Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Silk Route to Kashgar

Currently we are in Kyrgyzstan, after traveling by land from Pakistan to China, and again by land to get here. I am unable to upload photos in Kyrgyzstan because the internet is charged per megabyte, and each photo is approximately one Meg! So I will update the Sunday market in Kashgar, which was really amazing, and Kyrgyzstan, when I am able to upload photos again. In the meantime, I uploaded some China photos in Kashgar, so I will update this portion of the trip.

The South Western portion of China is very interesting, with many different Muslim minority groups. Closest to the border with Pakistan is Uzbek, then you go through some Kyrgz areas, and finally Kashgar is a mix of Uygher, Pakistani traders, and Han Chinese transplants.

After reaching Kashgar we shared a cab with another traveler, Graham, to lake Karakul, a popular tourist destination, with plans to stay the night. While the mountain views of 7000+ meter Mustagata were spectacular, the lake itself was a horrible place, surrounded by concrete yurts, tour buses, flee ridden animals, and loads of Japenese tourists jumping out to take photos. To go near the lake, a 50 yuan fee is charged (about $8.00 U.S.), which none of us could see any reason to pay. Across to the south end of the lake I could see a small, quiet mudbrick village, and I decided I wanted to stay there. So I began asking everyone "sleep there?" as I pointed to the village. Finally a man rode up on a dirt bike and asked if we wanted to rent it. "No" I said "but we want to stay there" and pointed. He took us for free on the bike to his brothers house in the village. This turned out to be an excellent choice. His brother lived with his wife and two children in a two room mudbrick home with a small woodburning stove in each room and tons of felt rugs on the floor. The larger room was swept and beds were made for Tim, Graham, and I with piles of new blankets. Electricity was provided by a small windmill in town. The toilet was a sandy area against a long brick wall a short walk away.

I went horseback riding through the nearby villages while Tim climbed a hill with views of the peaks and glaciers behind, and Graham hung out with the children, who showed him the village and school. Dinner was excellent, with homemade noodles and vegatables. That night we all curled up in our beds. I had just shut out the light when I noticed smoke near the hanging light cord. I yelled "look over there" just as the whole four foot lenghth of cord began burning. The pile of blankets was against the wall, inches away! Graham and I both ran for the door. I yelled out to the family "fire", thinking that they might know what to do with an electrical fire four feet long. All I knew was you couldn't put water on it! Part of the burning cord dropped on the ground, and Tim swatted it out with his hand. Then Tim grabbed a fluffy pink pillow and beat out the rest of the fire. The weirdest thing was that the light was now on, with no way to shut it off but to unscrew the light bulb! One of the children used a rock to scrape the light switch off of the burned wire, presumably to reuse it. Scarey! As we waited for the smoke to clear from the room, the man told us about summiting Mustagata as a guide and porter.

The next morning Tim and I went back to the school with Graham to check out the portraits he had told us were hanging there. Sure enough, above the chalkboard where huge portraits of Mao, Lenin, and Karl Marx!

We returned to Kashgar where we spent an afternoon in the beer gardens of Peoples Park, listening to people play handmade instruments and watching the men dance. On Sunday I went to the Sunday Bazaar, while Tim snoozed in his bed. We left Kashgar the next morning to head into Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgz family we stayed with near lake Karakul

Part of the huge peaks surrounding lake Karakul in China

Homemade noodles being made for our dinner

The village school room

Here is a close up of those portraits!

Two humped mountain camels near the village.

Power in some small villages is provided by windmills. Mustagata is behind the village.

Click on the photo to see the details of the family with the wagon

A chinese factory spews smoke

Some interesting old Chinese architecture. Perhaps a watch tower of some type?

The women wear really bright colors in China. This is a souviner stand by the road. Click to see details.

A Kyrgyz man wearing the traditional tall felt hat

Mao presides over Kashgar. This is the largest Mao statue in China

An Uygher bread seller in Kashgar

The cloth market. Click on photo to enlarge and see the detail.

The fruit market

Some of the traditionally dressed Uygher people

Spending the afternoon at the beer garden.