Tuk to the Road

The trials and tukulations of Jo, Ants and Ting Tong the tuk tuk and our three-wheeled odyssey from Bangkok to Brighton...in aid of the mental health charity Mind. For more information please see www.tuktotheroad.com

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Roast arm of Ants with garlic and rosemary

A strange title for a blog one might think, but this was an actual conversation in the back of TT as we tukked through the Gobi desert. It is very very hot here and the heat is dry. As we are driving it is like being in a fan assisted oven. We are continually developing our lopsided tans and the left side of our bodies will be much more tanned than the right side. When we return to England we may be classified as a rare hybrid version of the brown and white zebra.

Currently having a rest day in magical NW China. We are staying in a city called Turpan, which is located on the ancient Silk Road. It is an oasis in the remote Gobi desert, watered by cleverly constructed irrigation channels. This morning we visited the Karez irrigation museum and saw the channels that the water travels down from the Tien Shan mountains. The current irrigation channels have been actively working for the last 300 years and prior to that there were other irrigation channels from the mountains, although not as extensive. Turpan is a paradise for growing 600 varieties of grapes and the most delicious melons. There are a number of vine covered pedestrianised walkways in the city, which provide some much needed shade from the scorching summer heat.

During the day it is too hot to really do anything, other than seek shelter from the heat (42 C today). In the past and still in outlying villages, people retreat to underground rooms in their houses, only to resurface in the evening. People also sleep outside- last night there were beds pulled out into the street and around the main square. We opted to sleep in our a/c bedroom.

This morning we visited the ancient city of Jaiohe, with its clay constructed buildings and walls, now mostly in a crumbling state. However, it was still one of our favourite touristy expeditions and the bright blue sky really set off the remains to their full beauty. I took 36 photos, which I will get back from the developers this evening.

We have spent the last 2 days prior to today covering over 900km in TT. The roads have been good and we cover 450km in between 7 anjd 8 hours. I never thought this would be possible after are painful journeys in Yunnan, where it took us the best part of 10 hours to cover under 200km. TT is amazing as always and her temperature (oil) has yet to go over half way. She is definitely a hot weather tuktuk and I think the English winter will be a real shock to her system. I think most English cars would find the desert heat difficult to deal with.

From Dunhaung we drove 450km to Hami, famous throughout China for its melons. They are delicious and best eaten cold. A truck driver (not a Dong Feng but a FAW) was kind enough to give us a large Hami melon, which we are storing in our fridge to enjoy later this evening. The truck drivers here (NW China) seem more relaxed and actually have given way to us on a couple of occassions. The roads are less busy, blissfully straight and flat and the tarmac far superior to anything we experienced in south and central China.

Yesterday morning was very strange. We got up at 6am and planned to leave at 6.30am, but our guide was still asleep and we didn't leave until 6.30am. Then, he got us hopelessly lost in Hami and we did not manage to leave the city until 7.30am. So much for trying to avoid the heat of the afternoon. He actually uttered an expletive , much to my suprise as he doesn't like us using 'bad words' and consequently a swear box has been put in place. For each swear word that we utter, we pay him a fine of 1 yuan. Ants managed to lose us 7 yuan during supper in Dunhuang. I am glad to say that we are now speaking like true ladies (most of the time). Sorry, Jo goes off on another tangent. So, we finally left Hami and it was cold enough for us to wear jumpers. Then, it started to pour with rain and became very windy. It must have been about 10 C and we sat shivering in TT with all of the rain covers down. I couldn't secure the front covers properly and had to hold them in place with my feet, sitting on my poncho so that I didn't get too wet. Because of the wind and rain we sat by the side of the road until the worst of the weather had passed. Jack said that he had never experienced a rain storm like that in the desert before- we felt truly honoured. Later in the day the sky became clear blue and we were blessed with a 30 C increase in temperature.

Most of the traffic on the roads was trucks filled with thousands of Hami melons, being driven thousands of km to other parts of China by the long suffering lorry drivers. They drive almost continually and work in shift patterns- one sleeps while the other drives. Definitely not a job that I envy.

Driving through the desert is a real pleasure and the landscapes are so raw and remote. It makes you so happy to be alive. Yesterday we tukked past the flaming mountains, a range over 100km long that glow various shades of red and orange druing the hours of daylight.

Tonight we are hiring a donkey cart and going to explore the local rural areas. We met the donkey yesterday and named her Daisy. Dhe is 9 years old and has the most gorgeous big velevty brown ears. I have never smelt a donkey before and I would describe as a cross between horse, ferret and dog- really quite strange and unique. Ferrets smell the best though. Ants checked her feet, coat and body for any rubbed areas from her harness and declared that she was in good nick and OK for us to take out this evening.

Tomorrow we head 200km west to the capital city of Xinjiang province, Urumqi. This also Jack's home city and he is going to show us around and take us to a Uigher performance. I think Ants has filled you in on the Uighers. She attracted a potential Uigher suitor last night, who was very large and smelt of sheep. He was also very drunk and kept saying 'yes, no, yes, no'. Eventually he left us in peace to enjoy our lamb kebabs cooked in a Uigher restaurant by a Uigher family. We love the Uighers.

Enough, my fingers are tired and we need to go and pick up Daisy soon. Lots of love from NW China- everyone should visit this area, it is amazing.


Blogger bullyboys said...

No donkeys mummy, unless fitted with special ferret-panniers. Anyway, Daisy won't fit in the back of TT. Glad you seem to be having a bit of a holiday now and enjoying yourselves - we have felt really guilty slobbed out in our hammocks in our ensuite holiday chalet while you and Auntie Ants are doing all this hard work (yeah, okay, not much) We still aren't sure about this tarmac fetish, to us it smells really bad and wears our claws out digging at it. Hope it all keeps going well for you. oxoxoxoxoxo

10:11 AM  
Blogger Kali said...

I found this too late...
I love what you are doing, admirable and exciting. I wish I could help you in some way or drive a bit ;D
I have see a tuk tuk in Brighton today, cool...

3:14 AM  

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