2010
12.28
Hello,
If any of you is wandering why I have been so many days without telling you any news, it is because I have not had material time. I had been a while delayed with the blog and in fact now the trip has finished. Yes! I achieved my objective and reached Xian, origin of the silk so many times mentioned in this page.
This post is just to tell you that even the trip has finished the blog hasn’t, I still have things to tell you. Feelings, images, thoughts, another video, and the reason to come back are something you will find in the next post.
Today I don’t tell you more, it’s been a neutral post, the feelings will come back in tomorrow’s post… or the day after tomorrow…
Greetings, this time, from Spain.
Fernando

Hello,

If any of you is wandering why I have been so many days without telling you any news, it is because I have not had material time. I had been a while delayed with the blog and in fact now the trip has finished. Yes! I achieved my objective and reached Xian, origin of the silk so many times mentioned in this page.

This post is just to tell you that even the trip has finished the blog hasn’t, I still have things to tell you. Feelings, images, thoughts, another video, and the reason to come back are something you will find in the next post.

Today I don’t tell you more, it’s been a neutral post, the feelings will come back in tomorrow’s post… or the day after tomorrow…

PB266509 China, food, comida, silk road

I was thinking I needed to put some pictures.

PB266511 China, food, comida, silk road

I had always wanted to try escorpions! Or something equally “un-appealing” I didn’t have an adventous day… didn’t try.

Greetings, this time, from Spain.

Fernando

2010
12.22

Silvia left days ago. When she told me about her return trip I asked her to write a post about it. I thought she’d tell me forget about it, but she wrote it. I’m delighted, this time I just have to translate it to English and enjoy the story, moreover she traveled with people that were able to explain to her the ethnical problems in the country, but better if she tells you:

 

By Silvia Ocaña.

After 15 days in Kyrgyzstan, I have to say I’ve been surprised by the country. It is one of those countries that when you go, your friends ask you; why are you going?.. There’s nothing… The truth is that if you like the outdoors, it is one of the best places to go, people are very kind and warm.

_A319802 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

I was traveling with Fer around the country, the last city we visited was Osh. After two days there it was time to split, Fernando was going to China and I had a long stretch of road to get to Bishkek and get my flight back to Spain.

In the morning at 8 a.m. we split in the bazaar that is the place where you take the shared taxis and after the usual bargain they take you where you want. My driver was an energy engineer but as he had no job, was working as driver temporally to make some money. I was sharing the taxi with a guy that never talked so don’t know about what he did and another guy that was studding international relationships, and that talked good English. He’s the one that became my translator for the trip.

We started the trip, on the way they kept telling me things and asking my opinion about tons of things. Just after we left we went through the neighborhood in which the June problems started, I was told that it was a political thing; the official version is that there was a petrol price rise that was quite high and people went to the streets. As you can imagine that was just an excuse, for them petrol comes up and down every day.

The unofficial version is that when the USSR made the divisions long ago they had not taken ethnic groups into account, and the Uzbek people got between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, also it seems that even they have a democratic system all the ethnic groups don’t have the same weight in decisions on the parliament. In any case for what I’ve been able to see from people there and the newspaper articles I’ve been reading is that a group of politicians exalted the thinking with independent ideas arguing that some had more economical power than others, the some are discriminated, etc…

Seems that there was some disturbances on the streets with shootings, raping and attacks to shops and houses. All this finished with a wave of violence and the majority of houses and Uzbek shops were burned down. Some times with people inside and with 200.000 people running away to the Uzbek border (Osh had 300.000 people).

You can still see remains of the disturbances with official and NGOs cars everywhere.

Just after leaving, we stopped for breakfast to start the day well, and for not saying than Central Asians are not hospitality, they invited me for breakfast.

_B019852 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

After, we started the journey and stopped in another village to try to get another person into the taxi. I took advantage of this moment to see a 10th century watchtower and a mausoleum, in the picture.

_B019858 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

While driving, we saw many stalls on the road, most of them with fruit.

_B019856 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

The best ones were the ones with huge watermelons, some of the biggest I have ever seen!

_B019862 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

The road goes along the Naryan riverbanks, it’s an enormous river with a gigantic dam constructed after WWII, supplying energy to Kyrgyzstan and the nearby countries, and even it is not very profitable for them. Stalin agreed a concession for 90 years in which Kyrgyzstan benefits of the exporting of electricity to Uzbekistan, but at a lower price to what its costs them to produce.

_B019879 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

One of the guys in the car told us about the set up of the numerous electrical towers. It was done by a Chinese company and the set up of each tower is about $200.000. There must be 100 and taking into account that Kyrgyzstan is a poor country it’s normal that people are indignated and see this as politicians not doing their job in the “right” way.

_B019870 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

The good part of the dam is that fishing is possible, we saw fishermen on an inflatable boat that was later sold in stalls next to the road.

._B019880 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

The taxi people ask if I liked fish.

_B019883 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

We bought some and took it with us to get it fried in a restaurant on the road at dinnertime. Life goes all around, in the restaurant I met a Kyrgyz that had learn Spanish in Cuba!!!

_B019885 Kyrgyzstan, Kirgistán, silk road, ruta seda

Kyrgyzs have their sense of humor.

Night started falling and as roads were not very good, there were accidents everywhere.  We stopped three times to see if the people involved in the accidents needed help, here it is normal to try to help in any way. Luckily there were no injuries. The forth time we stopped was not that good, a car had fallen into a field overturning. The driver and his wife had died, only the mother of the driver had survived and was crying disconsolately.

After 15 hours of car, at 11 p.m., we arrived alive to Bishkek. I said goodbye thanking my taxi mates for the good time in the taxi and desiring each other good luck.

I got a taxi to the airport to spend the night waiting for the plane and come back to Spain, but that’s another story…

Silvia Ocaña.

 

Thanks a lot Silvia!

2010
12.20
This market has not changed much in centuries, it doesn’t matter who writes about it or the time in which it’s been written, the description is the same: “An intense chaos of thousands of animals are bought and sold on Sundays”. It would be a sacrilege not to presence this show.

This market has not changed much in centuries, it doesn’t matter who writes about it or the time in which it’s been written, the description is the same: “An intense chaos of thousands of animals are bought and sold on Sundays”. It would be a sacrilege not to presence this show.

No doubt this deserved a video, so here you have it:

The music, as you see at the end of the video, is local, I’ve recorded it a few days later in Khotan, a place I’ll tell you about in the next post.

If you wonder about it, there are no chickens in the market.

I thought the dust raised by the animals would have made me sneeze dirty snots at the end of the day, but I was wrong, they were plain black.

A clarification after last post. I didn’t get into Pakistan, I just got the Chinese road towards the border. There are times it’s difficult for me to explain my route and for you to follow, so just in case I wanted to clarify this.

Soon stories from the Taklamakan desert.

Fernando

2010
12.15

PB115384 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

The way to Pakistan crosses the highest mountain range in the world, a terrain of inhospitable nature that seems not to like having a road.

PB115205 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

It’s estimated that during the road construction a Chinese builder died every three kilometres.

PB115214 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

This road is 1284 kilometres. It was started in 1960 as a plan from china to strengthen its relations with Pakistan. It was finished in 1982.
Pakistan sounds appealing to me but I dismissed it on my itinerary, I don’t think it’s the best moment to go. I’ll leave it as a pending branch of the silk road for the time the situation get’s stable.

In Kashgar there are a lot of people in the hostels going and coming from Pakistan as Kashgar is the start point of the road.

In Kashgar I’ve joined two French with rastas and a bit of a lost British to do a little part of this road of awesome landscapes. The title talks about Pakistan, but it’s just an easy resource to catch your attention, however I’m not lying, I’m going towards Pakistan but not getting in.

PB115218 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Guez River or Guez Darya in Uygur. “Darya” was the word for river in Turkmenistan also. It carries frozen water that accumulates in stretches forming lines.

PB115232 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Yaks eating what’s left in the summer pastures

PB115256 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

The route was not invented in 1960, it’s been here many centuries and may caravans have used it during centuries as it is a branch of the silk road that goes to the Indus, Gylgit and Hunza valleys.

PB115268 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

I´m at 4000 meters. We tell the taxi driver to wait for us down the road while we go down having a walk. We have to walk slowly or the height tires you in a few steps. The brains seems to float inside the head, high altitude has to be horrible.

PB115269 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

I´ve never been at such an altitude and I couldn´t imagine I´d be this high coming in a taxi.

PB115275 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Sky has a clear colour due to the 4000 less meters of atmosphere that the light don´t have to go through.

PB115272 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Endless lands that make you feel small, tiny, minuscule, insignificant, and I love that feeling.

PB115289 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Little glaciers.

PB115302 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

The French were very restless, were all the time doing silly things in the pictures, and I was infected.

PB115305 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

The road has a permanent maintenance as the land is white. China is building a tunnel system on the side mountains to channel the water and avoid flash floods that destroy the road.

PB115324 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

The Karakul Lake, at 3500 meters high. More glaciar tongues on the back.

PB115327 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

A difficult place to live.

PB115332 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Over the Ice. The “moon walk” is much easier.

PB115350 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Cactrian camel. On the way we’ve gone by several passport controls, we go pararell to the Tajik border.

PB115355 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

Now they are used for food and for their skins. Before they used to do this route loaded with goods and the way was hard, the mountain pass to Pakistan is 4722 meter high. It’s called Khunjerab that means “Valley of Blood” for the amount of bandits that used to assault caravans.

PB115364 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

One time we went down to take pictures a mane came from nowhere. He threw a carpet full of handicrafts to the ground and said “small bazaar”. Seems nobody can live here.

PB115371 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

These mountains of Karakorum and Himalayas are the youngest in the world. They keep growing, pushing up with the vigour of the relative youth of 55 million years.

PB115392 China, Karakorum, karakul, silk road, ruta seda

We go back to Kashgar. The super pure mountain air has recharged my energy and tomorrow I’m leaving towards the Taklamakan desert.

Soon more.
Fernando

2010
12.13

While I get farther from the Kyrgyz border post I look around me. It’s so improbable to come back here that I want to remember it. A red wall on the other side of the canyon where I am, impresses. High Mountain without the minimum vegetation, a desolating place full of silence that very seldom is broken by a trailer that Passive Voice (consider revisiting) pass. A dense white breath getting out of my mouth until it disappears frozen, there is no wind, sometimes I go through it while walking. On a mount a watchtower, I imagine a bored guard missing home while I am delighted here. The river has little water, it has smooth turns in a grey stone river bend, on the distance I loose sight, how long it takes water to arrive the ocean from such a remote place? Army people with long green coats and fur huts that cover their ears. I don’t see birds; there is no reason to come here. A building that looks like an abandoned ski resort. A rusty flag pole with a gleaming red Chinese flag closer every step.

It’s a going through place, nobody would want to stay here long. The environment is beautiful but there’s nothing else. Inside me, the thrill of a new country that I wanted to arrive to. Nearly, need to arrive, as it was something I had proposed.

Coming, little by little, I had accumulated a willing to see China, until not that long ago I saw it far. Moreover, I wanted a change, after so many Muslim countries and two months in Central Asia, I want to start seeing new things. Here I tell you the arrival and what I’ve thought about Kashgar, the mythical Silk Road cities in China.

The first Chinese I met was, of course, the border guard. The front cover of my passport is so used up that it has no drawing. The Spanish shield was gone long ago and you just can see it if you know it existed and about the name of the country it just has some of the “e”, the “s” and the “a”. Carrying on with his work, he asks me what country I was from.

It must have been his only word in English. “Country?” I said “Spain” but he didn’t understand me so I kept trying with the rest of the variants that normally work: “Espain”, “España”, and “Spanski”… As he kept the face of “I have no clue”, I tried with the wildcard: “Europe”… he looked at the Chinese and made a minimum sign approving it and letting me in.

My head said… “ooooo ooooooo, It’s going to be complex moving around here…” but I ignored myself, I didn’t want to be too conscious of it.

PB105163  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

In China… so Pagodas, temples, baddish, Confucianism… and burkas?

PB105199  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

Of course, the pictures are hidden, stolen instants. If they can’t show their faces, how could they be in a foreign unbeliever camera?

PB125419  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

I haven’t seen a burka in all the trip, not sure if one in Turkey, but I think I haven’t. I didn’t expect to see them in China.

PB105174  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

These were Budish lands until the silk road brought that new religion that was becoming so successfull and was expanding so fast. It came village by village, caravan by caravan, little by little, and it stayed until today.

Xinjinang is the most western region in China and most of it’s population is Uygur. The Uygur are a Chinese minority that apart from the different religion have totally different customs, things that causes the central government some trouble in that eagerness of those totalitarian regiems that have a united culture in all the country.

Regarding the Islam, I wonder if what I see now is strong because of a reaction to differentiate themselves to the rest of China, for emphasizing their difference with the Han majority that is the 90% of the country, to be clearly different to what the government tries to impose. I don’t know the answer but seems they haven’t changed their customs here in many centuries.

PB105173 Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

I wanted to buy one to see how you see through. Then I´ve thought that it would be super interesting to wear one in Burgos or Madrid to see how people look. Where can I get one?

PB075020 Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

For me the Chinesse food is an enough justified reason to come to China. I think I talk too much about food you are going to think I’m a glutton. I can finally eat a real sweet and sour pork… or not? To start they are Muslims so I haven’t seen a pig around.

I was wrong, my first mea; has not been other than Laghman, the noodle soup I’ve been eating in all Central Asia. It was truly tasteful but the main difference is that I’ve eaten it this time with chopsticks, if it wouldn’t be for this I’d thought I was in Kyrgyzstan.

Faces are the same, the eyes are identical, skin colour is the same… I thought that the immense Tien Shan and Pamir ranges had been more effective to make a difference between the region of both sides. There are times that I cross a border and I see a big instant change, other times the changes are smaller, gradual, as this time. There are books that include this region into the definition of Central Asia and with what I’ve seen I’d also include it.

Laghman is in the list of dishes I want to try and prepare when I’m back to Spain. Yes, I have a list of delicious things I want to keep eating the rest of my life. From the things I don’t want to taste I don’t make a list.

PB125412  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

Kashgar rivals Kyrgyzstan in hats, in fact I think it wins. Here you have the link to the Kyrgyz hats video.

PB125399  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

More hats. The faces could be Kyrgyz or Uzbek.

PB085145  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

You see the banners? Chinese characters and, Arabic? The Uygur is a Turkic language similar to others in Central Asia but written in an alphabet derived from the Arabic.

PB085140  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

A 18 meters high Mao statue in the middle of the city, I don’t think Uygurs appreciate it too much.

PB105202  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

There is some old architecture with the arches and the balconies on the first floor. The city is full of constructions going on, they destroy this building with history and build ugly concrete buildings with lots of floors. The city is full of dust from the constructions. If the butler of the advert dues the cotton test he’d get dirty up to the knutkles.

Kashgar is a mythical city on the silk road, probably for most it’s a new name from what you don’t know much but Marco Polo already talked about it’s commercial importance in 1275 when he was here. He called the region Catay and from here there were routes to India. It is an Oasis city on the west of the Taklamakan desert. Still today it has what is probably the biggest market in central Asia.

It is located in the west corner of China, if you look at it in a map with the immensity of china seems that it’s in the border itself. It’s the last city, the one that then gives place to Central Asia. The region is the East Turkestan region and in some corners you’d think you are in the Middle East.

Nowadays Kashgar and Xinjiang have come back to be important. It’s location is vital for the Chinese expansion to the west. In the region there are 14 terrestrial open ports to the eight countries that borders it. Eleven international airports, hundreds of kilometres of roads and rails, the only road built over moving sands desert and petrol fields.

Beijing is fostering the economical development with the objective of a sound support of this expansion to the west. China can’t afford loosing this region with the independentists movements from the Uygur and hopes that this economical injection generates enough life quality to shut down the independentists instincts.

PB105159  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

This banner was in the Id Kah mosque, the main mosque in town. I leave it to you the interpretation. It was after talking about the amount of money spent in restoring the mosque.

PB085138  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

Addictive bread.

PB105181  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

There is a lot of life in the streets even it´s freezing. The sun lies.

How is all this looking for you? I’m a bit disappointed. It’s beautiful, very interesting and totally exotic. But looks too much to Central Asia! I’d read it had a lot of similarities but expected more of a change. I felt like a change! I’ve been a few days down of energy, maybe I’m tired and I havent realized.

I was hoping for a change, see new things that would give me a little energy doses and enthusiasm I had lacked but as there is no change I’ve become a bit down. On top of it, moving around here is somehow more difficult than other places and I still have 4381 kilometres straight line to Beijing. As I’ve been a bit down of energy I haven’t planned anything and now I’m annoyed with myself for not having plan and having been here for a week.

PB075065  Kashgar, Xinjiang, silk road, ruta seda, oasis, Uygur

On the sunday market. But I´ll tell you about this on the next post.

I have to wake up and move!

See you soon.
Fernando

2010
12.09
The first Kyrgyz hut leaves you open-mouthed. Two days later you find it normal, but still you cant lift your eyes when they go by. All Central Asia is full of huts, Kyrgyzstan has surprised me specially where I’ve seen huts I’ve never seen before and I could not imagine they existed.
Huts change depending on the ethnic group, the religion or the area. Traditional huts are part of the normal attire, even in young people you see more traditional huts than Adidas huts. And I don’t joke about this, nearly half of the people wears something from “made in china” Adidas. I think the video will help you get an idea of what is a normal walk in here.
The music sounds a bit like a Christmas song, but if in the falconry video I was totally lost looking for the music, in this one I was really unable to find something suitable. So a song about huts is what I’ve liked the most.
The next post is about China, I’ve been a few days around here already and I have thousands things to tell you about… surprises about religion, the Taklamakan dessert and more beautiful mountains.
I´ll tell you about it soon.
Fernando

The first Kyrgyz hat leaves you open-mouthed. Two days later you find it normal, but still you cant lift your eyes when they go by. All Central Asia is full of hats, Kyrgyzstan has surprised me specially where I’ve seen hats I’ve never seen before and I could not imagine they existed.

Hats change depending on the ethnic group, the religion or the area. Traditional hats are part of the normal attire, even in young people you see more traditional hats than Adidas hats. And I don’t joke about this, nearly half of the people wears something from “made in china” Adidas. I think the video will help you get an idea of what is a normal walk in here.

The music sounds a bit like a Christmas song, but if in the falconry video I was totally lost looking for the music, in this one I was really unable to find something suitable. So a song about hats is what I’ve liked the most.

The next post is about China, I’ve been a few days around here already and I have thousands things to tell you about… surprises about religion, the Taklamakan dessert and more beautiful mountains.

I´ll tell you about it soon.

Fernando