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

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sand dunes and beautiful tarmac

Dunhguang, oasis in Gansu Province (north west China)

The last few days have been good. It's hard to tell why we are both feeling more perky and positive, but it could be a number of reasons. Although we are still driving long hours (11 yesterday), we are having a lot of fun and don't crash out in the back after two hours in the driving seat. Our new guide Jack could be partly responsible for our happiness. He is great fun and together we have a real laugh and some good breaks during our long days. With Sam, you could tell he wasn't happy if we stopped to take photos or have a coffee break. Jack has his own camera (old school SLR) and is as happy as we are when good photo opportunities arise e.g. when we drove next to The Great Wall the other day. Yesterday we had a short strawberry, cucumber, tomato and coffee break, which was very pleasant but ended in a messy food fight. Another reason for feeling good is that we feel that we have cracked China. During the first week it was a real mental and physical struggle having to deal with the long hours, heavy traffic and terrible roads. Now we are heading west, driving longer distances and coping with it well. We will be leaving China in another week, but would happily stay for longer to explore the remote northwestern provinces. Tomorrow we will hit the 7000km marker and we are making good progress and keeping to our schedule. Once we arrive in Kazkhstan the pressure will reduce as we are no longer confined to a strict itinerary and can take a rest day as we need it.

Today was our first real day off i.e. no hanging around to extend our visas. We had a lie in, after watching England cruelly losing to Portugal int the World Cup- they must have felt like it was 2002 all over again. The referee was OTT sending off Rooney- I hope he isn't vilified the way Beckham was when he was sent off 8 years ago.

Sorry, I digressed. 11.30am and I finally peeled myself from bed- Ants had to tell me to stop snoring at 8am, to which I did my usual grunt, rolled over and stopped sounding like a man. I must have caught my snoring from my mother, which is strange because we are not genetically related. Still, the camping holiday in Scotland probably taught me how to snore very well and I think nurture often beats nature anyway.

Oops, I went off on another unnecessary tangent. Around midday we went into town and I delivered my films to get developed- 5 whole films starting in Laos that I was desperate to see. The climate here is very hot an dry. Very good for sunbathing, but not so good for charging around sightseeing. We relaxed under a tree and had a light lunch and some tea. I am now so used to Chinese tea that I think it will be strange to go back to English tea and I never thought I would say that (in England I drink about 10 cups a day with lots of milk and 2 sugars).

I went to collect my photos and Ants and I enjoyed going through them all. They are mostly good with the odd out of focus one thrown in for good measure. Now, I need a good hour to go through them properly and put them into albums- they came in a huge stack of over 150. After lunch we went back to the hotel and planned to have a short rest before giving TT a bath. She is absolutely covered in mud and muck- in some places nearly an inch thick. Ants went outside to read her book in the sun while I had a doze, but she returned after about 20 minutes because the sun was too hot (about 36 degrees). I then had a nap and Ants went off to use the internet. We felt like we ought to go and see Mogao caves today- the mind was willing but the body less so. Aa this was our first real break for nearly a month we both felt like we shouldn't push ourselves to do everything. We both know that we will return to northwest China and will then have the time and the energy to spent a full day exploring the caves and their Buddhist art.

This evening we headed to the 300 metre high sand dunes 6km south of town. I have never seen such huge sand dunes before and they were really fantastic. They would have been even better if they had not been quite so touristified (mum, I know that is not a real word). We had to pay an entrance fee, money for our camel ride (too hard to walk up a steep sand dune as Ants later discovered), money to go sand toboganning, money to go quad biking and then more money when the quad bike dudes asked for a tip (cheeky monkeys). Still, we had a great time, got covered in sand and enjoyed having the spirit and energy to just be tourists and unwind.

Our camels were the two humped Bactrian variety, but they had lost their shaggy brown winter coats and looked more like their one humped cousins. Did you know that Bactrian camels have been domesticated for over 3000 years and their wild brothers only number about 500 in the Gashun Gobi in China (very near here)- about 1000 also live in Mongolia. I have just finised a brilliant book where a British explorer tracked the migration route of the wild Bactrians right in this part of China. I could bore you with more Bactrian facts but I won't for now. I named my camel Pot Noodle and Ants called her's Clark Gable. We named Jack's Sam!!!!! I was petting Clark and he tried to nip me the cheeky bugger.

Jack and I climbed a sand dune using wooden steps, but Ants decided to be adventurous and climb the dune itself. Two steps forward and one step back- it looked exhausting and we were glad that we had accessed the dunes on the back of our camels. Jack challenged Ants to climb the whole way and if she did he would buy her 0.5kg of raisins and 0.5kg of lemons. This was enough for Ants to stagger up the dune puffing and panting to claim her prize. She then celebrated by doing handstands, before we descended at full speed on sand toboggans.

A brief explanation about the title of the blog- the sand dunes have already been explained. The beautiful tarmac part occurred yesterday, as I drove TT the final 120km to Dunhuang on the most beautiful black, smooth, wide and deserted tarmac. It was an absolute pleasure for us all and TT enjoyed flexing her 3 cylinders. Yesterday we drove 450km- a new Tuk to the Rod record. Ants said a great comment yesterday. As we drove through some sand dunes, she commented that she had never seen a sand dune before. Ants lives in North Norfolk and goes walking on Holkham beach regularly which are flanked by many sands dunes!

Time up for the internet. Hope you've all had a good weekend and more blogging soon. Jo, xoxoxo


Blogger bullyboys said...

Never heard anyone get that excited about tarmac, but we can understand why. Toboganning down sand dunes sounds a ferrety game to us.
When you reach kazakhstan we will tell you the Russian for ferret so you can say hi to any you meet.
Keep on tukking girls!

3:52 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hmmm...was that football punditry in their young Joanna? Amused that even in far flung China you can't escape the pain of being an English sports supporter.

Glad to hear you got some good tarmac...I hope you've taken photos of the various types - I await that slideshow with bated breath xxx

8:21 AM  
Blogger pip said...

So now the whole world knows your mother snores - your father snores as well you know. So you must snore twice as loud as either of them!! Poor Ants.

9:57 AM  

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