Trip Notes for July 26, 27, 28

Sunday, July 26: Kashgar, China

7:30  I’m up bright and early and off to Kashmir’s Sunday livestock market.  After an hour, Duncan, Kirk and Rodney have seen enough and decide to drive about 5km back into town to see the food market / bazaar.  I’m on a trip down Memory Lane so I decide to stick around and grab a cab back into town later this afternoon.  The livestock market in Kashgar takes me right back to the Stouffville Sales Barn, circa 1978.  I couldn’t find any mood rings or Farah Fawcett posters but otherwise it’s amazingly similar to the market that I attended most Saturday mornings.

Here are a few of the scenes that took me back.

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For more photos and about a dozen videos, check out pages 1, 2 and 3 of the China gallery:  https://mikehamilton.smugmug.com/China/

Monday, July 27: Kashgar, China

18:30  I’m up and I’m thirsty.  The time of this post – 18:30 – is no typo.  I don’t know what hit me but I slept all night and most of the day and only now do I feel like eating or drinking.  There are no photos and no further details will be provided.  I’m just glad that I was staying in a hotel with a western bathroom.

Tuesday, July 28: Kashgar, China

9:50 We leave our lovely hotel in Kashgar and set out for a six hour drive to Lake Karakul.  The Karakorum Highway is said to be one of the World’s Top 10 Scenic Drives.  Tonight we’ll camp at about 3400 meters and get within 200 km of Pakistan and K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

11:00  We stop for gas and groceries in a small village along the way.  Eggs, vegetables, and a leg of lamb are on the list and we easily find everything at several roadside stands.  At the gas station we are the centre of attention for 10 minutes.  People are seen running from the station, only to return a few minutes later with friends and family members in tow.  “Come see the big orange truck full of white people,” doesn’t sound that enticing to me but it apparently works in rural Xinjiang Province where tourists are pretty rare.

13:00  Our first police checkpoint of the day.  One of the cops boards the truck just to be sure that it’s a bus.  Confused?  We call it a truck but in fact it’s licensed as a bus within China.  We pay highway tolls appropriate for a bus (cheaper than a truck) but we regularly have to explain that what looks like a truck is indeed a bus carrying paying passengers and not freight.

14:00  The entire length of the Karakorum Highway is under construction.  We’ve taken countless detours and are at least three hours behind schedule.  The road will be fabulous whenever it’s done.

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15:35  We make a quick photo stop at a beautiful lake and are set upon by souvenir sellers.  They have the usual assortment of beads, bracelets and trinkets, but these rural mountain dwellers also sell rock samples and semi-precious stones.  I buy nine pieces of turquoise for 80 yuan or about $15.50. One of the passengers is a geologist who has worked for large gold and silver mining companies in Australia and Nevada.  She says that my $15 handful of rocks would easily fetch $400-$600 in the US.  The sellers practically chase the truck down the road as we drive off, each one yelling “I give you better price” in near perfect English.

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16:10  We finally arrive at the lake.  All nine of us will sleep in one very basic yurt.  It should be cozy.   There are no showers and the bathroom is an outhouse with “his” and “hers” holes in the floor.  I can’t get closer than about 10 meters before I begin to gag.  Thankfully there’s a large quarry directly across the road.

19:15  Rodney has seasoned the leg of lamb and it’s now roasting over an open fire. A local nomadic family had been washing clothes in the lake but they have now left us with the beach to ourselves.

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21:10 Does it get any better than a great barbecue served lakeside with dozens of snow-capped mountains in the distance and wild camels peacefully strolling through the campsite?

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22:11  It’s still light out.  In the last hour we’ve watched three baby yaks came bounding past the truck, another heard of camels has lazily strolled down to the water and back, and a dozen sheep have been grazing just a few feet from the fire on which one of their own was recently roasted. They’re brave little buggers.

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