July 20: Dunhuang, China
6:35 It’s an early start as we have a drive of 811 kilometres to the city of Turpan. At 135 meters below sea level, Turpan is the second lowest point on earth.
8:36 We’ve been driving through a wind farm for the last 15 minutess. There are turbines on both sides of the road, stretching as far as the eye can see.
9:04 We make the day’s first toilet stop. Service stations on Chinese highways are all very similar — a full-service restaurant, men’s and women’s toilets, and a shop selling snacks and drinks. The drinks are rarely cold. This particular shop has about 1000 bottles of Plus C (similar to C Plus) but that’s all the only beverage they have, and it’s warm. They do have a nice assortment of vacuum packed chicken feet, however.
9:31 We arrive at the border between Gansu and Xingjiang Province. There is a long line of trucks, including about 20 trucks hauling brand new John Deere combines.
9:40 There are six sets of power lines running parallel to the highway. The towers are larger than any I’ve seen in North America – and there are six towers wide.
10:08 We are well into the Taklamakan Desert now. Rod quips that Mother Nature had obviously run out of imagination when she made this place.
5:29 Helen gets cell service and notes that it’s 44C in the closest town. We have passed a lot of vineyards in the last hour. It’s hard to imagine growing grapes for wine production in such a hot environment. It’s more Gazza than Napa.
5:50 We start to see long narrow huts constructed of clay bricks with every second or third brick missing. Jason confirms that these are used for drying grapes. Raisins are the #1 export from this area.
7:12 We arrive in Turpan, population 270,000.