You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2012.

Just 2 months ago, I was cycling in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan  trembling in the cold air, which has become a nice memory now, and  I never thought  the day would come when I get to miss it. Well, it’s still a beginning of summer but I’ve completely got bored with the too early summer time in desert.

The way was easy for 100km from Urumqi. It always goes down and the wind was also good, and the most important fact was there were continually villages or shops where I could charge food and drink.  I met this Kazakh man with a lot of “happy” sheep , which means there is water and green at least. Even they cannot live in a real desert.

Happy camping near a river. Now I know even one big rock is so pleasant for sleeping behind it.

After riding down another 100km, I arrived at Turpan, known as the lowest and hottest place in China. The first time to be under 0m since Holland. This oasis city used to be an important place for old Silk Road and there are many historical sites. This 交河故城 is the most famous of them.

It’s located on the massive island created by crossing of 2 rivers. The height of cliff is about 30m and it’s so steep that nobody can climb up. That’s why it’s preserved well even though all the buildings are made of fragile cray. Moreover, they were created by carving the ground downwards. This is one big natural fort and an amazing  sculpture by ancient people as well.

I came across these unique buildings on the way. This city is very famous for grape, especially dried grape. People said it gets dark color if it’s exposed to direct sunlight. It needs to be in shadow and dry wind. That’s why these are built on slope of hill and have small holes on facades which can get wind avoiding sunlight efficiently. The materials are only cray and branch of tree for roof. It’s extremely simple but every building is slightly different in terms of color of cray, module of brick or design of ornament on top of facade. Good example for primitive architecture.

On the next day, I went to the area of traditional Uygur houses with Uygur guy I met on Couchsurfing.  It’s located nearby city center where the houses are densely built, so there is no space for grape storage(It needs huge land in order to make space between each building) and it “moves” on top of house as a result. It’s really interesting that they are similar to the houses with ventilation tower in Iranian desert (though the functions are different). Environment designs architecture.

We visited one of the houses where one couple, their grandmother and children live. In Uygur tradition, the last male child has to inherit his parents’ house and look after them. The main house has some rooms which have a private access for each and the garden and terrace are common spaces except in winter. The other building faced to the main one is a temporal house for other brothers who have just get married to live in until they buy their own houses.  The more interesting thing would be found when you climb up on the roof; many roofs are overlapped to make a continuous surface, each of them has different texture and level to get minimal sunlight(I guess some of the roofs might be took out in winter) and sets of roofs, trees and hederiform plants such as grape make various territories on the ground.  Shadow is the most important spacial factor in desert.

This mountain is called 火焔山 because it looks like burning fire. Unfortunately it was not burning in cloudy weather…but better than getting burned .

I dived into this canal.

Human salt. I couldn’t see sweat on my arms and I thought I was not getting sweat so much, but in fact it evaporated as soon as coming up. The temperature rose up to 35℃. I carried 10L of water at most. And this water caused a problem.

At the hotel in Turpan, I asked people if I could drink tap-water and they said yes. I took and drunk it, then got a heavy stomach ache. I was so stupid.
I could reach a city fortunately, rushed into a hotel and kept sleeping for a whole day without eating anything. I stayed in a hotel of middle class which I never choose normally but that was the best way considering of the problem on finding hotel in China(Some hotels, especially cheap places don’t accept foreigners because of control by police. One day I was forced to go to a police station with a hotel owner and policemen made copy of my passport. I guess it was not anything official because not all of hotels asked me to do it. In Shinjang, moreover, foreigners cannot use internet cafe, or even local people have to show their ID to get inside. Those “unfreedom” always annoyed me). This hotel was really comfortable, with a big TV, clean shower and toilet, PC connected to Internet and a soft double bed. The best hotel in my trip.

I cycled again 2days later and didn’t eat anything but everything was OK in the morning. However, I got sick again as the temperature rose. I was really thirsty but I couldn’t even drink any more because it made me vomit….. gave up.
When I was pushing bike, one driver stopped and let me on his car. The god saves me when I really need his help.

He dropped me off 80km away from the next city, Kumul. I got better  and rode to there. I really wanted to cycle in the car, seeing outside from the window.  I don’t know why but landscape seems more beautiful while I’m skipping by car or train, and it always makes me regret not cycling.

After all,I cycled 120km on that day only with 2 redbul.  and stayed in the worst hotel in my life.

哈密瓜 is the famous melon here. After 3days’ eating nothing!

I met 2 cyclists just after leaving Kumul(actually I saw them when I took a truck). Alan(he is 63!) from France and Nathan from UK. I joined them and cycled together.
The way was just boring. There is nothing but desert and small restaurants every 50km. But I enjoyed very much riding and talking with them. There is new highway under construction but almost completed, so we could cycle on it not annoyed by crazy tracks. Sometimes it was badly windy and we made a line to make “slipstream”. It was so nice to cycle together.

We crossed more cyclists. That’s because many branches of route called “Silk Road” join altogether again in this area. I saw the name of Ben on the notebook in a small restaurant. It’s so impressive to feel that a lot of people who have different minds, purposes or nationalities have been/will be on the same way, going to each destination.

Camping in desert.

The border of Shinjang and the next region Gansu(甘粛). One region in China is actually as huge as one country.

It’s almost 2000m high, we were caught in a heavy shower there and slightly feeling cold, which was exactly what I hoped in hot desert, but I really wanted hot room and tea at that moment.

3 men and bikes in a small room.

Beautiful contrast.

It’s also nice contrast.

The time to separate from Alan. Nathan and I got off the main road and headed to Dunhuang(敦煌), one of the highlight on Silk Road.

The way to Dunhuang was interesting. You can see the different types of desert in 100km. And  we got down to Oasis.

There is the famous sand dune called 沙鳴山.

We climbed along the ridge of dune.  It’s better to walk in the shadow.

The top of dune was the perfect place to get drunk .

and perfect to see sunset as well.
Nathan has already left for the next place, but he is going to Japan so we would meet again soon. Let’s cycle toward the sun, and see you there.

Urumqi – Dunhuang

10969 – 11936 / 970km

The next way: Dunhuang – Xi’an(西安), the end of Silk Road


Yu Ito

June 2012
« May   Jul »