Paul Chi and his brother Jerry make breakfast for us all in the foyer of our hotel which was built 2 years ago in order to attract custom from would be K2 climbers as they set off north to the great Mountain. However today not a crampon in site but hotel very cheap.
Wheels up at 0900 and we shoot off eastwards along the edge of the Taliimakin desert. It is dusty but only 18 deg C. Hot sun but cool enough for the bikers to enjoy moving through the air. There are two sorts of events this road , bizarre road users and oases, the latter of which are long and thin stretching from uphill in the south to the more dependent northern limits where presumably the water dives even deeper into the dust. Occasionally the water is on the surface and we whiz by brown muddy streams which snake always from right to left off into the desert as we venture eastwards. Flash floods must be a major problem for every mile of the road is protected by a series of inverted V shaped culverts bull dozed out of the sand. The water is then guided under the road through large concrete pipes. They hadn’t go this right in Kyrgyzstan where the road would frequently get washed away in a down pour.
The oasis villages are very regularly spaced and indeed when you look at the map you can see an evenly spaced series of valleys running down from Tibet evacuating they rivers into the Taliimakan. At Karakash just before Hotan a fair sized river shoots northwards and manages to get 50 miles into the desert before disappearing down a hole at a place called Koshlash! The old Hotan He trail continues northwards without its river past Fort Martzatag for 500 miles right up to Aksu near the great mountains of Tomur Feng on the Kazakhstan border.
Returning to our fellow travelers we enjoy a variety of old and modern vehicles
but the most unique – to our surprise and great pleasure we come upon Nathan Jones, my son Harry’s friend who is bicycling from Bristol to Tokyo.
Meanwhile across the road.-
We have now met Nathan three times on the road and the guys have been very impressed with his tenacity and hardiness. Nathan has another 7 months to reach Tokyo and has elicited Richard’s help in getting some lessons in Mandarin when he rests in Beijing for a month in the summer.
Nathan covers formidable distances and camps out at night in the Taliimakan. You can see the barren landscape around us. He promises to be in Hotan to join us for dinner tomorrow night before we have our own bash at crossing the Taliimakan Shamo on a new road .
Last shot -Yak head on the foremast- no I didn’t hit it.
Love to all