Day 27

27. May 2000, Aksu to Kuche

Today...was a bit like yesterday, except that there was more green along the route (it's either tall trees and bushes around the cities or just desert and shrubs). The only exception was the sight of the Tien Shan mountains in the north most of the day. The route was very easy-going and generously timed so there is nothing to report from the sportive side either. Kuche or Kuqa is a smaller city than Aksu, so there is even less to report about it.
It is probably a good opportunity now to talk about our general impression of the People's Republic of China. I must say that I was positively surprised, especially driving out of the former Soviet Union countries. I had last been to China sometime around 1983. We visited Shanghai and were guests of a state company with which we have a joint-venture. In those days, I remember, everything seemed gray and children on the street were following us because they had never seen foreigners.
Now, less than twenty years later, I visit some of the last provinces of China and still I am astonished at the progress within the last decades. People are still staring at foreigners but their lifes have changed. A consumer society has developed in China and there are coloured banners advertising goods on the streets. There are still donkey carts but there are also many cars, the police drive big Toyota jeeps. In Aksu we went into a super-market and found a reasonable variety of Chinese packaged goods. I think China, in many aspects, is more developed than the former SU states as it is less dependent on imported goods. The quality of food has also been better in China and there seems to be a greater choice.
On the other hand, there is the question of individual freedom and rights in China and this still seems to be under-developed: People are not allowed to travel where they want, freedom of speech is also restricted and bureaucrats like to power-play. On the positive, I have seen only one picture of the party leader Jang Zeming, so far, but we do not know what all these banners in Chinese are saying. Travelling through a country does not allow a full critical impression of its system but China certainly has developed a lot since 1979 and we are optimistic that it will continue to develop in the right direction.

TC 82: Aksu OUT
TC 83: Kuche IN
01 254.94 km

Overall 1 hour 08 minutes penalty

The official results can be looked up on this website

The Tien Shan mountains can be seen most of the day

There has been some rain over night, roads are occasionally blocked by muddy water

The Taklamakan does not offer much excitement

In all the cities we drive through, big crowds are awaiting us waving, cheering or shouting "hello".
We get our first impression of the high population density in China. So far: If an area is inhabitable, there are people.


and they provide a good background for photos, so we got out our tripod

The American Mercedes Ponton 220 shows how it copes with the mud

A few reroutes off-road due to road works provide a bit of diversion.

Policeman saluting and policeman showing us the direction in ballet manner: A common sight in China but there are some who are just plain waving.