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进南疆: 环塔之行- Southern Xinjiang: Pan-Taklamakan

(2010-10-24 21:41:51)









Day 12 Sept. 29 Planned next stop: Ruoqiang 今天目的地:若羌

We leave Dunhuang after a quick breakfast of pancakes. A young woman working at the hotel's front desk warns us that about three quarter of the 70-80 kilometer of the distance to Aksai is under construction. While it is easier for us on motorcycles we still have to ride through sections of rough dirt roads. Still, parts of the new highways are good enough to ride on, so we alternate between the finished roads and the bump sections.

我们在敦煌吃了早餐急急火火地出发。饭店的一个服务员跟我们说在去阿克塞的七八十公里有四分之三是在修路。虽然我们骑着摩托车比较好走,路还是很颠,沙尘又多,走不快。 好在每过一短土路就有一段刚修好的柏油路,我们骑着车可以比较容易地上上下下轮着走。

About half way into the trip, as we come near the end of one section of a finished tarmac, Neil discovers his backup fuel tank bent under pressure and is leaking gasoline.We quickly unload the tank and begin to fill up our motorcycles. When they are full we empty it into a few large soft drink bottles we have kept. Even those bottles are quickly filled up as the steel tank holds 20 liters of fuel. We emptied a few water bottles to hold the seemingly bottomless gasoline.

我们走到大概一半的路程,Neil发现他的后备油箱开始漏汽油。我们马上把它解下来,倒进我们车的油箱里。 由于20升的备用油箱很大,我们又没有跑很远,很快就满了。我们又开始加满带的几个大的喝完了的1。5公升的矿泉水瓶。当大概四五个大矿泉水也满了之后,我们又开始把几个原来装满水的水瓶倒掉再装汽油。

An older man, who works at the road construction site, runs over and offers us a few empty water bottles. In the end we still have a few liters of gasoline left but the level is below the holes in the container. I walk over and give it to the old man as a gift for helping us. He thanks us and says will keep it for us for a few days should we come back along the same road. The man, joined by his friend, tells us he is from Henan and has been here for 16 months without a break. He says the highway may take another 2-3 years to complete, and he will finally be able to get a break to go back home visiting his family. His friend shows us a little notebook which shows the travelers who he has met along this stretch of the road, among which is Tomaz from Russia. He went through on his bicycle with three other companions, the Henan man tells us, admiringly. At night they didn't pitch a tent, simply rolled off sleeping bags under the stars, he said.


进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

Just before Aksai, I notice my radiator has been leaking, and the coolant has sprayed over my boots and leather riding pants. We stop by Aksai as I look for a place to fix my leaking radiator.I find a mechanic from Henan. His friend is a Kazakh who runs a restaurant next door called White Swan. We are invited to a Kazakh wedding.

Actual stop: The ride is hard as nearly 80 km of the roads are under construction. Leng Hu, Cold Lake. We stay at hotel run by the oilfield management company.  We ride 80 kilometers in the dark. My head light doesn’t focus right.


Day 13 Sept 30 Leng Hu – Huatougou. I find a welder Master Qiao from Henan who has the equipment to weld aluminum together. Master Qiao is working on a steel pipe about 6 inches in diameter when I show up. “Yes, it can be done,” he says after one look. “Cool!” That is the happiest thing I have heard in a few days. “It’ll have to cost a bit more,” he looks at me. “How much?” in my heart I prepare to hear a couple of hundred yuan. “For normal job I charge 50, but welding aluminum I need to use different equipment, so 70.”  “Done!” I agree. “First we have to take it apart,’’ he says. “The whole thing?” I look doubtfully at the complex system of wires, protector guards. “The whole thing,” he says, “or I can’t do the job.” Master Qiao calls over a young assistant of his, gives him a few orders, and goes back to mending his 6-inch steel pipes. The young assistant can’t be more than 20 years old. The two of us begin to strip down the radiator. I drain the coolant, he undoes all the wiring. The integrated radiator is stripped down to a pile of fans, washers and screws. Master Qiao walks over and picks up the radiator. He takes a flat-headed screwdriver and begins to scrape off the glue applied by the two mechanics. “Here it is,” he points at a slit about an inch wide, “no glue is going to stop this leak.”


“Follow me,” Master Qiao begins to walk to the backyard behind the shop, radiator in hand. I follow him to a row of dormitories. Inside one workshop, there is a pool of water and a work bench. Master Qiao sits down, lights up a blue-flamed torch and begins to burn off the glue. “This glue stuff is only good in lower temperatures,’’ he says. I agree, remembering the instruction of packaging says it’ll work under 100 degrees Celsius. “Given the long distance you’ve traveled, the pressure inside the radiator builds up, the fluid would likely have risen above boiling point, and as the glue softens, the coolant jetted right through the crack,” Master Qiao says, wiping off the black ash and cleaning the crack. Then he picks up a wire, melts it with his torch and begins to weld. “What’s that made of?” I ask. “Aluminum,’’ he says. “Aluminum bonds with aluminum, so no weakness in the system.”


It takes Master Qiao only five minutes to complete welding. He takes a piece of plastic to seal an attachment for the thermometer, then submerges the fixed radiator into the pool of water. Taking it out, he examines it. Then he attaches the radiator to a foot pump and instructs me to pump air into it while he holds it in water. “No leak. Done,” he takes it out and dries it with a rag. “No problems?” his matter-of-fact attitude raises a bit doubt in me and I try to raise any technical failures. “Will the welding withstand high temperatures and pressure?” I ask. “Hehe,” he laughs it off with confidence. “Aluminum’s melting point is above 1,000 degrees. Your bike will never get that hot,” he begins to walk out with the aluminum radiator in hand.


Back to his storefront operations, he instructs his apprentice to put the radiator together and rewire the system. It takes nearly another hour to complete the job. I fill in clean coolant and start the radiator. Everything seems to work fine. The fan kicks in smoothly after the engine heats up.  I feel immensely relieved. I walk over to Master Qiao who is now working on a broken truckbed carrying a tank of fuel with “Inflammable” written across it. After paying Master Qiao, I give him, his assistant and Master Qiao’s friend who has helped correct the young and inexperienced apprentice each a pack of Lanzhou cigarettes. Master Qiao is appreciative. He offers me a cigarette and another one to his friend. It is one of the few times in my life that I actually enjoy smoking.


回到乔师傅的店面,他嘱咐他的弟子把水箱和风扇重组起来。我们花了一个小时把一个个螺丝又上了上去。水箱看起来什么问题也没有。发动机热了之后,风扇准确地启动了。我如适重负,走到了乔师傅旁边。乔师傅正在跪着修一个装着写着易燃的卡车。我付了帐,五十块钱,又给了他,他的徒弟和一个帮助我们组装的朋友每人一盒兰州香烟。乔师傅很感激地接受了后,从中抽了一支给我,一支给他的朋友, 我们三人站在易燃的油罐旁边边抽边聊。这是我一生中少有的一次真正享受过抽烟。

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan


We stay at the Post Hotel 邮政宾馆,.


Day 14 Oct. 1 Huatougou-Qiemo 且末

With confidence in Master Qiao’s work, we enter Xinjiang today. Being far out in the west, the sun doesn’t rise until past 8 a.m. Temperatures hover around freezing for nearly all of the morning ride. The Agins mountain


Day 15 Oct. 2 Qiemo – Cele Just outside Yutian, traffic is backed up for nearly a kilometer. As we pull over inside the lines of trucks and cars, Cameron says he just had a flat tire and a bridge was washed away. We wait about three hours. The bridge is repaired and we are the first passengers from our side allowed to go as the bridge is completed. We ride past the town Cele then Cameron hits something which let out air. We pull over and find his plug still works. It becomes dark all of a sudden. My headlight still doesn’t work properly. Neil leads, but his taillight doesn’t work. I come close to hitting the back of a tractor loaded nearly 10 meters wide with hay. Next I brake suddenly before a flock of sheep and herdsmen dressed in grey. I begin to have a bad feeling, so I tell Cameron I don’t want to go on. Cameron doesn’t like the idea, but I stay firm. When Neil comes back, we confer and decide to head back to Cele and stay the night there. We stay at the county hotel


Day 16 Oct. 3 Cele – Hetian (Hotan)

The 100 kilometers ride to Hetian is smooth and eventless. As we enter Hetian, I pull up to a gas station and ask a taxi driver to guide us to a good hotel. The young man sitting in a small QQ with mustache agrees and leads away slowly. He drives up slowly as I tailgate him while Cameron and Neil follow. As we enter the Big Bazaar district, I look in the mirror suddenly find Neil missing. I look closely and find him on the ground while the bike lies on the street. Cameron gets to him first. My heart sinks and quickly pull to the side. When I get to Neil a crowd of about 30 Uighur men has formed around the scene: a sub-crowd is around Neil, while another is around a midaged frail-looking man.  Still in between are some who walk back and forth and stay abreast of the progress of both fallen men.

茨勒到和田大概100多公里。一路平坦无阻。当我们进入和田市区时,我驶入一个加油站找了个司机给我们带路到一个好点的宾馆。一个坐在新的绿色的QQ的维族年青人同意了,“大概十来快吧,”他说。年青人开车稳当也慢。我紧跟他尾后,Neil和Cameron稍微慢点也随在后边。当我们进入大巴扎区的时候,我在反光镜里看不到了Neil.仔细再看看,发现他躺在地上,车也倒了。Cameron 此时已经跑到了他身边。我的心咯噔一下沉了下去。 当我到Neil旁边,一群30多维族男人已经围了上来。一半人围着Neil,另一半人围着一个瘦削的中青年。两群之中还有些人两边跑,同时掌握双方的状态。 

I see Neil kneeling on the floor, helmet on, clutching his elbow and bowing his head down deeply. “Are you ok?” I put my hand on his shoulder,well padded by a $500 BMW riding suit, and ask. Neil doesn’t respond at first, then he slumps on the floor as if passing out. “Can someone call an ambulance?” I shout in Chinese. “A doctor! Medic! Emergency!”  The Uighur men stare at me without responding. “Is there a hospital nearby?” I shout. Someone points to the distance and say a clinic is nearby while another murmurs 120, the medical emergency number in China. I quickly get out my cell phone and dial the three digits. After more than 10 rings, a man’s voice speaking in Mandarin with a Uighur accent comes up: “hello?” Never having called a Chinese emergency before, I am taken aback by the casual greeting. “Is this the medical emergency number?” I reluctantly ask. “Huh?” the man answers back. “Doctors. I need medical doctors. Is this the right number?” I shout. “Yes,” he says. “I need an ambulance. My friend is hurt in an auto accident.” I say. “Where are you?” He asks. “Where am I?” I ask people around me, then see our taxi driver’s face, looking concerned. “The Big Bazaar!” he says in Mandarin with an accent.

Neil 此时跪在地上,头盔还戴着,手把着胳膊肘,头沉到了地上。“你没事吧?”我扶着他的保护在500美元的宝马夹克里肩膀。Neil起初不回声,然后又瘫了下去。“有医生吗?”我喊。“医生,救护!”维族人看着我没反应。“周围有医院吗?”我又喊。人群中有人指向了一个方向,又有人说120。我马上把手机拔了出来摁了三个数。响了有十遍后,一个带着维族口音的说普通话的男人接了。“喂?”我从来没有在中国打过急救,听到这么随便的接线生愣了一下。在国外紧急救护是911一个号,第一声,他们会说,”这是911紧急救护,我怎样可以帮助你?”"医生!我的一个朋友撞车了!”我说。“你在哪里?”他问。“我在哪?”我问周围的人,看到了我们的司机,皱着眉头,显得很担心。“大巴扎!”他用汉语说。

Then Neil whispers to me, “I’m ok man.” “What?!” I turn to him. “I think I’m ok.” He says. “You don’t need a doctor?” I ask. “No. I don’t think so,” he says. Having experienced a Chinese hospital emergency service a year ago myself, I am doubtful the hospital will be of much help, so I tell the man on the phone no ambulance is needed. He sounds relieved as well, “yes, it’s good you don’t want one.”


Neil’s bike has been put upright by now. Other than a scratched battery cover and some gasoline spilled, it appears intact. As I look through Neil for other damages, the half crowd near the fallen Uighur grows rowdy. Two Uighur men shout at each other. One suddenly erupts and charges at the other waving fists. The other appears unfazed and keeps shouting. Bystanders hold both men back. The men formerly around Neil are quickly drawn over. A mid-aged businessman-looking Uighur, who appears to be on our side, pleads passionately on our behalf, gesturing towards Neil who is slumped on the street. Our taxi driver stands by him. A burly rough-looking Uighur is clearly on the side of the Uighur victim and he is shouting and waving his fist.


Neil and Cameron give me a quick update on what has happened. Apparently the Uighur ran across the two-way street in front of Cameron’s bike. Cameron dodged him but Neil was unlucky. The man fell and so did Neil and his bike. Cameron says he saw the man and he appeared to be fine other than a bleeding finger.

 Neil 和Cameron 跟我说了个事发的大概。被撞的维族人横冲马路,跑到Cameron车前。Cameron 躲开了,但Neil就不幸运了。那人倒了,Neil和车也倒下了。Cameron 说他看了一下那个人,似乎没怎么受伤,就是手刮了一下流了一些血。

“If he’s ok then let’s get on the bike and let’s get out of here!” I whisper while watching the crowd appearing to grow violent. Our taxi driver appears too and tells us “he’s ok. Go!” Neil and Cameron make towards their bikes and I run over and hop on mine. “Let’s go!” I shout. Suddenly the crowd of men shifts their heads on us. The men siding with the fallen Uighur shout and rush over. One man snatches Neil’s key. “It’s too late!” I begin to run different options in my head: call the police, or call the armed police, as I recall a friend back in Yinchuan advised the police has Muslim members so they can side with the locals, but the armed paramilitary police are made up of all Han members and they are known to rough up Uighurs. Then it downs on me: maybe money can resolve the situation. I dismount my bike and walk back to the crowd. Keeping my eye on my bike loaded with goods, I turn my back on the crowd and discreetly take out a roll of 100-yuan bills. “I’ll keep my eye on your bike,” Cameron says, not realizing what I am doing. I take one out put in the outside pocket of my riding jacket and put the rest back to the pocket inside the liner. Thinking again, I take out a 20-yuan bill and put it in another outside pocket.

 “他要没事,咱们马上走!”我轻声说,看到人群越来越多,也越来越喧闹。我们的出租司机也出现了“他没事,走吧。”Neil 和  Cameron 走向他们的车,我也跑到了我的车上。“快走!”我喊。突然之间,人群中有人发现了外国人想跑,每个人的头也转向了我们。被撞一方的人跑过来,把Neil的车钥匙拔了出来。“太晚了!”我心想。改怎么办?叫警察?叫武警?在银川有个朋友提议说有麻烦就找武警。当地警察可能袒护当地人。武警不是当地人,而往往对当地人很严格。我突然想到钱可以解决。 我下了车走回人群。转过身来看着我的车,我从夹克内口袋抽出了一张100元的纸币。“我在帮你看着车!”Cameron还没有领会我在干什么。我把钱放入外口袋,想了想,又从钱包里拿出一张20元的也 放在容易取的一个口袋。

By now I realize local Uighurs are not unfriendly towards Hans. I walk over and push myself through the crowd of Uighur men. The other victim of the accident is sitting on the sidewalk rubbing and examining his leg. He wears dirty ragged overall and a white square cap. The crowd of Uighur men is now almost equally divided in their opinions on the unfortunate and strange accident. I feel relieved. Approaching the businessman-looking Uighur, who appears to be the pro-foreigner camp, I give him the 100-yuan bill. A bit surprised to see a Han Chinese, he pauses, then takes the money, turning to the Uighur victim. The Uighur victim brushes aside the money. The crowd once again boils. After much negotiation, our ally turns around and hands me back the 100-yuan bill, “he wants medical exam.”

 此时我认识到当地维族人不象我想象的对汉人不友好。我就挤入了一圈子人里头。事故受害者坐在路边扒着揉着他的退。 他身穿一身旧布衣,头戴白色的四方帽。一群主要是维族人几乎完整的分成了两派。我感觉轻松了点。至少还有帮我们说话的。此时我把头盔摘了,走近刚才为我们说话的看起来象商人的维族人, 我把100块的纸币给了他。他看到我是汉人,愣了一下。但还是收下钱,走到被撞人。被撞人没有想要的意思,把钱推开了,继续揉腿。人群又开始沸泱。谈判了一顿,我们的同盟走了回来把钱还给我了,“他不要。”

“Ok,” I say. “Tell him we’ll take him to the hospital, but then I’m not paying him more than the medical expenses.” “Yes, let’s go,” our taxi driver sees my game plan and plays along. The Uighur victim struggles on his feet, as if overtaken by pain, he slumps again. Then I realize I still don’t know how badly hurt he is.


I walk up to him and put my left arm around the man’s shoulder. “Friend, are you ok?” I ask. He doesn’t talk, grimacing. I hold his arm out with my right hand and see a cut to his right middle finger, bleeding but not excessively. I turn to his friends and speak in Mandarin, “Friends, we have traveled from Beijing to Xinjiang with no other intention but to enjoy the beautiful cultures here," I pause, collecting my thoughts after distracted by a Deja vu of Mark Anthony delivering eulogy of Julius Caesar. "We are deeply sorry this unfortunate event had happened, but I must say, this is not entirely our fault. This friend here for unknown reason ran across a busy street. My friend lying there couldn’t have avoided him. He is also badly hurt. I still don’t know what’s happened to him, but you can see that his bike suffered great damages. I think 100 yuan is a good compensation.” I pause. Unfortunately I judge my intended audience members didn’t understand half of my passionate oratory. The half crowd with us and the half crowd against us look equally puzzled more puzzled than moved. "Ok, I am willing to pay 20 yuan. No more!” I add a 20-yuan bill to the 100-yuan bill and  give to the leader of our Uighur ally. His face lights up and quickly takes the bills, hands over to the man, and says something rapidly. The Uighur victim still appears unsatisfied, but grabs the money.

走到他身边,我把胳膊搭在他瘦瘦的肩头,“朋友,你怎么样?”他不说什么,只是锁着眉头。我把他右手提起来,看到中指割了个不浅的口,但流血不多。我转向他的朋友,用普通话说,“朋友们,我们从北京老远来新疆没有别的目的,只是想体验这里的美丽的文化,”我停顿了一下。刚才我有点分神,因为突然之间,我想到了马克。安托尼在给凯撒致丧词。“我们很抱歉这件不愉快的事发生了,但我必须说这不都是我们的错。这个朋友横穿一条大马路,我那个躺在那的朋友躲避不及。他也受伤多严重,我不知道。但你可以看车摔在那。我觉得给这位朋友100块的补偿足够了。” 可惜,我看到我的一干听众没有听懂我刚才感人的演讲。我们的朋友和敌人同样莫名其妙地站着。“好,再给他二十!”我把20块钱抽了出来给我们的同盟。他看了下钱,马上收了走到受伤者。受伤者拿着钱,脸色不变,但还是收了。

 “Ok then,” I say, “let me have the money back and we go to the hospital,” I tell our businessman ally and our taxi driver, and message is relayed. The fallen Uighur takes a few steps then retreats. His friends speak to him rapidly and a message is delivered back to us: he won’t need to go to the hospital.

“那好吧,”我说。“把钱给我,我们去医院。”我跟我的盟友和出租司机说,他们翻译了。 倒下地维族人走了几步,停了下来。他的同党跟他咕噜了一阵,传出了一个决定:他不用去医院。

 Neil’s key is still with our rival. I tell our allies. After some commotion, it is returned. I walk over to Neil, who seems to be on the verge of fainting. “Are you ok? Can you ride?” “Yeah man,” he whispers, “I’m just play-acting.” “What?! Oh, ok,” I only now realize Neil is totally fine, so I help him with his act by holding his hands, struggling for the handlebar, then push the electronic starter for him. Feeling hugely relieved, suddenly I find the situation absurdly funny, quickly turn my head behind his back and cover my laughter under my helmet.

Neil的钥匙还在我们敌人手里。我们盟友问了几声,钥匙送了回来。我走到Neil旁边。他看起来快倒了。“你怎样?能骑车?” “没事,”他悄悄地说。“我只是在演戏。”“什么?!”我到此时才知道Neil一点事也没有。我帮着他演戏,把着他的手,抓着车把,又帮他按开发动机的按钮。如释重负,我突然之间觉得事况特别好笑,一边帮他,一边把头侧过来低下去笑。

  “Let’s go, quickly!’’ our taxi driver says. We start our bikes, following the green QQ and flee the Big Bazaar.


 Later in Kashgar, I would meet a great friend, Aili, a mechanic with seven years of experience, who makes 30 yuan a day. Many people in Xinjiang makes less than 1,000 yuan a day, he says.

The taxi leads us to a commercial area around Unity Square. After getting turned down by a few hotels for lack of vacancy or license to lodge foreigners, we find rooms at the Yudu Hotel west of the square and next to a short section of muddy old city embankment preserved behind a brick wall inscribed with a Chinese character “pass” over the entrance.

Yudu, or Jade Capital, is a clean, functional hotel with little character. It is however surrounded by shops selling jade and products. There is a jade shop inside the lobby.

 Just past noon, we arrive at the Big Bazaar. There are not enough words nor enough pictures to describe the extend of the assortment of human activities.

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

  Day 17 Oct. 4 Hotan (Hetian)

We rest for another day in Hetian.  We make an unsuccessful attempt at finding a Buddhist ruin. I get my bike chain tightened again and replace spark plugs.


Day 18 Oct. 5 Hetian – Kashghar

We leave Hetian at 9:20 a.m. for the start of our 600 kilometers of final push for Kashgar. In Yecheng, Cameron waves goodbye to a Han three-wheel taxi driver who offered to guide us out of the city, then he bumps into a scooter carrying two elderly Uighur men. A bit shaken, we decide to stop for lunch at a Uyghur restaurant.


The final leg to Kashgar is moderately bumpy. Other than a few sections of the highway under repair, we average the ride at about 75-80 kilometers an hour.


Kashgar is beyond our expectations. The modern and sleek clusters of buildings look more like a development zone than a legendary oasis town. After more than 5,000 kilometers on the road, we find the arrival nearly anticlimactic.


The next day we ride to a local motorcycle market. Neil and Cameron need to sell their bikes and I need to find a shipper to get the Regal Raptor back to Beijing.

进南疆: <wbr>环塔之行- <wbr>Southern <wbr>Xinjiang: <wbr>Pan-Taklamakan

Day 19-21 Kashghar-Urumqi


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