Friday, October 13

Southern Silk Road to Golmud

Journey so far: .. Taiwan > Hong Kong > Beijing > Harbin > Yanji > Songjianghe >Changbai Mountain > Dandong > Dalian > Dandong > Chengde > Beijing > Datong > Hohhot > Huitengxile > Hohhot > Taiyuan > Zhengzhou > Xi'an > Lanzhou > Zhangye > Jiaugyuan > Jingtieshan > Jiaugyuan > Dunhuang > Urumuqi > Kanas Lake > Urumuqi > Kashgar (Kashi) > Tashkurgan > Karakul Lake > Kashgar (Kashi) > Hotan > Qiemo > Ruoqiang > Shimianquan > Golmud ....

Bloody hell! What a trip along the southern silk road. No major problems, but a tiring and bumpy journey across some of the most beautiful desert landscapes.

HOTAN - 和田
We left Kashgar on Friday by bus, making our way to Hotan (Y76). We were forced to watch a terrible Uighur movie, with story line and acting ability worse than a porn movie. At one point a women bit a man's ear off and after she stared at the camera with what only can be described as donut jam smudged on her face!

Hotan is a popular spot for travellers wanting to see the southern silk road. We arrived late in the evening and found a hotel. We weren't interested with sight-seeing as we had Golmud as a final destination far down the road and didn't want to waste time on this part of the journey.

View from Kashgar to Hotan bus!

Why the rush? Well we were concentrating on getting into Lhasa (Tibet) before the weather changed in late October/November and make the overland trip through Tibet into Nepal, impossible later in the year, due to snow and other weather-related problems.

So we left Hotan the next day. We bought our ticket to Qiemo (Y130), the next stage of the journey. This was a sleeper bus which set off in the afternoon, and we met a Scotish fella called Ally. We chatted through the whole journey about the rest of the trip. According to the Lets Go and Lonely Planet this part of the journey takes roughly 48 hours and is long and arduous. So we were prepared! We stopped every 10 metres for this and that. About 11:30pm of that evening we arrived at another stop, and we presumed it was for food. So we get out and start looking for food. At the restaurant we ask for a plate of lovely looking meat and noodles.
We talk to a local Chinese man and we ask out of interest where we are, his reply, Qiemo! SHIT! What about the two nights and one day ahead of us???? We run for the bus, ask the driver and yes we have arrived! I nearly threw my "guide' in the bin.

Qiemo - 且末
We dragged our bags out and thought about hotels quickly! We got into a taxi and he took us to the local hotel, very plush for our standards, with a shower and toilet (clean) in the room!

We got a little bit of sleep and then got up early to buy the next bus ticket to Ruoqiang (Y57). An uneventful 6 hours to Ruoqiang.

What most the journey looked like.

Ruoqiang - 若羌
In Ruoqiang we slept in the hotel next to the bus station. It was a musty smelling room, like old wet socks. Kate and I shared a bed while Ali got his own! Kate and I got no sleep, Kate was being sick and pooing all night and I was of course awake. She felt terrible in the morning and I was dizzy from tiredness. However we continued our journey!

From Ruoqiang there are NO buses to Shimianquan, the terrain is too crazy. So we got a ride, from just outside the bus station in a 4X4 jeep. The driver bought the tickets (Y100) from the bus ticket office. All official, so we felt good. We shared the ride with a Taiwanese woman, and we talked about lovely Taiwan for a bit. We also had some scabby locals, getting the ride for less than we paid, by arranging to be picked up outside the bus station. The driver opened the door and asked us to squish up, Kate, me and the Taiwan woman already seated. I decided to make a stand and told the new arrival to sod off saying, "No ticket no sit here!" and "We pay you no pay, not sit here!" in bad Chinese.

So he was relegated to the back with the luggage. Oh, that felt good!

The scenery was amazing, we seemed to ride around and then drive over a mountain range, sometimes getting precariously close to the edge. We stopped twice to take pictures, it felt like we were on top of the world surrounded by snow peaked mountains. I was getting no sleep on the journey and Kate still felt bad.

Shimianquan - 石棉矿
It's late when we arrive, and we have missed the bus to Huatugou so prepare for a night. Shimianquan is a small place built around a mining area. We saw tons of grey dust pluming into the sky on the way in and JCB's and workmen scattered around the town. It was freezing cold, not sure of the altitude, but Kate and Ally started to feel sick. I was fine, my asthma seems to be protecting me from altitude symptoms.

The unnerving Asbestos Mine....

Anyway Ally had only a T-shirt, so he bought a nice puffer jacket! The beds were very cheap, 10Y each. No shower.
We eat with the locals, not used to Chinese speaking westerners. Kate goes all gooey for a puppy and we chat to the locals in the restaurant for some time.

Later we discover that Shimianquan in English means Asbestos Mine! Shit a brick, we've spent the night surrounded by a cloud of asbestos and were totally unaware of it.

Next morning we get up early again! Now fatique is affecting everyone and Kate and Ally are possibly getting mild symptoms of Altitude Sickness.

We buy our bus ticket for Huatugou (Y15). We drive through Shimianquan and pick up the local miners. After inhaling cigarette smoke for an hour or so we arrive at Huatugou 11:00am.

Huatugou - 花土沟
First thing we do is buy our last, final, absolute ticket for Golmud (Y175). A sleeper that leaves 3:00pm the same day. Time to rest before the overnight to Golmud, we eat and stock up.

Kate is now feeling much better and we are feeling hopeful that the southern silk road is coming to an end. However we still can't shake the trouble we will encounter getting into Lhasa after this is over!

The journey was terrible. I looked like death from lack of sleep, but felt perky, and everyone was feeling the effects of the last week on the road. The sleeper was bumpy and filled with men who just love to smoke (they smoke cigarettes that taste of grit and choking dust). I slept for about 10 minutes. We arrived in Golmud at 4:30 am the next morning. Shattered and wanting to just sleep!

Our lovely Taiwanese friend took control, after I decided in Qiemo she was a wet fish! She threw the taxi drivers aside and marched to the nearest hotel, just in front of the train and bus station. We follow like disciples. At the hotel, the shitty taxi driver is waiting telling the receptionist she can't take foreigners. Turd Face! The receptionist says it's OK, and I shout at the driver to GET OUT! We all laugh and get two rooms, two single beds, Y20 per bed. What a star!

No we are here... exhausted, filthy and feeling slightly uptight about getting into Tibet! I smell of stale sweat, covered in crud and am in need of a shower!

To Be Continued..........

We used this blog to help us through the journey. Excellent information:



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