Day 670 – CHINA (XINJIANG): From Turpan to 25km from Shanshan

Today¡¯s distance / ???????: 43.8 miles / 70.4km
Average speed / ????: 7.9mph / 12.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 31m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4721mi plus 280mi (?) / 7598km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 540m
Descent / ??: 235m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N42¡ã 53¡ä 18.90¡å, E089¡ã 56¡ä 02.00¡å

My alarm woke me up at 5:30am. I woke up un-motivated. I know I need to get going. Visa ticking away blah blah. I considered spending another day in Turpan. That was not going to be an option however. I was sick of the place. Needed to get out.

I left the hotel and headed for the central fountain square area to eat a breakfast of liquid yoghurt, bread, and two bananas. Still very unmotivated, I considered heading back to the hotel and checking in for another day. After so long on the road, the unknown becomes known. You know what is up ahead. Up ahead is road. A headwind. A tailwind. A climb. A descent. This fails to excite me anymore.
The thought of being in Turpan another day did not sit very well however, so I pushed off up the hill to highway G312, which lies to the north of Turpan. It was still early, so the town was only just beginning to wake up. To catch the cool breeze of the morning, people had pulled their metal-framed beds out next to the road and were still wrapped up in their blankets. Some were beginnning to stir.

I got out of Turpan and rejoined with highway G312. Good old G312. My friend. My enemy. My constant. And so it begins again…

Pushing through endless desert near Turpan, Xinjiang Province, China

I had a headwind, and trucks passing on the other side of the road added to the wind by bulldozing an extra flood of air in my face.

Overload near Turpan, Xinjiang Province, China

40 minute intervals were all I could manage for the first few hours. Push at an easy pace for 40 minutes, and take a rest. Repeat.

The landscape does amazing things to your mind here. Out in the flat (or insidious, shallow grade uphills), progress feels inconceivibly slow. Every push seems to be swallowed up in the grand massiveness of it all. The road is impossibly smooth, but it is tough going.

All of a sudden, the hills in the distance draw nearer. The plains are sucked up into a narrow gorge. Impossibly dry hills on either side of a river bed carpeted in green.

A gorge of contrasts on highway G312 on my way to Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

The highway climbs up at a satisfyingly steep grade until the riverbed becomes too dry to support the greenery.

A gorge of contrasts on highway G312 on my way to Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

When I took the above photo, it was near to 12 noon. On my wrist-top watch, the temperature read 35 degrees celcius. Time to get out of the sun and rest until things cooled off again in the evening.

Dry ground approaching Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

I pushed on, hoping to find some sort of civilisation. I had oats that I could eat for lunch, but I had a hankering for water melon. Earlier in the day I had passed stalls selling them. In the end, all I could find before stopping was more dry ground. Grape drying houses attested to the dry hot winds typical in the area.

More grape drying houses in the desert on my way to Shanshan on highway G312, Xinjiang Province, China

At 12:45 I pulled off the road down a small gravel road into an oasis of greenery. Grape vines and tall barrier trees were to be my shelter for the remainder of the day.

The view from my midday sleep spot on my way to Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

For lunch I had a delicious blend of oatmeal and the mystery berries that I saw for the first time in Turpan. Marija had seen the berries in Iran.

Delicious mystery berries make for great oatmeal snack on my way to Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

Mystery berry in Turpan, Xinjiang Province, China

The berries have a mild sweet taste. Very delicate flavour.

I spent almost 6 hours under that tree in the vineyard. I neve felt bored. I enjoyed the rest. It was still hot. In the shade, the thermometer registered 35 degrees celcius.

At 6:30pm, I decided it was time to get back on the road. Reluctantly I dragged myself back on the road. Within 15 minutes I was in my element. My first proper fair dinkum sandstorm.

Beginnings of a fierce (way fun) sandstorm on my way to Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

I took this photo just before it got proper windy. Trucks were inching along the road with their hazard lights on. The wind and sand was being blown across the road with a fericiousness I have not experienced since that windy day high on a pass in Turkey in the middle of winter back at the beginning of 2007 when I was on my bike.

Two separate cars stopped and insisted on giving me a ride. I insisted that I was loving it. I had my arms outstretched to make the most of the side/tail wind. Great fun.

In 15 minutes the wind subsided enough for the desert sand to stay on the ground, and the road was fully operational again. I pushed on to a small town the name of which I was too tired to ask.

I ate at a road-side restaurant, and stayed at a 10RMB guesthouse for the night. Went to the public showers and for 3RMB had a relaxing shower to wash off all the sand and sweat.

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6 thoughts on “Day 670 – CHINA (XINJIANG): From Turpan to 25km from Shanshan

  • Jürgen

    Hej Rob,

    the "mystery berries" are White Mulberries. The leafs of the tree are the preferred feedstock for silkworms. Berries are edible in any way.

    Keep on pushing,


  • Uncle Peter

    I didn't recognise them as such because the fruit on our bush are much small, few and far between, and he birds usually get them before we do. However, there have been a few occasions when we go round the mulberry bush, bought especially so we could do that literally rather than just figuratively.

  • maki

    The photo of wind and sand is great shot!!! exciting eh?

    yeah Turkey's one was awesome experience for you too.I'm glad I could see an amazing moment of yours again!! Now this is what I call the appeal of journey!!!take a rest well.