Cross China Road Trip 11: Southern Silk Road, Part 01. High Anxiety.

Kashgar. So I’m lying on the bed at the Super 8 three star hotel when it suddenly dawns on me that it’s maybe a good idea to take a look at the next phase of the journey. A wave of anxiety descends while spreading the map open across the floor as this is something that should have been addressed ages ago.

I’m taken aback at how much distance is still remaining. It’s a massive space hugging the whole bottom of the Taklamakan Desert, then south right through the Qinghai Province and across three more provinces to Beijing! What is it? It’s well over three thousand more miles. AAAAAAGH!  I’d forgotten that Kashgar is only the halfway point and that the hardest part of the trip still remains.

There are a number of factors that cause me to fall back onto the bed star-fished while trying to avoid having a coronary. These are

  • The chilling words of Mr Li, the owner of the Land Cruiser for one “Out there we cannot help you!” Due to racial tensions in the area, Han Chinese firmly believe that it’s dangerous and therefore a definite no-go zone. It’s also too far away for him to sort any kind of break down service.
  • When it comes to petrol stations Maps.me just registers a vast blank after the last major city of Hotan and the Cruiser is as hungry as it gets. As far as the GPS goes, there’s nothing out there.
  • On top of this, over the weeks the jeep developed a number of ailments that could easily turn into something worse, especially the front left shock absorber which is leaking.
  • I am sick and tired of getting into arguments every time I have to go to a petrol station and this three times daily exercise of torment has become more than wearing. Throughout Xinjiang, most gas stations are surrounded by barbed wire, have a barrier and you need to swipe your Chinese ID card two times, once outside and then before you fill up. Passengers have to wait outside the perimeter and you can get your vehicle searched.

Being that I am a foreigner, this obviously means I have no ID card (shen fen zheng). The normal response is for staff to shake their heads, shout something negative and wave me on. If it’s a female petrol attendant then they’ll squawk and flap like chickens as if some major problem is going down. I then refuse to move the jeep out of the way thus holding up the queue. At times I’ll remove the keys until someone uses their own card to swipe me in. I mean without gas where the hell can I go anyway right? So far the police have been the most helpful, even lending me their cards until I’m done.

  • Police checkpoints. Well enough said already about this. Normally between two and four a day. Some fast and some slow. Never anything negative. Either way, the combination of this and petrol stations is now a daily way of life. Blaaagh!
  • I’m exhausted beyond belief and driving for 8-12 hours a day is starting to make me a bit hmmm cranky to say the least.

Despite enough Ibuprofen and Propranolol to pacify a blue whale, the night before is still a restless one as my subconscious conjures various horror stories and nightmare scenarios of what may happen. 

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44 replies

  1. Really interesting again , but like the previous, definitely one of those cases where you read about someone else’s experiences rather than do it yourself. Interesting to read about the realities of travelling there as well as the places you visited.

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    • Yey Glenys > How are you doing this weekend? I’m just going to check out your last messages. Yes the South Silk Road is definitely one of those places that fills you with fear. There’s just nothing there

      Liked by 1 person

      • Weekend is OK but we have to put our clocks back an hour tonight. I am trying to stay up an hour later than usual but I don’t know whether that will stop me waking up too early tomorrow and I am pretty bleary now. Jetlagged I suppose. Take your time with the messages- though you must have a fairly packed schedule doing your writing as well as teaching. Have a good weekend.

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      • Its hard to keep up Glenys but in my spare time I meditate two times a day and its like supercharging yourself. It really. There’s a tonne of stuff to do but its great feeling on top of everything. Check out T.M. Meditation. I’ve been doing it on and off for years. If you have a centre where you are I’d deffo go and check it out. >> Re time >> we dont do that in China. No need for it. Drives me crazy when I’m back in the UK

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  2. Oh yes Xinjiang appears still to be under some form of lock down…so yes we can understand. When mel was in Kashgar 12 years back, they were escorted all the time. Not allowed to drive your own!

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  3. Looking forward to your next post Andy – and I hope the anxiety abates (being an adventurer, you have the need to push yourself into situations beyond the ordinary – but worth it in the end I think).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Christine. Yes well in this case there wasn’t much choice in the matter. One way all the way and that’s it. Thanks for dropping by mate. Hope you are well 🙂

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    • LOL > Hey there Robert > Hired a Land Cruiser and spent 2 months driving across China > This is the beginning of the second phase along the Southern Silk Road. How’s it going these days Robert?

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      • It’s going good, Andy. Still working on the new job (Software Designer and Developer) and that Masters in Creative Writing, so pretty busy. Not doing as much travelling as you, though! 🙂

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      • How long on the masters Robert and any idea where you might go with it? Travelling > well it comes and goes. Once you burn out that travel itch then you wait a few years until the next time I guess.

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      • The masters is a 2 year part time course and I’m just coming up to the last assignment on the first year. It’s just really a way to improve my writing at the moment so that when I get around to releasing my novels etc. I can be happy that they are the best that they can be. I don’t have any plans to get a job in the area yet, although that will come in due time and the masters will be useful then.
        So are you actually travelling now, Andy, or writing about the travelling that you have already done?

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      • Hiya Robert > No my travelling was done last year so I’m back to work as usual and slowly posting. I did have a mad idea that I would be able to post as I went along including creating YouTube posts. In the end nothing worked and I gave in after a few thousand miles. It was so distracting from the actual trip. At one pint I lost thousands of miles of video footage and just let it all go from then on. Anyway, everything is about catching up, trying to other projects at the same time. The Masters sounds amazing. Can you feel yourself improving?

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      • Ah, got you. So this is all in retrospect. You’re doing a good job of it then. It has all the immediacy of things that are happening to you at the time. Nice writing.
        The masters? Yeah, it’s amazing and it’s sobering at the same time. As you know, I have rather an eccentric style and a wide range of (also eccentric) interests. My tutor, however, is more conventional. So it feels like I’m being trained into the mainstream. Which is both good and bad I suppose. I feel like I’m still finding my compass in terms of what I want to write about and which genre to use and so being forced/guided down one path feels constricting. After all, I’ve only been writing since 2013 – why should I set myself in stone so soon?
        But yes, I say all this, but I am definitely improving, both in terms of technique and conventionality.
        How did you learn how to write, Andy?

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      • Hell yeh. For me the whole point of writing is that we can remove ourselves from convention and do our own thing. I guess many people aim for a market and go for cash and recognition. Of course I wouldn’t complain about that but its far from the top of my list. Me: I never learnt. It just kind of happened. I always thought what I wasnt blog material so I mailed it to people. I actually started to get feedback from e-mails saying I should write for real so I put the whole lot between pages and created Just Turn Left at the Mountain plus a bunch of text books. I’m now concentrating on txt book no 3,689 lol and story boarding my fictional series.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What?
        What’s a ‘txt book’?
        How do I do that?
        You have a proper book on the shelves don’t you. I need get my a**e into gear and get hold of a copy. Does it come in paper?

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      • Ha ha > Hiya Robert. Sorry not to get back to you sooner. 12 hr shifts are a killer plus the inevitable winter > summer virus due to the sudden temp change. There isnt mush of a spring or autumn here > oh and things are getting pretty sporty a few miles away from where I am. >> I’ve done a few text books (txt) and one travel book. All in paper and Kindle both. Find links on my main menu at the very top of my blog next to my ‘about’. The travel book has always needed a professional edit and I’m slowly saving up. I was quoted $2000 for the Rolls Royce Corniche of all edits. I’ll get there one day

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, friends are important, right? 🙂
        S’funny, I just finished reading a novel about the handover of Hong Kong (the Chinese Takeaway as it’s called there). Do you happen to know if everything settled down in HK and if they are happy under Chinese rule?

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      • I dont often go over to HK but it is something I like to wind my students up with. I drop in deliberate no nos like “Its its own country isnt it? I mean Chinese people need to show their passports to g across the border. It has its own money and its own national football team. Oh and they dont speak Mandarin do they?” Of course its all done in good humour though. From what I can see HK does its own thing and is still massively separated from mainland. Shenzhen and HK are worlds apart. I cant see anything changing too much.

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      • The book I read (Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux) goes into the nitty gritty of what happened on the personal, political and business levels and it seems to give a different picture to what one reads in the news and what’s on the surface. Corruption, violent death, psychological pressure, forcible buyouts – and that’s just the Chinese army/police/government!
        They speak Cantonese (and English) in HK, yes? I did not know that they have their own footie team, though. Imagine that! 🙂
        I get the feeling that what you might think as good humour might not be seen in the same way by … but ‘m being rude. I don’t really know. Sorry.
        Anyhoo – hope this finds you well, Andy.
        Kindness – Robert.
        Don’t feel like you need to reply to all of this. I’m just spouting off. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cant go into gvmt speak except to point out the obvious same about the UK’s illustrious history aside from may great deeds we are doing in the present day. I do laugh at the whole opium war thing. East India being the greatest drug dealers of all time, people hooked on laudanum world wide ha ha and the burning of the Summer Palace ha ha. Did you see John Pilger’s recent “The Coming Was on China” oh the worry of it all

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      • True that. We’re all tarred with the same brush at the end of the day.
        No, I never say that Pilger thing. I guess I need to culture up. 🙂
        And on that note, he digs into his beans-on-toast and settles back to watch …
        YES!!! SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY ARE ONE UP AGAINST NEWCASTLE!!!! COME ON YOU BLUE AND WHITE LIZAAAARRRRDDDDSSSSS!!!!!! 😀 😀 😀
        What was I saying?
        Oh, it doesn’t matter. More important matters are afoot. 😉
        Laters.
        Robert.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ha ha > I think you won didnt you? I never realised you were a Wednesday fan. I remember them when they had Chris Waddle playing for them creating magic on the right wing. I also sadly remember Arsenal doing the cup double over them when Ian Wright was playing for them. My how times have changed. YNWA

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      • Got complaints that I was chatting too much and too personally with y’all – so ease it back, Andy! Apparently I was disturbing a certain person’s reputation. Hey-ho.
        This one is not read by my family, and so …
        Well, it’s one solution anyway. The other option is to censor myself. Either option’s not good.
        Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Whaaaaat? I always thought a blog is the bloggers sacred space where we can do what the hell we like. Blimey. Well glad you gave whoever it was the royal finger and set up No2 without them ha ha

        Liked by 1 person

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