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.