Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My understanding of Luntai was a kinda of 'one horse town' on the edge of the desert. My guide book mentions there is one hotel in town opposite the bus station. It seemed like the perfect place to meet Markus before going into the Taklamakan. Even one of my concerns were 'would the town have a big enough store to stock up on supplies'. But things are changing fast throughout China. The Xinjiang provence is seen as the 'Golden Goose' of China. An area rich in oil and gas reserves. And these golden goose prospects have changed our one horse town into a bustling city. With the internet and international phone calls banned in the Xinjiang provence since the recent riots in Urumphi, its become very difficult to find my travelling buddy, Markus. I reckon I'm the only tourist in town. I've checked into a €3 a night hovel but it has all the characteristics I need. It has a balcony overlooking the main street and bus station. Many of the other guests in the 'Hovel Hotel' are truck drivers who are sitting around waiting for a phone call for work. These guys are happy sitting on the balcony watching the traffic go by, and they too are on the watch out for another cycle tourist. The taxi rank is across the road and there is always more taxis than customers and these guys are also on the lookout for a tourist on a bicycle. But after 2 days chilling out on this balcony, with regular cycles around town, I'm quiet sure Markus never made it to Luntai. Maybe we'll cross paths down the road somewhere. The internet/international phone call ban only applies to the provence of Xinjiang so once I get out of this provence (which is 20 times the size of Ireland), I'll hopefully be able to find out what happened to him.The question now is; Should I go into the Taklamakan on my own?? I don't know how many times bigger than Ireland this desert is, but its the second largest sand desert in the world. On the ancient Silk Road, traders would either journey north of the desert or south of it. No route existed through the centre of the desert. Even the name 'Taklamakan' means 'He who enters does not leave'. But now there are two cross desert highways. So am I going in??? Of course I'm going in. The alarm is set for 5am. I know the Chinese have found oil in this desert, so a newly built road has recently been completed. If there is regular trucks on the road, then surely there will be truck stops. I remember reading a blog of one cyclist who made it through earlier this year. My plan was to reread that section of his blog before deciding to go in or not. (But,once again, no internet). Anyway, he must have survived, if he wrote a blog afterwards. My plan is to go in fully loaded with food and water, and as I get into the desert and meet some locals, I will be able to find out more of the road ahead. Also if there is a reasonable amount of traffic on the road, you can always wave down some vehicle with a large dollar bill and get a lift out of the place. Although we had a sand storm in the city today, as long as the wind remains in its present southerly direction, I'll have a strong tail wind. But if the direction changes, I'll skip the Taklamakan and take the main road around the desert instead. Fingers crossed, tomorrow we go in..........

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