Saturday, July 25: Kuqe, China
7:06 I’m in the parking lot of our hotel, leaning on a garbage bin, having just spoken with friends in Toronto via FaceTime. There’s not much in the way of scenery to show them. … Today we will drive 690 km to Kashgar, the westernmost city in China, located near the border with Tajikistand and Kyrgyzstan. There has been a settlement there since at least 168 BC and probably much longer. Historically it was a key trading post on the Silk Road and at various times has been under the rule of the Persian, Turkic, Tibetan, Mongol and Chinese empires.
12:08 We stop at brand new highway gas station. Like about half of the service stations located on these Chinese toll roads, it’s fully built but not yet opened. Barbed wire surrounds the gas pumps, suggesting that the underground tanks might contain gas. The washroom are open, although there isn’t any running water. That’s rarely an issue in China. A guy is selling snacks, liquor and melons in the parking lot. I ask him how much he wants for the old bed that he’s using to display his wares. He doesn’t understand which is just as well since I cannot lug an iron bed around with me for the next year. Better stick to fake “Apple” hats, I realize.
12:30 The temperature on the truck hits 41C. It’s a dry heat. Dry like a pizza oven. Someone could die in this heat… if they get between me and the stash of cold pop and beer that we have in the onboard fridge. “Just think,” says Helen, “the record temperature in the Taklamakan desert is 62.7C.” Aren’t we blessed to be driving in temperatures a good 20 degrees below the record?
17:06 We have just checked into the Seman Hotel. I’m afraid to ask about the name. The AC works and there’s a licensed cafe about 20 steps away. I know where I’ll be for the rest of the evening.