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  1. #1 China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) 
    C-Moto Regular cryptographicide's Avatar
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    China, West to East

    It seems that everyone who comes to China and wants to travel eventually starts talking about tibet and Lhasa. I'm no different, but in the end we decided to skip Tibet on a motorcycle. We did it the regular way. But we still wanted to get a big Chinese bike trip in. So here is the plan in short: Take a train from Yantai, Shandong to Lhasa. Spend a few days in Lhasa, then take another train to Urumqi, Xinjiang. We meet the bike in Urumqi, having sent it there the week ahead of time. Then we ride from Urumqi to Yantai. Baidu maps says it's 4500km. Simple enough. I'm going to be working on putting the ride report together in the next few days.

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  2. #2 China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) Prep 
    C-Moto Regular cryptographicide's Avatar
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    Prep
    The first thing I had to do was ship the bike to Urumqi. Sending the bike was tedious and annoying but not difficult by China standards. I looked into sending it by truck, my first quote was 4000元. That guy got a huge "No thanks". I checked out some of the larger, national chains. Their cheapest price was 2300元。 So, I cruised on down to my local train station and asked China Rail Express. I said my bike is 230cc. They said, oh that's an oversize bike, the rate is extra. The weight of the bike is determined from the engine size. They said sending a 230cc bike (1cc=1kg, according to them) would be 1700元 + insurance. Insurance was 1元 for every 100元 that the bike costs. So, if you want 20000元 insurance, it costs 200元。They didn't want it wrapped or packaged or crated. They said the top box could be shipped but it and it's contents are not insurable. The shipping time would be about 6-10 days. I just roll the bike into the station, they do the rest. The bike can't have fuel or a battery on it. All Cool Baby.

    So I return ten days before I am to pick it up in Urumqi and give them the bike. However, this time, I tell them that this bike is a 125cc bike. The engine size isn't printed anywhere on the bike, except in tiny letters over the exhaust pipe. It says JH-200GY. Those numbers are mostly meaningless, right. But 125cc is a pretty standard size and no one questions it. For that little bit of cheating, I saved 500元。 The fuel needed to be syphoned and the battery had to be removed. There wasn't a bit of fuel left but the old fat guy who was ordering all the other younger guys around needed to make a point, so I had to buy a cheap towel and put it in and take it out a few times to show that it indeed was dry inside. Tedious but not difficult. This is a picture of me, a small distance from the door of the station (more safety) showing the old man, who is standing in the door, that it is indeed dry.


    I also sent our helmets, the tent, and my body armour with the bike as a separate package.

    Here is a gif or our packing and all the things we took with us. Save for the tent and sleeping bags, this is all we took with us.
    Last edited by cryptographicide; 08-17-2015 at 08:54 AM. Reason: Replace photo links
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  3. #3 Re: China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) Prep 
    foreign China moto dude bikerdoc's Avatar
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    No photos? If you're using hosting and linking your photos from 'onedrive' the photos don't seem to be viewable...
    Try uploading using the <insert image> button at the top of the 'Quick Reply' window to post the individual photos to the thread directly. You can control the placement of the photos by the usual text format options of where you place the cursor within the 'Quick Reply' window frame as you attach and upload each photo. You can even drag & drop a photo within the 'Quick Reply' window frame if you prefer the photo to appear in a specific location or order etc interspersed with text.
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  4. #4 Lhasa 
    C-Moto Regular cryptographicide's Avatar
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    Alright, the photos should be fixed. They are visible for me now if I'm logged into onedrive or not in both chrome and IE. If it still doesn't work, then I'll start hosting them using MCM.

    Yantai to Lhasa


    We left on June 28th, and took the daily train to Xian from Yantai. Then we stayed overnight in Xian and got on the early train to Lhasa. It was great being able to take the train. The slow increase of elevation made acclimatization easy and being able to see the country is so important for me when I travel. Just hopping from one place to another by plane takes away so much from experiencing a place. What lies behind that mountain? Are there animals? How do the people live outside of the city. It's one of the reasons that I prefer to travel by road. On a train you get to see all that. The railroad to T!b3t starts at Xining. You transfer to a diesel train and then start toward Qinghai lake. By the time you get to Qinghai, the elevation is high enough that you no longer see trees. Also, the yaks are everywhere. Hills of short, tough looking green grass roll into the horizon. Occasionally, a mountain can be seen far off. As you progress into T!b3t, these mountains get closer and more often covered in snow. Small streams like to line the hills. Again, not a tree to be seen. The clouds in T!b3t seem closer than they do elsewhere. Imagine yourself three kilometers into the sky and staring at the clouds. Flying a kite might peel off a thin wisp for you. It took 36 hours from Xian to get to Lhasa. The city of Lhasa is settled into a valley, much lower than the surrounding plateau. Potala Palace stands on a small mountain in the middle of the valley and can be seen from miles away. Because we didn't have the bike during this part of the trip, I'll just post a few pictures with some explanation and move on the the motorcycling part of the trip.






    The city of Lhasa. You can see the Potala Palace on near the center when you come into the city.



    My wife and I in front of Potala Palace



    A Nomads supper, tsampa (barley flour and yak butter, on plate), and shaptrak (raw ground yak meat, in steel bowl). Shaptrak has a really interesting taste. I'm assuming it tastes really close to raw ground beef. This dish was sweetened with honey and had some vinegar and hot peppers thrown in.



    Local architecture.







    A pass at 5600m, prayer flags at the pass.



    This is Namsto Lake, about 250 kms from Lhasa. It's a 5 hour drive, we went for a day trip as part of the tour.

    Our trip to Lhasa was good. It was really short, we only stayed 3 days. But I feel as though I saw lots of culture, not just the touristy stuff. We saw a local house and met a few families as part of the tour. I picked the ear of the guide until there wasn't a question that I already didn't know the answer to. I asked her about everything, weddings, recreation, family life, funerals. I stayed clear of some of the more political topics, though.

    If I had to do it again, I'm not sure that I would do it by motorcycle. T!b3t is huge. And, for the most part, it's all the same. It would be like driving through 2000km of Wyoming. Now, Wyoming is nice, but straight roads and unchanging scenery make the roads feel that much longer.
    Last edited by cryptographicide; 08-17-2015 at 09:00 AM. Reason: Replace photo links
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  5. #5 Re: Lhasa 
    foreign China moto dude bikerdoc's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, it seems the photos still not displaying...
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  6. #6 Re: Lhasa 
    Senior C-Moto Guru MJH's Avatar
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    Technical difficulties...
    Last edited by MJH; 08-16-2015 at 12:11 AM.
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  7. #7 Re: China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) 
    C-Moto Regular cryptographicide's Avatar
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    Screw Onedrive, frig-off microsoft. Everything has been changed to Imgur.
    Lhasa - Urumqi
    July 6-8



    From Lhasa, we took the train to Urumqi, stopping briefly in Xining to change trains. Each train was a sleeper, and each was around 24 hours long. When we got to Xining we had to pick up the battery for the motorcycle. This is the ending to a fairly long series of events that started when they made me remove the battery from the bike when I sent it by train. So,I needed to get the battery to Urumqi separate from the bike. The solution would have been obvious had I known I couldn't take the battery with the bike. Just stop the bike before the station, remove the battery and hide it in the top box. It would be sent with the bike and everyone would be happy. But by the time I realized I needed to remove the battery, it was too late and I was already inside the shipping office. My next solution was to take it with on me on the train. This just shows my inexperience in dealing with Chinese“safety” efforts. If a wet battery isn't allowed in the bike, it probably won't be allowed through passenger security. So, two hours before our train is scheduled to leave, I am standing at the security desk trying to convince them to let me take the battery on board the train. I remain calm and polite, and explain the situation to the security personnel. “No, I cannot just buy a new battery in Urumqi,all the parts on that bike are very rare and difficult to find. Even in Yantai, it is impossible to buy this battery.”, “No, I cannot kuaidi this to a friend in Urumqi because I have no friends in Urumqi.”. In the end, they were really helpful and arranged for the battery to be kuaidi'd to the Urumqi station security guard office.The manager of that office was called and the whole thing arranged. I was super grateful and really happy that it was handled before my train had to leave. A lesson to those sending bikes by train, send the battery before hand.

    So, arriving at Urumqi, we needed to find the man who had my battery and meet him. We called him and arranged to meet at Security Inspection gate 3, which just happened to be immediately next to the China Rail Express office. After getting the package, we got the bike. I handed over my paperwork, proved my identity, paid the ten days storage fee (90)and the bike was rolled out shortly. Then I asked where the other package was. The package with my helmets and tent and armour was nowhere in the warehouse. I was even allowed to look through the entire warehouse. I basically grabbed and squeezed every bag in the place and found nothing. So, we left, having been told that they would call me when they found it. They had quite a bit of incentive; the tent was insured for 1500.It's a north face backpacking tent and I insured it at replacement value. The next problem was that the tank had no gas in it at all. I asked a small group of drivers waiting to help passengers deliver their packages about the nearest gas station and they gave me some frightful news. Urumqi has banned motorcycles from filling up at allgas stations within the cities. No Jerrycans, no tea pots. No exceptions. So, one of them let me siphon from his tank in exchange that I fill it up. My tank, usually a 50fill, cost 200.Oh well, not the worst price to pay for bootlegged gas. As the taxi driver was handing me the hose and motioning for me to put my mouth on it I smiled and taught him a better trick. I stuck the hose all the way into the tank and put my thumb over the end. Then, I pulled the hose, now totally filled with gas, out of the tank and started filling up the water bottle we were using to fill up my bike. This got a thumbs up from the taxi driver and a few “hao bang”s from the small crowd that had gathered. By the time I filled up the bottle ten times, the crowd could not have been called small. There were probably thirty people watching the two laowai's steal gas from a black cab. The fact it was happening across the street from a security checkpoint made me pretty nervous. So we quickly packed up our bike with all the gear and rode, helmet less, to our hostel. Two hours later, we had to return to the station to pick up our helmets and other gear. They had eventually found the second package.





    The next morning, we tried to get an early start, but trying to get the saddle bags to side under the seat meant taking off the top box, which was no designed to be easily removed. It took about an hour to tear everything apart and get it together again. We left the hostel around 10 am. Our first stop was the Urumqi Bazaar, which was a crowded place. Filled mostly with Uighurs. The streets were packed with cars, the sidewalks packed with people. And no where to park a bike. We drove around the bazaar and a skinny guy in a tight shirt waved at us and called out “HA LOU”.This, I usually take as a terrible sign. But the manner and smirk that this guy was wearing reminded me of a friend I had in Canada.This guy strutted and yelled like a rooster. His chest stuck out and he bellowed in Uighur, obviously promoting his shop. The resemblance to my friend was enough for me to ask if I could park my bike in front of his restaurant. He happily agreed. It took a few minutes to lock everything up and get the cover on the bike. We went inside his restaurant and had some lamb friend rice. It was greasy and had little taste besides that of boiled mutton. The rooster-restaurant owner isn't in the gif, he must have been strutting around inside while I took the video.




    I kept a close eye on the bike. It looked so out of place. A big bike, covered in a silver sheet. A man stood next to the bike, on his phone, telling his friend in Chinese, characteristics of the bike. I could overhear part of the converstion. “It's a dirtbike”, “Its big, lots of bags.”“Looks expensive” In my head, this meant that someone was on his way with a truck and waiting for my wife and I to leave the bike unattended. I imagined we had about twenty minutes before the bike was in any actual danger. After lunch, we went for a quick walk around the bazaar, which was not noteworthy. We bought some dried cherry tomatoes and some raisins. But the stress of imagining three guys grab our bike and put it into a truck made us hurry back to the bike and move onto our next destination. On our way to it, the Xinjiang Museum, we got stopped by a police officer. We were waiting at a traffic light and he waved at us to pull over. The he explained to us that Urumqi has a complete ban on motorcycles and that we must leave the city immediately. We said that we were just on our way out of the city. He let us go. It happened again at the next intersection. This time, the officer was not polite and needed to yell at us to get off the motorcycle. I got off and palmed my key.Then he needed to check all our documents before letting us off with the same warning. “Leave the city immediately.” From that point on, when I started to approach a major intersection, I made sure I was hidden behind a truck or bus, or that I was not riding along the edge of the road, but totally surrounded in traffic. This discouraged at least three more cops from pulling me over. I guess, I found out why there was no motorcycle parking at the bazaar. Getting to the museum turned out to be impossible. They were building an overpass that ran above the street that museum was located. This meant, that street was totally closed. By all accounts, the museum was open, but we tried for an hour to find it's entrance. Then, we gave up and tried to find a butterfly valley. It was outside of town and the travel sites said it was ok. When we go to the address, all we found was a military training area. I was getting pissed at Urumqi at this point. So, we went the long way, around a quiet ring road. It spat us out, well outside the city.


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    I wasn't comfortable taking the Gaosu, so we opted for the National Highway. It was rough going. Keeping up 60km/h was tough and the road was insanely busy. We eventually got to a traffic jam. Trucks were all stopped and nobody was coming from the opposite direction. I actually stopped too before realizing that this isn't Canada, and if I could squeeze past, then I could go. So, I rolled ahead. The traffic jam wasn't caused by an accident, a checkstop, road construction, or nothing. It was caused by people, coming from one direction, trying to pass a waiting car and blocking the lanes of the people coming the opposite direction. I passed all of them by driving in the ditch briefly. The road for the rest of the day was brilliant. We stopped of fuel well outside of Urumqi. Bikes were allowed into the station at all. We needed to park the bike well away from the station and use tea pots to haul gas about 100m. Driving along, we passed fields and fields of wind turbines. It wasn't surprising because the wind was steady and hard and lasted for hours everyday. It would start around 11am and continue until a few hours past sunset.







    Next, we started looking for a place called South Pasture. It was marked on Baidu Maps as the correct name and I verified it's location before I left on the trip, but when I got there, it didn't seem to exist. So, we kept driving about 30 km into the desert. I was aiming at a gap in the mountains where it looked like there might be a pass. It seemed to dead end into a valley. It was here where we made our camp for the night.
















    We had a few hours to relax, write in the journal a bit, and have a small dinner on snack food. Dried yams, some crackers and meat sticks that tasted like raw peanuts. I ended up passing out well before dark. I woke up a few hours later, as it started to cool, and started to get into the sleeping bag when I heard it. It was a loud, harsh, high pitched bark. It sounded like the angriest poodle you can imagine. It was definitely a wild animal and it had definitely noticed us. Andrea was up immediately.

    “What was that?”
    “I don't know.”
    We listened for a few more minutes. The barking got louder. It would make it's shrill,disquieting bark, then wait ten second before barking again. Each time louder, each time closer.
    “Is it a wolf?”
    “It sounds too small to be a wolf. Maybe a coyote.”
    “Does it know we're here?”
    “Oh, yeah. It knows were here.”
    At this point, it was so close that we could hear an echo after the initial bark. Where before, we could only hear the echos. I eventually started being able to get some thinking in.
    “Assuming this is a coyote, if it were going to attack us, it probably wouldn't be making noise. It's not going to attack us. An attack would be quiet. It's just trying to scare us. It'll bark for a while, then it'll be quiet.The barking means that it doesn't think there is anything in this area bigger than it that would be attracted by the noise.”
    This was enough to comfort me. So I slipped back into sleep. Andrea is far more worrisome and woke me up a little while later.
    “It smelled my foot.”
    “What?”
    “I heard footsteps walking around. Then I felt it's nose brush my foot through the tent.”
    “Oh.”
    Then I went back to sleep. I don't know how much Andrea did or didn't sleep that night. I woke up around sunrise, totally ready for a long day.

    Our ride out of the camp we made.

    Last edited by cryptographicide; 08-26-2015 at 04:28 PM.
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  8. #8 Re: China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) 
    Senior C-Moto Guru ZMC888's Avatar
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    Nice pics and great ride report! Thanks for sharing!
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  9. #9 Re: China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) 
    foreign China moto dude bikerdoc's Avatar
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    +1 echoing ZMC888's thoughts.

    Just a quick note, not sure if you are aware, motorcycles no longer need to display a front licence plate. I discovered this last year round October when I plated my new BMW GS. I was politely informed that "no motorcycles don't need a front plate any more, only the rear bike licence plate". It looks like you have a dealer advertising plate or some such attached to the LHS fork leg down-tube?

    In regards to a top-box and the inability to remove it without a lot of wrenching, I have many ADLO boxes in the garage several of which are spare and a few are in white. All are fairly large and made from better than average grade plastic etc. All come with a base plate which means that using the supplied key and pressing a button then box 'quick releases from the base plate in a few seconds. See photos of the ADLO 981 and related base plate fitted to the luggage rack in this thread.

    If you might be interested I could sell you one and courier it down to a point on your journey (e.g. hotel) etc. PM me if you might be interested.
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  10. #10 Re: China, West to East (Urumqi,Xining,Xian,Yantai) 
    C-Moto Regular cryptographicide's Avatar
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    Turpan - July 9th-11th



    We woke up and got moving around 8. It was cooler than I thought it would be, but even in the morning, I could feel the heat starting up. We got on the road and passed a number of windmills being built. They seemed to be going up way faster than I would have expected. A whole line of trucks loaded with the parts of a complete windmill would wait in a line and a crane would take one at a time. Half a km away, another team was laying the foundation for the next days erection. The main highway was about 30 mins from our campsite. We were a long ways a way and, although one car passed our tent during the night, we didn't see a soul. As I was driving, I started to hear a squeaking coming from the rear wheel. I thought it might be the bearings, but it went away when I added a little grease to the chain. Our first stop was brunch at a little restaurant in a town called Salt Lake City. We ordered about twice as much food as we thought we would need and packed the leftovers into our to-go containers. Those ended up being a life saver. Also, because we kept our portion sizes small, I ended up loosing a bunch of weight on the trip. I highly recommend bringing some plastic containers to put left-overs in. I also noticed that the side bags had started drooping. One was melting on the exhaust pipe and the other was touching the tire occasionally as we drove along. This was easily fixed by attaching a rope to them and stretching it over the top box so that the side bags wouldn't droop. The secondary road that Salt Lake City was on was great. Quiet, new, totally perfect asphalt. It wound peacefully through villages and irrigated farmlands before joining the Gaosu and entering a pass into the Turpan depression. We lost about 1500m of altitude and whatever coolness that the morning had left when we descended into the depression.




    When we emerged from the pass, I had to go through my first toll booth on a Gaosu. They didn't say a word, just waved me through and let me on. Then the cop at the speed check stop waved me through.

    Note about Gaosus in Xinjiang province. For the Gaosu inbetween Urumqi and Hami, there are signs that say no motorcycles. But the entrances and exits do not have tollbooths. The tollbooths are on the highway every 150 kms or so. Motorcycles were just waved through. We also met some long distance bicyclists who said the same thing. The speed limit minimums were 60km/h. In Xinjiang, the other traffic had no problem with a motorcycle going 80km/h and often treated us like regular traffic.

    The Turpan depression is flat and hot. Temperature in the sun was around 45-48 degrees Celsius. It felt like you were standing in a huge blow dryer all the time. It's windy too. All the wind comes from the West and goes East. At some points the wind was going the same speed as the bike. It was a really crazy experience to hear the engine and tires without the sound of wind rushing past your helmet. I opened the visor and took off my sunglasses and couldn't feel the air on my face. It was a super strange experience. The cross wind does sneak up on you. There are pretty accurate signs however. When the road turns or when the wind changes direction to go around a mountain...there is usually a sign indicating a side wind. Other times a wind sock will be put up next to the road for people who don't trust signs. We were experiencing some serious saddle soreness at this point. The heat of course, makes it worse. I'm no stranger to the iron butt, but my wife isn't. And even with the significantly wider seats, this bike is still a dirtbike and still really uncomfortable on long trips. We needed to stop for about 10 mins every 45 mins.

    Getting into Turpan was nice. We stopped at a gas station, got to fill the bike up without a teapot, then we got some free ice water and they gave us a seat right under the a/c. I saw some oil on the shelf and bought it...which was a mistake. When you buy oil that is 17 yuan a liter, it may not noticeably harm your engine, but it will give you the worries. I'd much rather pay 50 yuan for a bottle for stuff that has a shell logo on it any day. After the awesome, friendly gas station, we went across the street to a car repair shop. I asked if I could change the oil, they said of course and helped me out. Then I got them to put on a piece of iron to stop the bag from melting on the exhaust pipe. Then, I asked them to help me add grease to the front and back bearings and check that there wasn't a rock in them. In all, they helped me for about an hour and they wanted 30 yuan for that work. All the time, super friendly guys. I was really getting to like Uighur people.
    (We Grr)



    Finishing up at the shop, it was about 3:00 o'clock and we wanted to see something interesting. So we stopped on the side of the road and checked the map. The museum was nearby and open till 5 and free. A man walked up and gave us a "hi". Hi is usually a much better greeting than "HA LOU" because it signifies that the person who said it knows more than one word in English. This guy actually spoke English really well. He explained that he has a few bikes, his favorite being a Yamaha 600 street bike. I asked about his other bikes and he dodged the question. His job was "archaeologist" at one of the ruins. This was odd because he also explained that this job was part time work. With his level of English, it seemed plausible. Then he asked us out for lunch, this made Andrea really worried. She's read a ton of horror stories about people who trick you into having a big dinner and then sticking you with a bill that would be considered exorbitant in America. So we declined and the Uighur guy responded by saying that he wasn't a Taliban. We thanked him for his time and said goodbye. He was really friendly, but something about him didn't let me trust him. Perhaps we could have seen the real side of people had we had dinner with him, perhaps everything would have been amazing. Or maybe the we would have lost the bike and all our belongings. I'll never know. Part of me regrets that we took the safe road. Part of me says, "Don't worry about it."

    Next stop was Turpan Museum. It was free, air conditioned and kept our interest for about 3 hours. It had a great exhibit on Turpan history and a unique exhibit on Turpan dinosaurs. Totally different stuff from what most of us would consider to be the regular North American dinosaurs. These were big elephant looking things with shovels growing out of the lower jaw. Crosses between rhinos, bears, and horses. Just some strange stuff. On the top floor was a big mummy exhibit. Because of the extreme heat and absolute lack of humidity and moisture in the region, year round, basically every body put into the ground becomes a mummy. A few of the mummies in the museum were buried with k@nahb!s. There were about ten mummies total. From normal people like business men to priests and I think there was some royalty. It was definitely interesting.

    Mummies!

    Dinosaurs!

    Awesome Dried Boots!

    Crazy White Lion Monster!

    We had leftovers for supper and went off to find a place to camp. We found one outside of the city in a new development district. It was near a man-made lake, next to some trees. The wind really picked up around 6 pm, as we were making camp. It's tough to put up a tent in 60 km/h wind. One of us had to sit on the upwind side of the tent while the other did all the work. It was mostly quiet around the park. A few people walked by while we were setting up, but no one came to check us out. This becomes relevant the next time we tried to camp. In the lake, a few families were letting their kids splash around in the greenish brown stagnant water. I didn't go near it but they seemed to be loving it. I finished my journal and jumped into the tent to go to sleep.


    The tent was boiling. It must have been 45'C in the tent. The ground felt like it was 50-60'C. I jumped out the tent immediately. It was twilight and the air was getting cooler. The wind was dying down too. We waited till 11 pm and sat in the tent in our underwear, sweating. The ground just didn't cool down. The tent remained insanely hot all night. At the break of dawn, around 7am, I woke up totally naked and half outside the tent sweating my balls off. I'm glad no one was walking around that early. We packed up and vowed never to camp in Turpan again. So we looked for a hotel at 7 am. Turpan is under the influence of the much hated "no foreigners in hotels with 2 or 1 stars" rule. Which meant the cheapest available room was 180yuan. After the fifth hotel refused us because we were foreigners, we found a hostel and stayed with them. This hostel was awesome and I totally recommend it. The name is Dap International Youth Hostel. There were 6 English speakers staying there. The owners spoke excellent English and were extremely friendly and accommodating. The motorcycle was stored indoors and out of the sun. I can't recommend this hostel enough. So, we left all our gear there and had a shower to wash that terrible night of sweat off.


    Then we headed to check out the sights. We started by taking the back roads. Past irrigated vineyards and shepherds. All the houses were made of mud and dirt. There was barely any wood used. Brick buildings full of holes were everywhere and used to dry fresh grapes into delicious sweet wine.

    The inside of a brick building being used to dry fake "grapes".


    The outside


    I imagine, in that intense dry heat that it took about 30 minutes to completely turn the biggest juiciest grape into a shriveled little raisin. It was insanely hot. Eventually, I got sick of the shitty back roads that were full of pot holes and, knowing there was a Gaosu just 5 kms north, took a short cut and started driving 80 km/h again. We drove east of town to the flaming mountain, which is written about in Xiyouji (Journey to the West). It's a great attraction for kids. You pull of to the side of the road, part with 60 yuan per person, and then look at sculptures of the Monkey King. We simply enjoyed the sight of the flaming mountain from the road as we drove by.



    Behind the flaming mountain was a glorious road that wound through a sandy gorge with a river at the bottom. At the end of the road was the "Bezeklik (Bez-a-click) ten thousand Buddha caves" Small caves with paintings of Buddha's all over them. The paintings were mostly covered in mud and hard to make out, and anything of note was stolen or destroyed by a "German foreigner" who was doing "archaeological" work in the area in the early 1900's. The contents of the caves were taken to Berlin where they were totally destroyed during the world wars. There were about 5 caves open, all of them were disappointing and it cost about 40 yuan a person to get in.

    Part of the gorge we were driving through

    Next stop was about 10 kms away. We stopped for lunch in a Uighur farming village. We found a crowded restaurant serving fresh naan bread and lamb kebabs. I was so excited and the food was amazing. The lamb was as fresh as can be. Next door, you could see the butcher taking a cleaver to an animal and hauling the meat over to the restaurant. It was grilled in typical shaokao style. The grease from the meat, as it cooked, was rubbed on the naan bread and both were salted and grilled a little more. We found a table in the back. It was dirty and dark and totally stuffed with local Uighurs. The reaction to us as strangers and foreigners was really strange. We were ignored. Like we weren't even there. Every once in a while, the whole restaurant would, almost in unison, look up at us for a while. Then we would notice and they would go back to their conversation. We were clearly completely out of place, but nobody was going out of their way to draw attention to us. It felt cold and unwelcoming, but a relief from the usual Han reaction of swarming, staring, shouting "HA LOU" and smiling eagerly. I went up to the grill and tried to order some lamb kebabs, but no one spoke mandarin. Instead of trying to understand me, they just ignored me. I was standing right beside the grill trying to get the cooks attention, but he deliberately avoided eye contact. It felt like he just wanted me to leave. A friendly Han fella stepped in and took my order in Mandarin and then translated it into Uighur for the cook. Who, now that the language barrier had been breeched, was more than happy to cook the food and take my money. It was interesting to see how "fear of the foreigner" manifests itself in a culture that is so different from Han Chinese culture.

    Further away from Turpan, the irrigation became lesson common. Fields seemed younger and villages were more spread out. We ran into a police checkpoint. The officers looked very concerned when we rolled up and the younger ones got really excited. The man in charge stood up, asked politely for our Chinese ID cards and I asked if he meant our passports. He laughed and said, "Dang Ran". I handed over the passports and followed him into his little air conditioned trailer to help him decode the passport that lacked Chinese characters. "This is the passport number. Here is my first name. Here is my last name." I love air conditioning. In 5 minutes we were on the road again. He didn't want to see the bikes registration, or my license, or anything except our passports.

    The next stop was Tuyok Valley. It is a river flowing through a shallow valley that is home to a very old village. The village is still alive and well. To walk around, they ask for 30 yuan per person. Pay the money, walk around to your hearts content. It was really interesting. Most of the houses were all made of mud. Beds were often seen outside. Because it never rains and indoors can can insanely hot, most people sleep outside on large wooden raised beds. Having spent the previous night on the ground...it seemed like a completely obvious solution.


    A raised outdoor bed

    We were sweating like crazy. At this point, I had drank 4 liters of water since I woke up and I hadn't peed. I would drink a 500ml bottle of water, then I would sweat for ten minutes. I would be dry in about two minutes and incredibly thirsty again. I felt constantly dehydrated and drinking more water just made me sweat more. We walked around, got a little lost and had to trek past a sign that said "do not pass this sign" to get back into the village.










    A mausoleum near the valley




    We only spent about half an hour at the valley, but it was the middle of the day and by the end of it, both of us wanted to get back to the hostel and rest. We were about 50 kms away from Turpan, so that's a little less than an hour of driving. Get on the bike, head north through the valley, which was a fantastic little ride through twisties with hardly any traffic. We get on the Gaosu and fly back to the city.

    About half-way back, Andrea begins to feel really tired. We pull over and talk about it. I tell her to take a few minutes and rest in the shade of a bridge. I say, we have about 20 minutes till the hostel, which isn't precisely true. So we get back on the bike and after a few minutes, she begins to feel weak again. So she thinks to herself, "I'll just hold on. It's only 20 more minutes." A few moments pass... she continues thinking, "Oh, really dizzy." She feels numb like a brain freeze but without the debilitating pain. Then, though her eyes are open, a cloud of darkness is all she sees. So she closes her eyes. I feel her helmet touch mine. Then I feel her helmet resting on mine. I've had passengers fall asleep on the back of the bike before. It's dangerous as hell. So, I give her helmet a little knock with mine. This pushes her back into the seat and she slumps against the top box. I feel her starting to shift over to the right side. Oh Shit. She is about to fall off the bike. We're going 80 km/h. I let go of the throttle and reach my right arm around to grab her and hold on to the top box, pinching her between my arm and my back. As I do this, I grab the clutch and use the foot brake to slow down. I can feel her breathing is wrong. Not shallow and steady like someone sleeping. But deep, heavy and labored as if she just stopped running. Stopped, I somehow get off the bike while holding her up. I have no idea how I managed that maneuver. It seems impossible no matter how I try and remember it. Her body is totally limp She is out cold. I slide her off the bike and she starts to come around and she sits down cross-legged on the gravel and bits of tar near the side of the highway.
    "Where are we? What's going on?"
    "It's ok, you're fine. Were stopped on the side of the highway. You just fainted."
    She sat there staring at me. The realization that we were on the side of the highway and sitting in the shade of a motorcycle slowing floated to the surface of her face. It was like she was waking up, but not in her bed, or in a tent. She clearly had heat stroke. It was about 2pm, the hottest part of the day. We were in direct sun and couldn't get out of it. And I needed at least 30 more minutes of driving to get her into shade. So, we rested a bit and kept driving. She wrapped her arms around me and clasped them around my belly. That way, if she slipped again, I just had to reach down and I could hold her on the bike by holding her hands together. Every once in a while, I'd tap her hands and she responded by squeezing a little tighter. This signified all is well. In her head, she kept herself awake by singing O Canada, alternating between French and English versions. Damn her for being so cool and bilingual. We stopped and rested about every 5 kms until getting back to the hostel. Then she passed out for the rest of the afternoon. I took that opportunity to make friends with the other English speaking people in the Hostel. We decided to try some Turpan wine. There were tons of grapes and grapes mean wine. So I bought three bottles of cheap local wine and one bottle of the 60 yuan stuff. Cheap wine was 15 yuan, or about $2.75 CAD, expensive stuff was $12 CAD. Turpan wine is unique. You can taste the dryness of the region in the grapes. They taste raisiny. Of all the things in Turpan, I think I enjoyed the wine the most. I've never had a dry wine that didn't taste bitter. It was sweet, like most cheap wines are, but dry. Dry like someone had sucked all the water out of it, yet it was normal wine consistency. Truly a special taste. The afternoon quickly became night and slightly cooler. Supper was some naan bread with chucks of lamb baked into it. Something else that is dry and delicious. Then I drank 2 L of water before bed to stave off the oncoming hangover. It didn't work.

    The table where we spent the afternoon wining.


    At 8am, Andrea was ready to go and it was really cloudy. We set off for Jiao he Ruins, which is the ruin of an ancient city. The city existed upon a small river island. All of the walls were made of packed mud. We walked around, the clouds keeping the serious heat off of us. Andrea is far more interested in archaeological stuff. She made sure we saw all the walls and dirt of everything. And that we got pictures of almost all it. Clearly, she felt much better.





    The crowds are coming!


    We had lunch at a nice looking Uighur restaurant. It was a huge plate of Dapanji, (big plate-o-chicken). We asked if it could feed one person or two. He said. Usually three people. Andrea and I finished it off, completely. We were so stuffed.

    A Nice-looking Uighur Restaurant

    Next we went to the Karez canal museum. This was another tourist trap feeling place, but I found it really interesting. At the time, I was a little dissappointed, but looking back, I'm glad I didn't give it a miss. The irrigation water in Turpan comes from the mountain range to the north. This range is a long ways away and has significantly greater altitude. Transporting the water on the surface would result in so much evaporation that it would be useless. So, they dug tunnels underground that fed oasis in the desert. 30% of water used in Turpan today comes from these kerez tunnels. They dig the tunnels by digging holes into the clay. Then, they just connect the holes underground. It's amazing that many of these tunnels were finished a thousand years ago, during the era of Marco Polo.




    Some random pictures from around the hostel. Ft. A friendly dog named "Haodou" and our panda named "Pannada" (潘拿大)
    The name of the panda is clever because my Chinese name is (潘)ChenSen and Canada is Jia(拿大).










    Next, we needed to buy a new memory card for Andrea's DSLR. Then we retired early to the hostel.


    Last edited by cryptographicide; 08-26-2015 at 04:25 PM.
    1995 Suzuki Intruder (2005-Present){Canada}
    2003 Daelim Daystar (2011-2012){S. Korea}
    2014 Jialing 200 GY5A (2015-Present) {China}
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