through the day was gradual change - fist to semi-desert - the silk road route and the train follows the HeXi coridor between the Gobi and Tibet - great views of the edge of the plateu (how do you spell that word?) - and then to the full Gobi desert. Finally the landscape was pure post-apocalypse piles of rubble with the occasional coal mine and oil well and the most amazing sunset.

Finally - I arrived at the station for Turpan at 05:00. The station is in the middle of the desert about 50k from Turpan (sort of Turpan Parkway). A cold wind was blowing, the signs were creaking in the wind and sage brush was blowing past - no wonder they call this China's wild west! However - there was an enterprising bloke with a minvan and I only had to wait 90 minutes before he had enough people to make the run (at least it was warm). The trip also had it highlights - the rad disappeared after about 100 m in a miles long river wash and as were picking our way across, three donkey carts came the other way in convoy with all of the "drivers" asleep in the back! Seems a perfectly reasonable way to commute to work and get more sleep and I am sure that the donkeys know the way. What I could not work out is whether the drivers have to wake up to tell the donkeys when to leave or whether the donkeys decide that as well?

So finally I have arrived in Turpan - a place that has fascinated me for years. Turpan is in the Turpan basin (duh!) which at 150m below is the second lowest place on Earth and is also as far as you can get from any sea. It never rains here - so it is very amazing that not only is it a very green ciity with water flowing everywhere but that it is famous for growing grapes. The secret is a huge (5000k) network of 2000 year old underground water channels that bring a plentiful suply of water from the mountains. It really works - there is water everywhereand thank good as the temperature shoots to 45C during the day! Today I visited a mud brick mosque that is pure aladin! No sign of any wicked princes yet.

The food, however, is the best. I just a turkish guy who reckons that the kebabs here are better than Turkey (for which unnationalistic statement he will pay when he gets home) and the breads backed withherbs are too nice to describe.

Not bad for a couple of days. I will be heading off for another 24 hour trip to Kashgar (hard sleeper this time since this train does not have soft sleeper) tommorow and I should arrive Friday evening.

To see the picture - click here