Day 29

29. May 2000, Korla to Turfan

After a few days of short desert driving, we have now joined our original route again and it is time for another test section. Turfan Outskirts leads us through some villages and therefore the Rally Organization was wise enough not to shorten the time requirements (as they have done before). We manage the test, which is mostly a wavy, bumpy overland route with some potholes with a zero penalty.
This morning was still dominated by yesterday's sandstorm as we had to find our car cover which was blown away by the wind and as the air was rich with sand. As we drive into hills again the air and the vegetation is changing. After the hills and a pass of 1830m we drive into the Turfan depression, at about 150m below sea level, apparently the second lowest area on earth. The Turfan area has an ancient irrigation system and is a fertile agricultural region.

Turfan is part of an autonomous Mongolian region within China. Yesterday we saw some Mongolian dances which all seemed to center around the theme of the horse (dances emulating riding) and flying. Our translator tells us that he is "Hui" and explains that Hui are the Muslim descendants of Arabic-Chinese marriages which developed into their own tribe: all result of the Silk Route. There are also Kazakh in the area and of course mainly Uyghur. The Chinese government has made many efforts to resettle Han-Chinese into the area, the result being that Xianjiang province is a wild mix between all races and cultures and our hotel has a separate "Muslim" and "Chinese" restaurant (and of course "Western"). The standard of the hotels seems to improve now, as before they seemed a bit sleepy and forgotten, so we are looking forward to a nice rest day.

TC 87: Korla OUT
TC 88: Toksun
33 307.55 km
TC 89: Turfan Outskirts
12 39.40 km
TC 90: Turfan IN
42 5.15 km

Overall 1 hour 08 minutes penalty

The official results can be looked up on this website

In the morning, sand is still reducing visibility, the vegetation is now varying between steppe and green.

Driving into hills again.

Sand is coming over the hills

We managed to convince these camels to speed up their crossing of the street in the Turfan Outskirts.

Local dancers await us with music and dances similar to Arabic folklore. Notice the grapes on top, the whole street is roofed like that.


There are big crowds awaiting us in every city and village we pass, we yesterday gave an interview to Chinese news agencies and they told us that the people are very interested in the rally, as there are participants from 24 different countries. The Chinese newspapers were especially interested to hear that we drive for "Doctors Without Borders" and tell us that the American branch of "Doctors" has given a lot of support to the region.

Driving down into the Turfan Depression

Turfan Outskirts: Slightly greener steppe - could this be the end of the Taklamakan? It is the end but in two days we will meet with the Gobi.