• Tag Archives Gorumu
  • Traveling abroad is always complicated. And specially, in China.

    To understand the words is not enough. It may be useful to find the restrooms (男, male, nan, 女, female, nu), and know the differences in a menu between the Jellyfish salad (Liang Ban Hai Zhe 涼拌海蜇), the sea cucumber (Haishen, 海参), and the almost divine Phoenix Claws, aka. chicken feet (Fèng zhuǎ 鳯爪). But, who may know the taste of the Phoenix Claws before eating them? Even understanding the words, we may be as lost as Peter was. Moreover, a culture which calls a dish “Phoenix Claws” would not be easy to understand.


  • If Gorumu is Golmud, where is Teijinar?

    10735402_288687784671317_111488443_aKini and Peter are near Teijinar, but Kini writes it Teidjinar, with the keen interest of the cultivated French to show that the “orthographe” lacks secrets for them. Why, for God’s sake, Ella wrote this silent -d- in the middle of the word?.

    Anyhow, we know that on April 28 they were at Gorumu… so, let us Google “Gorumu”, and we find hundreds of thousands references, because a Goromu is “a creature that comes in different shapes and sizes”. And Gorumu Qinghai, or Gorumu China does not give anything (well, on a blog there is a reference to Peter’s text).

    But as we have arrived there plotting the route, stage by stage, bivouac by bivouac, we know that they arrive not to Gorumu, but to Golmud from Nomo Kanthara. And searching in a map, we see that Golmud is also called Kermo. Because in this area places have two (or even three) names, the Han (Chinese) name, the Mongol name and the Uighur name. But, of course, this is only the beginning.

    BauerBecause the spelling changes too… the old “Pekin” became Beijing not so long away when, in 1949, Chinese authorities decided to use the pinyin for the transliteration of Chinese to Western Alphabet. But, old names remain, for instance airport codes (IATA) for Beijing is PEK, and for Guangzhou is CAN, the old Canton of the Opium wars.

    And Ella and Peter try a phonetical transliteration that produces funny results, because Ella, who writes in French, uses French phonetics, while Peter English phonetics. So, the Borodishin yurts are at a place called Arakshatu by Peter and Arakshatou by Kini

    Minor worries? Arakshatu is 2 hour march away from Teijinar. And where is Teijinar? Well, on a 1.200.000 map (yes, not Google Earth, nor a complex Geographical name database, but on an old-fashioned, printed map), we find, NW of Golmud, two lakes, “Dong Taijnar Hu” and “Xi Taijnar Hu”. As we know that Dong means West and Xi means East, and Hu means lake, and the two lakes are on a WE line, we are all set. We have found Teijinar, or Teidjinar, 160 km NW of Golmud.

    But Teijinar is not a city, it is an oasis, and rather large one.

    And Borodishin was at Arakshatu, two hour walk away heading west. But from where?

    Where in the hell is Arakshatu? The problem may seem minor but this lack of certitude will make very complex the plotting of  the 10 day march from there to Issik Pakte (Issyk Pakté for Kini, of course, why use “i” when you can use “y”?)

     

    Photos:

    Featured image: Ruta 5, near Atacama, Chile, from the author

    Gorumu from the internet

    Caravan from Ella Maillard Book, it is their caravan on the journey Arakshatu – Issyk Pakté


  • And the Oscar to best supporting actor goes to: Borodishin

    Qinghai-Hexi-Corridor--Tsaidam-Basin-6-Gobi--DesertBorodishin, or Borodichine as Ella calls him is the best performing actor in our history. Boro was sergeant in the Russian white army under General Annenkov, who entered China with his decimated troops. After staying with him in the Sinkiang, he decided not to follow him further away (it was a good move, as Annenkov was betrayed by a Chinese warlord Feng Yu-Hsiang, known as the “betrayal general” and also the “Christian general” – I hope that the two appellatives are not related -. Feng returned Annenkov to the Russians, who shot him). They split, and while Annenkov left the Sinking to meet his fate, Borodishin joined the Smigounovs in the Tsaidam.

    Two years later, the Smigs left Teijinar with Narim, due to the complex situation of the region, while Borodishin remained in Tsaidam. Was it because he was “on the hills, buying yak’s tails” – as Peter says -, when they departed, and nobody told him? Did he find the Smigs yurt empty when he returned of his journey?

    I prefer to think that he stayed in the Qaidam waiting for his wife and his children from who he had lost contact. His letters became abruptly unanswered when his family was already traveling towards the frontier to meet him. Did Boro stayed in the Tsaidam expecting their arrival, knowing if they finally arrive to Teijinar, and he had departed, it will be impossible that they meet again? Probably, as Peter says

    He still yearned for them, still (sometimes) had hopes he would see them again

    Qaidam_basin2

    We were the first Europeans he has seen for two years; his was a terribly desolate life. With us he was always cheerful, or at any rate tranquil; but you had an awful feeling that maybe his heart was broking slowly

    Boro recommends them to avoid the main road, and follow an almost forgotten, barely negotiable path. They will find no guides for this region, and he proposes to go with them until they reach Issik Pakte, twelve marches towards the West. He cannot go further because he had no papers of any sort. And Boro helps them to buy four camels, and to get all the supplies for the march, which is not easy because people in the oasis have an economy of subsistence. They have almost nothing to trade. Boro must travel long distances (people live dispersed) to complete the stock they need.

    During the eight days while Boro organizes their departure, Peter and Kini live a relaxed life in the luxurious yurt of the Smigs. Reading, hunting, waiting. Peter killed an antelope, from which she made shashlik on the cleaning rod of the rifle (this is strange, nobody made shashlik there? there had no other metal rod?).

    The next day at noon, when the trio Ella, Peter and Boro departed towards Issik Pakte, no Mongol went with them.

    Boro was a good fellow, cheerful and a good companion (a “brave homme”, as Kini says)

    After something like two weeks they arrived to Issik Pakte, enduring snow storms, being lost without water, and eating samba with melted mutton fat and a little Worcestershire sauce. Once there, Borodishin negotiated with two Turki to guide them through the 12 stages needed to reach Cherchen, and helped them to trade Greys, Peter’s horse, for a young mare, “more amphibian than equine”

    And finally, after two days, they parted. Borodishin,

    At dawn he left with the Mongol, riding back along the way we had come, hunched on his camel, eternally sucking at his long Chinese pipe, his sad loyal eyes staring across the empty lands before him. As I watched him go I tried not to think in the two grubby yurts at Teijinar, were the redshanks called and he and Wang Sun-Lin took it in turns to go it and fetch fuel, and nothing ever happened

    Two years later, he was murdered by bandits. Probably he felt relieved

     

    Photo credits: from the Internet


  • Xinjiang Travel: where to start?

    ChinaSilkRoadMap8
    Traditionally the Silk Road direction East (“downwards”), arrived to Kashgar (at the left on the map). In Kashgar travelers must decide either go NE, towards Aksu and Urumqi, or SE, towards Yecheng, Hetian and Qiemo. This is the “Forbidden Oasis” route Ella Maillard followed,

    Peter and Ella went “upwards” (Westward). Once in Xining, they should either travel NW through the Gansu Corridor (the traditional route), towards Dunhuang, where they would be probably stopped and sent back, or, avoiding Dunhuang, cross directly, due East, from Xining to Qiemo (Tchertchen). This area had no roads then, and now there are few. For instance there are no roads marked on this map in this area, but they exist, although they may lack traffic…

    So, what is in between Xining and Qiemo? Qinghai Lake, Chakayan Lake, Dulan Desert, Dzoun…

    And this is the road that we must follow if we want to follow Ella’s steps, as well as avoid too touristic tours.

    But once in Xining, how to find a transportation on an area were there are no roads marked, in a city in which few people understand English? Xining is one million people city. Where to start if one plans something else than Qinghai Lake tour or Ta’er monastery? How tell someone than the plan is to reach Dulan, and from there Golmud?

    It is important to point that Golmud (200,000, inhabitants, not in this map) is half-way between Xining and Ruoquiang. And if there is some way to cross this area, it should better be found in Golmud than in Xining.

    So, probably I would consider starting the trip at the West, in Kashgar (350,000). There are buses (Lonely Planet dixit) that follow the South Path from Kashgar to Golmud. Probably it would be worthwhile to go by train to Aksu, and then find a bus to go due South to Hetian. Once there, take buses from one oasis to the other, until arriving to Golmud

    In Golmud starts the most wild part of the trip… how to reach from there Dulan and Xining? well, we will see once there !

    And, if there is no transportation we may revert to the train, Golmud is a train station in the Xining – Lhassa Sky train.

     

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