Day 26

26. May 2000, Kashgar to Aksu

We were told by the Rally Association yesterday that our authorisation to drive on the Southern Silk Route was withdrawn. Reasons have not been given and the withdrawal must have been quite recent. Unfortunately this kind of behaviour is quite common in the People's Republic of China. Several layers of bureaucracy and power make sudden changes in political and administrative permissions the rule of the day. So we have to accept the fact that we will not see Hotan and Minfeng and we will not be able to cross through the Taklamakan (we still get to drive along the Taklamakan). It is not a great loss as the things to see in the north are just as worthwhile as in the south. We will not be able to claim to have driven through the Taklamakan south-north. But with our desert experience so far we can easily do without the headaches caused by the heat and the possible torture caused by a breakdown in the middle of a desert. The Rally Association has come up with an alternative route taking the Northern Silk Route.

Our drive today was mostly through desert landscape all day. The only exceptions were small villages located along the route offering services to people and cars or oasis towns or villages with green trees surrounded by the dry sand.

TC 79: Kashgar OUT
TC 80: Sanchakou
31 250.77 km
TC 81: Aksu IN
27 (early check-in possible) 219.31 km

Overall 1 hour 08 minutes penalty

The official results can be looked up on this website

Along the route there are hills eaten up by wind and erosion. Even though it is a desert, the road is often damaged by water torrents and there are some rivers.

At Sanchakou, a village which probably gets it only revenues from travellers on this route. The people in the restaurant, which is very clean, speak Uyghur, so again we can communicate in Turkish.

road side accident: these trucks were loaded with heavy blocks of coal

We had to drive on this diversion for about 10 km and there are some potholes, waves but generally the roads are very good.

Aksu ("white water") is an oasis town lying on a river. The city is modern and bigger than Kashgar but has no historical sights.


The Taklamakan


road works: The greatest natural resource in China are the people, so when there is work which is normally done in Europe with few people and several machines, the Chinese do the work with many people and sometimes no machines.

The roadside villages remind of "Wild West" towns with their facades facing the street.