It was an early start. Up at 5.30 and on the road by 6.30. This is not a trip for the faint hearts!
Our route initially traversed sandy desert and it was not long before we passed the largest wind farm in the world. It went on for, literally, miles.
Over the day we were to see the desert itself change from the sand of our dune walking, to scrubland, to dark earth. Sometimes there were mountains in the distance and at others we seemed to be travelling through a corridor with rocky peaks on either side. Sometimes there were signs of some man powered activity and at others it was a vast expanse of nothing. Occasionally there were periods of fertile oasis but mainly it was desert. Earlier in the day there was more evidence of road building. Much later we saw derricks pumping. Later still and nearer to our destination we saw long low cement structures with holes in the side scattered over the landscape. Apparently, they put grapes inside them to dry to make raisins. Turpan is grape city.
Initially we continued on the Gansu Expressway which we had more or less been following since Lanzhou, but then we moved into Xinjiang county. We are now deemed to be in Central Asia and there were noticeable changes to what we saw around us. People have started to look different and there is Arabic writing in addition to the Chinese characters at service stations. The traffic is much less. Mainly just the enormous lorries.
We moved through a range of temperatures during our journey. Early on it was quite cool in the truck, later in the day it moved up to 104 degrees.
We eventually arrived in Turpan at 7.20. More or less the 13 hours on the road that was expected.
The area of Turpan is known as ‘Death Valley’. At 154 metres below sea level, it is the second lowest depression in the world and the hottest place in China. Despite this, it has water and is a fertile area. One of its most endearing features is that some of the streets are covered with grapevines to keep the sun off and we are here in the grape harvest season so the vines are heavy with bunches of white grapes. Something that is slightly more bizarre is that the area works on a different time zone. Beijing time is the official time of China. Here they operate on a time 2 hours behind Beijing time. Very odd!
After a quick turnaround whatever time it was, we left the hotel to get some food at the night market and some desperately needed cold beer. The food area was quite small compared to those we have experienced in other towns and some of the food was very different. There is definitely a bigger Muslim influence. We plumped for a chicken dish which I would describe as ‘interesting’ as opposed to delicious but the beer was great!
It was good to get back to our air conditioned room, despite the fact that the day has cooled down considerably. It is all relative.