Day 689 – CHINA (XINJIANG): From the middle of a featureless desert to somewhere about 40km from there


Today’s distance / ???????: about 40km
Average speed / ????: slow
Time on skateboard / ????: lots
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: dunno
Ascent / ??: 525m
Descent / ??: 400m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: n/a

I roused myself at 5:15am, about 30 minutes before a thin band of light began showing on the horizon. Yesterday was brutally hot, even under the road in the culvert where I rested during the heat of the day from 10am until 6pm. Today, I assume, will be not much better.

I didn’t eat very well yesterday, so I promise myself that I will do better today. Oatmeal and a Chinese attempt at instant cereal begins the day, and begins it well.

It is a much better start to this poor fellow (you can still see the driver in the cab of the truck). It seems he went off the road in the night. Thinking about it, he is in more or less the same position as where I was sleeping last night in a water race not 10km west of here. That could have been ugly had he come off the road where I was…

Accident on National Highway 312 between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

Most of the morning was uphill. But the wind was light, and the higher I went, the cooler it got. I was able to skate until noon before taking shelter under the under-construction expressway that has been running parallel to National Highway G312 for all of yesterday and all of today.

The rig on National Highway 312 between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

Before stopping for the afternoon, I was thrilled to make aquaintance with the beginning of the famed central northern Xinjiang roadside concrete statues. They began in style, with a pair of giraffes.

Giraffes on National Highway 312 between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

I had first seen photos of these satues in the blog of Edward Genochio, who cycled from England to China and then back again. It was with no little joy that I experienced them for myself today.

This not-so-little cricket (about the size of a man’s thumb) almost got run over by yours truely. The little sucker was huge. I shooed him off the road so as to not get run over by the frequent truck traffic.

Massive cricket on the National Highway 312 between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

I pushed on up to the top of a small pass, and enjoyed the reward of a downhill. The downhill spelled the end of the featurelessness (is that a word) of the surrounds, as I dropped down into an amazing wide valley flanked by colourful hills on either side.

Endless road and desert between Shanshan and Sandaolin on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

Endless road and desert between Shanshan and Sandaolin on National Highway 312, Xinjiang, China

I sheltered under the under-construction highway until 6pm. I continued to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain; a book I bought in Shanshan. In between reading, I slept. Or tried to. A hot wind was blowing through the culvert. Despite the shade, it was 35 degrees under the road. I hate to think what it would have been outside in the direct heat.

At 6pm on the dot I was packed up and on the road again. It was still hot, but I still had a very nice downhill to ride. I stopped at a small store; the first in about 30km.

“Are there any more stores between here and Sandaolin?” I asked the store keeper.

“No. None at all,” he said, without looking at me.

“How far is it to Sandaolin from here?” I asked.

“About 80km,” he replied.

“No stores, nowhere to buy water or food for 80km?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, again not looking at me.

I was reluctant to believe him. According to a cyclist I had emailed prior to arriving in China, who had done the same route, the furtherest between services on this stretch of National Highway G312 in Xinjiang was 140km, and that was east of Hami. But what was I to do. I had no choice but to believe him and buy up enough water and food to last me at least a day. I bought the water and food, and went to leave. As I was about to leave, I asked “Do you offer meals here?”

“No,” he replied.

“There is a truck stop up the road about 4km though,” a person sitting at a table in the store said.

“So there is somewhere to buy stuff?” I said, laughing at the store-keeper’s successful attempt at getting the hapless tourist to buy up large at his store.

I have had this happen before, except the last time I knew I was being had. It was nearer to Shanshan, and was told that for 300km there were no services. I knew that couldn’t be the case, so I asked a couple more people in the same little town. Sure enough, the consensus was that there were plenty of places to get food and water along the way.

I skated to the truck stop, and was happy to find a whole selection of small stores, restaurants (grimy eateries), and cheap ‘motels’. I stopped in at one, and was instantly greeted as a hero by a table full of rather drunk road construction employees.

I ordered noodles, and slowly tackled the big bowl as I tried to communicate with the friendly fellows. In China, drunk men can be either very convivial and genuinely happy to meet a foreigner, or they can be obtrusive and harassing. These lot were the former. Great fun.

Friendly truckers at a truck stop on National Highway 312 between Shanshan and Sandaolin, Xinjiang, China

I was at the eatery at 8pm, so had plenty of time to continue skating if I wanted. However I had done 50km, and decided to call it a day. The eatery had a dorm-style inn at the back, and I stayed there for the night for 10RMB (1 Euro).


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5 thoughts on “Day 689 – CHINA (XINJIANG): From the middle of a featureless desert to somewhere about 40km from there

  • Scott

    I know what you mean about "featurelessness." Kansas was my low point on the tour, and one of the big reasons was the endless miles of nothing. It must have been four or five days of steady riding with nothing to look at but stubble fields and, when I was lucky, a water tower in the distance signaling the next town. Then, of course, there was the wind and trucks. Ugh.

    But Robbie better now, yes? He keep skate, cross China, make big record, be skateboard hero!

    Scott

  • Mum

    The cricket reminds me of the ones in Queensland. They always looked as if they were about to stand up and speak like Jimmy Cricket in the Pinocchio movie.

  • Mike C

    Good photos on this post. 🙂 Stephanie says that the bug photo is "amazing". She studied entomology at university. Poor dude in the new looking truck. Not sure how he's going to get out of that one. Keep up the great photos…

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Aunty Les, the locals all refer to the desert as the Gobi Desert. But I think that geographically the Gobi Desert is further east.