Barkol – Turpan

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

We leave Barkol after a good Chinese breakfast with lots of vegetables! 

After about 15km we reach the Barkolsee, situated in a large plain, surrounded by huge pastures and mountains. We sat down at the lake, enjoying the peace and the view. We leave out the walk on the wooden footbridges along the shore, because we don't lack movement. In summer, the lake is very busy here, when the inhabitants of Kumul escape the heat and look for some cooling in the mountains. However, the many sales stalls are still lonely at their places at the moment. We don't miss the hustle and bustle!


We're moving out. For today we have chosen a more remote route, because we are allowed to camp again. We find the right turnoff leading to a village 3km away. Finding such roads is not always so easy. On one map it may be marked, on the other not, the navigation system of google maps and maps.me partly indicate different routes. That means for us then quite simply: do we take the risk to end in a dead end or do we choose the route along the main traffic axis?


The village is surprisingly large. We drive through the centre...are critically observed by the villagers...what has brought them here?


We drive on and look for the next turnoff. But where it is marked on our map, there is no road far and wide, only steppe and camels, and the road we are driving on is a dead end. Great! 15km back to the start!


We have no choice and drive the road we initially planned. The next 30km it goes uphill once more. But we are rewarded for the exertions: on the way we see an enormous number of camels. We have never seen so many camels... and this landscape first! One set of hills follows the other as far as the eye can see. What a beautiful panorama! Finally, from our point of view, we have reached the top, which cannot always be said exactly in China, because the pass heights are not marked like here.


We decide to camp right up here. Behind a hill we find the ideal place, beautifully situated, away from the traffic, all for ourselves. When we set up the tent, we had no idea that we would stay here longer than planned. We eat a simple cold dinner, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and something sweet. We have almost no gas for cooking, so there is no warm noodle dish. We don't get any at the gas stations. For this you need a Chinese ID. If you want to drive into the gas station, first the ID must be scanned in, only then the barrier opens and you are admitted to refuel. Since we do not have such an ID, we must try to get gasoline from private individuals. This is a somewhat more difficult undertaking.


We sleep early to be prepared for the next leg of the day. Already in the night we are woken up, it winds, we hear the fluttering of the tent and ask ourselves what is to come. The wind gets stronger and stronger, at 5. 00 it reached storm strength. Markus braces the tent even more so that the tent doesn't fly around our ears. We lie in the tent and hope that the tent poles will hold. With the storm it has also become massively colder. A continuation of the journey is out of the question with this wind. At first we hope that the wind will calm down again, but it doesn't look like it. The weather report does not bode well either. At 6.00 we decide to spend the day in the tent. I say to Markus: now you have 24 hours to tell me everything you ever wanted to tell me...In hindsight we can say that the decision was absolutely right. The storm lasts until late into the next night, and last but not least there is a shower of sleet.  


There is little to do, the internet connection is bad or not available. We read a little, play Sudoku, doze in front of us and wait for the wind to finally stop blowing. And whenever we have the feeling that the wind is getting weaker, we hear the next gust in the distance as it approaches. How nice it would be in the tent without wind noise and without the fluttering of the tent wall. And the question is always in the back of our minds: can our tent stand it?


Our tent has endured it and we the altogether over 36h together in the tent also!


In the morning we experience a dreamlike sunrise. We even crawl out of the tent in time, although it is bitterly cold outside. The sky is steel blue, no cloud is visible. This makes us confident for the day. Ice has formed on the tent, the water in our Bidons is frozen and there is still sleet on the saddlebags. Warm clothes are the order of the day! We'll be ready at 9:00. We leave happily, content again on the bike to sit. We have a pleasant tailwind and besides it goes downhill. Almost 70km we drive continuously downhill, something we have never experienced before. Approx. 30km of it we drive on a gravel road, the mountain panorama is once again magnificent. Simply indescribable! You have to see this with your own eyes. We have already seen many mountains, cliffs, steep slopes and hills, but what we have experienced today in different pictures is simply unique. We stop again and again to take pictures and let everything affect us. After 85km we reach the next village, where we can stock up with water and food. As soon as we enter the village we see a small village shop. The owner beckons us and challenges us to come to him. We stop and take the opportunity to eat something warm, because camping is also announced today... Markus finally gets his freshly prepared noodles again. Me too, of course, with lots of vegetables and meat. Cooking in this "village pub", consisting of 1 table and some chairs, is a matter for the boss. First we point out the ingredients we want in the dish. Then the man immediately gets to work, shreds the vegetables and stands at the stove in the small kitchen to prepare the wok. Dinner will be ready in no time. It tastes really good. Markus even gets an additional Portin Noodel served! Do we look starving? We'll get some more bread and water and say goodbye. We are happy to have everything we need again, and the man is happy about his daily business. We drive only a few kilometres until we have found a suitable campground.


The next day is not particularly spectacular. We aim for the next city Qiketai. After 3 camping nights we would like to enjoy the amenities of a hotel again. When we enter the city after more than 100km, we are not really convinced whether we should actually spend the night here. In addition, the hotels are a few kilometres outside the city, uphill driving would be the order of the day. We therefore decide to add another 30km and drive to Shanshan. This is a big city and hotels are therefore more centrally located. In addition, the selection is also larger. So we get on the bike again and move our tired legs. We can't stay at the first hotel. But one of the employees leads us to a really beautiful luxury hotel. Pure pleasure! The check-in runs smoothly, our luggage is not even scanned. We are allowed to walk past all scanners with our loaded bikes. It can sometimes be that simple.


We enjoy the great room and the beautiful bathroom. We'll have dinner at the hotel. When we place the order, the waiter says that this is far too much of the food we ordered. That's enough for four. He misjudged our appetite! We eat almost everything.  


The journey from Shanshan to Turpan is very varied. It has always smaller and larger oases. Most of the houses are built of bricks. In front of the houses are the large barbecues, which are heated in the evening and cover huge seats with carpets and cushions. Siesta is held here during the incubating midday heat. These pictures remind us strongly of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. 


In the oases, the picture is dominated by vineyards. In front of almost every house and in every garden there are vines. These also serve as cooling, as with us the pergola. The grapes are dried in specially built air-permeable houses. These "dry houses" in the middle of the desert landscape look very special.


Besides the vines, there is also oil in this region. Everywhere you see the oil pumps, whether in the middle of the vineyard or somewhere in the desert. 


We drive past the "flaming mountains", a reddish mountain landscape, another highlight of this day's stage. In the course of the afternoon we finally arrive in Turpan. We'll stay at the Silk Road Hotel. The location of the hotel is wonderful: from the roof terrace we can see the vineyards, it is quiet, an oasis in the oasis town. Here we spend some days and prepare for the next big stage, the Taklamakan Desert.


P.S. Anyone who follows our reports has certainly already noticed that this year's tour is a lot tougher than last year. We are happy to be able to build on last year's experience. Even if it is much more strenuous, whether it is the stages, the communication, the insane climate changes, we don't want to miss a moment of this journey!

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