Turpan - Korla

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

The 2 days in Turpan fly by! 

Turpan is China's Death Valley. With 154m below sea level Turpan is the second deepest place in the world and also the hottest place in China. It is good that we are already here at the beginning of June and not during the scorching heat of July/August! 


We are not at all enthusiastic about the first evening walk into the city. Somehow we don't like it. We quickly return to the hotel and enjoy a delicious dinner and a glass of wine on the roof terrace of our hotel. The next morning we still take another run-up to explore the city. This time we are not walking, after all we have 2 wheels with us. In this way we discover the city in a new light, come to other quarters and thus get a completely different picture. We like the city and even a big supermarket where we can buy our Nescafé! Yeah, you read right! Even though the tea here is very good, we sometimes need the taste of coffee and here in China we only get it with the quickly soluble coffee powder. The advantage of this is that the coffee can also be stirred cold. So when we camp, we can drink a coffee in the morning, because we still don't have gasoline. 


Shopping in the supermarket is an experience in itself. At the entrance we are scanned and our day packs are sealed in a bag. Only then will we be admitted to the shop. We stroll along the shelves and see what we could buy. We don't need much, our shopping trolley is almost empty, only some pistachios, freshly packed dried fruits and raisins, a microfibre cloth and wet wipes we take with us. Shopping feels special, the shop is almost empty, no crowds of shopping carts, no queues... probably the prices for the majority of the locals are too expensive, they cover themselves in the bazaar. 


Of course, a visit to the bazaar is also part of our programme. We can't take the bikes and park them in front of the entrance. There they are well guarded, because even the bazaar cannot be entered without entrance control. In the bazaar we also find a hairdressing salon for men. Markus uses the opportunity for a haircut. The salon is beautifully furnished for local conditions, a colorful landscape decorates the walls, a water bucket with a small tap hangs on the wall, here the hair is washed. The towels are hung on a clothesline to dry. How often do you think they're washed? The two young hairdressers have their hands full, the shop is very well attended. We've chosen the right business. The two are happy about the visit of a long nose, this probably happens very rarely. The result is very good for CHF 1.50. 


A visit to the museum, which was only built in 2009, gives a very good overview of the history of the region and the Silk Road. Very special are the exhibited and very well preserved mummies, which were discovered during the construction of the motorway in 2007. Several hundreds of these mummies date from 2000 BC to 800 AD. 


The drive to Toksun is short. Already in the early afternoon we arrive at the hotel and check in. Before we can go to the room, the local police will come by to check our passports. We have gradually got used to this. In the late afternoon we drive to the market to stock up with fruits and vegetables for the next days. We pass control without any problems. But before we can buy anything at all, some officials are standing in front of us again and want to see our passports. What exactly they should do with us, however, does not seem to be quite clear to them. So call your boss and ask him to come by. It won't be long before he's there. It's the same officer who checked us at the hotel. He greets us as if we were best colleagues, buys the vegetables with us and disappears again. We can take care of the rest of the shopping. This intermezzo was not lacking in curious looks! And we always smile friendly to it. When we leave the market we hear whistles everywhere. The militia organization is practicing...


According to our route planning we are on a smaller road for the next days (360km and 3000m altitude difference), ideal for camping. We look forward to this stage in solitude. After 17km we reach one of the last villages before the climb and hopefully also the last passport control for some time. After everything was checked, we were photographed for the umpteenth time, the person responsible asks us about our route. There he shakes his head and explains to us after clarification by telephone that one road is closed. Are we supposed to believe that or not? We have no choice but to return to Toksun and take the express way to Korla. In the meantime we ignore the prohibition sign of the Express Way. There are simply no alternative routes. The smaller roads to the left and right of the Autobhan are often dead ends, there is no access to the motorway and most of the motorway is delimited by barbed wire. 


Only 250km later we find a road sign, on which the barrier is signalled. Are we wrongly becoming a little more suspicious?


The next two days we spend driving uphill. We have to cross the Tian Shan Mountains to get to the Taklamakan Desert. 

When it really goes into the mountains, there is no more barbed wire along the motorway. This will make it easier for us to pitch our tent somewhere. Together with the heavily loaded trucks we crawl up the mountain. The trucks are almost as much trouble as we are. We can be glad that the majority of trucks drive on gas, so we are not exposed to the exhaust clouds all the time. After more than 1000 altitude meters and 65km it is time to set up our night camp. We find a good place so that we cannot be seen by the road. We did not consider that it would be so noisy all night. Of course, the trucks also drive at night and as it goes uphill, the accelerator is pressed, it is switched... We have hardly turned a blind eye. These are ideal conditions for the next mountain stage! 


But we can do that too. After almost 3 hours we have reached the top of the pass! Wonderful this feeling! And then this view! Fantastic! A mountain landscape of the finest! We are compensated with a beautiful descent. In a smaller town we stock up again with water and ask for an overnight accommodation at the same time. Bingo! It even has a hotel. We hadn't expected that. Markus checks in, pays immediately, I unload the bikes, let the hotel owner look into all pockets (which we finally checked via video whether he fulfills his duty) and we are beautiful in the room. The passports, however, are still with the police officer. I have a bad feeling: can we spend the night here? Markus is optimistic and is about to take a shower. There's a knock on our door. We are told that we are not allowed to stay overnight in this city, but please drive to 100km away Heshuo, there are overnight possibilities. As if we could still cover this distance quickly in the evening! I also used the possibility of a shower quickly before we pack our bikes again and leave the city, well understood with escort to the city limits. After 20km we find a camping site. The only small obstacle: we have to find a passage in the barbed wire fence to get there. We also master this with flying colours! We enjoy the beautiful evening in the desert in intimate togetherness, sit in front of our tent, read, eat...


We leave early, use the morning freshness for the first kilometres, before it gets really hot again. Heshuo is our next destination, including mountain stage. In the evening we reach the oasis town after about 100km. I can't believe what they built here. Entire streets are made of granite slabs, it has huge squares - and it is deserted. A little lapse undermines us: I send Markus into the middle of the street to take a picture... but we both overlook the police car. That's the best we could do. So what, we continue our journey, find a hotel. An entire armada (5 officers) is needed so that we can check in. In addition, we are banned from going out in the evening and from taking pictures in public places! Here we have the Reour carriage. We don't care, we are dead tired after these 3 days anyway and just want to sleep.


And when you get up in the morning, you are tired as if you hadn't slept, your bones hurt and you have a distance of 100km ahead of you! That's exactly how I felt! That won't stop us from going to Korla. At regular intervals we take a break, deliberately if we want to drink or eat something, unintentionally if we are checked. The highlight of the day is the freshly baked bread directly from a special bread pen. It's like a pizza oven. However, the opening is at the top, the bread dough is beaten against the inner wall of the oven by the baker, who leans halfway into the oven. Then the dough is baked. Markus and I have rarely tasted such good bread!


On the way we ask ourselves from time to time whether we are driving along the Silk Road or along China's Wine Road. Grapes grow in every oasis, large wine advertisements draw attention to the wines of the region. That's good for us. So we can look forward to a good drop of wine with dinner.


 Before we reach Korla, we are allowed to tackle the last climb. I'm not enthusiastic at all, just don't like it anymore after these 3 exhausting days. We allow ourselves another glacé, eat some grapes to have the necessary energy. The final drive leads downhill, we pass an impressive "moon landscape" and finally enter Korla.  

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