• Tag Archives Qiemo
  • A diversion in Qiemo or map-makers horror vacui

    Altun-Mountains-InternationalHunting-Field“At the end of the first stage we rattled through Yamatu, a place prominent on mapswith no more justification than a tumble-down fort where half a dozen soldiers contemplate their chickens while waiting for tips from escorted travelers” (Owen Lattimore, High Tartary). When preparing today’s post I was on a trip, and I only had my Gizi 1:2,000,000 map, which shows a road, due South of Quiemo, that crosses places like Munaybulak, Kadalik, Bäshtograk to join the main road Qiemo-Ruoqiang at midway. I though that it should be a rather interesting diversion, at the feet of Altun Mountains, and, again, a road less travelled. And, probably, more interesting than the Cherchen River I planned

    Of course, I have no the faintest idea of the possibilities to find a 4WD with a driver for an acceptable price to follow the Cherchen riverbed, but, I liked the idea

    So, back home, I searched for the cities, or the towns, or the villages, whatever these places may be. And I did not find them. Not any of them, nor in Google Earth Index (which happens rather often), nor in the Index of Geographical Names for China, which includes Mongol and Uyghur names. So, I reverted to Google Earth. Usually, roads not marked as such in the map, and eventually not distinguishable from desert surroundings are marked by photos of sites uploaded by users. Well, in Google Earth, the cities do not appear, nor the roads, nor users photos following it, as there is a path following the Cherchen river in the desert.

    So, probably this road – should it exist – was draw on the map without verification. Simply, there was an empty place on the map, and there was no need to change anything. One of the complex issues that any mapmaker will tell you is that one of the great difficulties is to maintain more or less homogeneous the level of detail, if not on the whole map, in surrounding regions. So.. does this desert track actually exists, or not? when we will go there we will try to solve this question.

    trekking gobi

    Photos:
    Featured Photo: from Internet when searching for Altun Mountains, but really I do not know where it is
    Last photo, full size: From Internet, from a page about Gobi trekking
    May I suggest this page from the Gobi desert and its people, done by an excellent photographer : Mario Endara Photo Blog ? Mario is an excellent photographer


  • May 16, 2017: Qiemo-Rouqiang (315 Km) by local bus and a bivouac in the Takla-Makan

    lop-nur-south-ancient-city_214921Things become interesting from Qiemo until Da Qaidam Zhen, on the “Mongol” side of the Altun Mountains.

    Qiemo (Cherchen) is a city with a population of 50.000, in which what has to be seen is its Museum, and a nearby archeological site (for whoever is interested in archeological sites in which almost nothing remains)

    There are buses from Qiemo (Cherchen) to Rouquiang (Charkilik) (or, at least, quite a lot of bloggers have done this stretch of route by bus), so I assume that to find a bus full of smoking (and expectorating) people is not big deal. But… in Google Earth there are a lot of photos following the Cherchen River, which means that there should some kind of road there (and probably some tours too).

    I took a picture of my Google Earth screen in which you may see two different and almost parallel itineraries: the South one, which follows the road, and the North one, marked by the string of picture marks (alas, the map is a photo of the Google Maps, so, links do not work, but in Google Earth you select Qiemo, and you will have direct access to them). My idea is to locate a car and a driver beforehand, from Europe, through a Chinese agent, and then to travel one or two days through the desert following the Cherchen Hen, probably making a bivouac, should the weather be favorable (and the driver agree)

    Road Qiemo-Ruoqian

    So, either we take a bus and the road, or we live one of the two adventures of this trip. Because of course, going to a desert and following the tarred road is like to go to a Restaurant and ask for a hamburger… it can be done, but…

    Of course, what would be unforgettable is to skip Ruoqiang, and proceed directly through the Altun reserve to Issik Pakthe and Teijinar, but it seems impossible due to the high prices of the permit… but… who knows?

    ruoqiang


  • May 12, 2017: Niya-Qiemo (200 Km) by local bus

    china-1-051It took eight camel stages to Peter and Kini to reach Niya from Qiemo (Cherchen). Their guide was Aziz… but let Peter do the talking: “He was an obsequious and ingratiating Turki, neither particularly efficient nor particularly honest, but recommended by his command of bad Chinese”… The description is really up to the point (it may be true or not, but in any case, we imagine Aziz, and I wonder how many people I know like him, nor efficient, nor honest, but knowing the inside talk of – medicine, computers, taxes, laws – whatever). And Peter continues: “He wore a black three-cornered hat, and a rusty bottle-green coat tied round the waist with a scarf which might have been a dirty tricolour”.

    And they depart Cherchen, through a less desert country than expected “June and July are not good months to travel the Takla Makan and we had a certain dread of the desert. At first it seemed less naked, through not less desolate, than expected”.

    So, we travel in May, that does not mind that it would be a better month to travel the Takla Makan, but… we may wander if there is a good month to travel it.

    And what is to be seen in this stage?
    If we decide to stop midway, we may visit Endere (supposing that no permit is requested, or we can get one)stein_endere_4 although it does not seem really interesting.

    In Qiemo one thing to do is to visit the
    Toghlarek Villa, which is a small museum of domestic tools, and it is also home of the mummy of the “man of Cherchen” and we should probably go also to the Zaghanluk Cemetery, 15 minute drive away.

    And the other is to organize the next stages, it would be interesting to hire there a 4 WD car (with driver of course) to follow the Cherchen River to Karghilik, and if possible, to continue with this driver the next stages, beyond Karghilik, were things really become interesting. We should stay from Saturday 13 to Monday 15 in Qiemo, but if we are able to get a car there, probably we may stay one day more, or slept somewhere in between Qiemo and Charkilik (350 Km through the main road)

    links:
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    To May 2017 Trip:
    2017: Hotan Keriya
    May 2017: General View of the trip Part 1
    May 2017: General View of the trip Part 2

    Rather interesting link on this area, done by a cyclist cyclist link

    Photos:
    =======
    Camels (wild?) from adam blog linked above. Photo is not so good, but they represent the area
    Featured photo: Carlos Griell. Birds on a dune. Atacama
    Endere ruins: from the internet
    Last photo: Guangzhou food market, Carlos Griell, 1997

    Contact Form
    ============

    2008-01-27 at 03-11-33


  • Xinjiang-Qinghai trip May 2017: Highlights. Part 1 (Level of difficulty: 3 in a scale of 5)

    Altun-Mountains-InternationalHunting-FieldThis is the first part of the summary of the stages of the journey, the easy part, from Kashgar to Charkilik, (1.400 km), two full weeks, traveling from city to city, by Railway first, by bus later. No problems are forecasted. If possible I will try to organize a tour on the roads of the desert, following the Cherchen river. There are nice photographs for this area in Google Earth

    The second part has a part of mystery, the Altun Mountains, the frontier between Xinjiang, and the Uyghurs and the Qinghai and the Mongols, from the Taklamakan to the Tsaidam. Although everything is China, paved roads East of Charkilik are scarce. In the next post I will present the alternatives from Charkilik to Xinning.

    I will comment each stage in further posts, in the meanwhile, feel free to add your comments, or join me through the contact form at the end of this post, I will send you the Google Earth waypoints and and I will keep you updated

    The map setup as featured image shows the principal cities in the trip, all in the South of the Takla-Makan

    This is the plan:

    Wednesday May 3, 2017 (yes, is not a typo, 2017, so, you are still on time to join 🙂 : arrival to Kashgar, start of the trip. Visit to the city and the market, but reserving Sunday market to Hotan
    Two days in Kashgar

    Friday May 5: Kashgar-Hotan (485 Km) by train. Of course, we will skip some Oasis cities (amongst them Kargilik and Guma) but there is no a lot of things to see in there… and there is also the Uyghur unrest in this area, and Westerners may seem as chick peas in a dish of green peas. Visible, to say the least.

    Saturday May 6: free in Hotan

    Sunday May 7: Hotan Sunday market, quite more original than Kashgar, this is a link ‘s

    Monday May 8: Hotan-Keriya (301 Km) by local bus. Lonely Planet does not say anything about this city, but, as it may be the first really exotic place. I propose to stay one full day to get acquainted with the journey, and to take a break after the first stage in bus.

    Tuesday, May 9: Keriya.

    Wednesday May 10: Keriya-Niya (125 Km) by local bus. Same as above… nothing to see there, but it would be a shame to go directly, non-stop to Qiemo (Cherchen)

    Thursday May 11: Niya. Sip green tea, and look for a camel to make a selfie riding it.

    Friday, May 12: Niya-Qiemo (200 Km) by local bus, or, eventually, people more fond of “couleur locale”, may step down at Kamagazi and see the Ruins of Endere

    Saturday, May 13 to Monday May 15: Qiemo. It would be nice if we can organize a tour in the desert to reach the next stage, Charkilik by a diverted path: Following North East the Cherchen river through several villages, to the road 218 (Ruoqiang-Korla), and then making a right to Charkilik, 50 Km away

    Tuesday, May 16: Option A (simple and direct), Qiemo-Charkilik (315 Km) by bus. With the option to stop in Washari and organize a shorter tour through the desert

    Wednesday May 17: free (either lost in the desert 🙂 ) , or sleeping in a truckers khan in Washari

    Thursday, May 18 to Saturday 20: Free in Charkilik

    Until here this is the easy part. From Charkilik, there are almost no paved roads going West. A blogger said that there is a minibus leaving everyday towards West (at least, it existed in 2014) to provide transportation for mine workers to the asbestos mines in Mangnai which is already in the Qinghai.From the mines there are buses or transportation to Golmud or the Transdesert Highway.

    2011-01-09 at 12-44-40

    Contact Form to get the .kmz (Google Earth) file with the itinerary
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  • Location names in Qinghai and Xinjiang

    tumblr_ltw6yuEGrs1r5dogro1_500As the followers of this blog (do they exist?) may already know, I follow the footsteps of Ella Maillard and Peter Fleming in Qinghai and Xinjiang.

    I thought that locating them in Google Earth should be a straightforward issue, just copying the name they wrote, pasting in Google Earth, and then, voilà, place found!.

    Well, it is not like this, there are no place names in the desert. So, our travelers asked our guide. If the guide was mongol, they got a Mongol name. Sometimes they got the Chinese name. But people in this area were essentially Uyghur, so, some names come in the Uyghur flavor. This is all? not really, because each population has their own alphabet. Well, Uyghur had no one, not two, but three alphabets, one of them being Latin, the other Cyrillic and the third Arabic.

    Mongol is a little more complex: From Wikipedia: “At the very beginning of the Mongol Empire, around 1204, Genghis Khan defeated the Naimans and captured an Uyghur scribe called Tata-tonga, who then adapted the Uyghur alphabet—a descendant of the Syriac alphabet, via Sogdian—to write Mongol. With only minor modifications, it is used in Inner Mongolia to this day. Its most salient feature is its vertical direction; it is the only vertical script that is written from left to right. (All other vertical writing systems are written right to left.) This is because the Uyghurs rotated their script 90 degrees anticlockwise to emulate the Chinese writing system.

    As a variant of the traditional script there exists a vertical square script (Босоо дөрвөлжин), also called folded script, used e.g. on the Mongolian banknotes.”.

    Anyhow, the alphabet(s) issue is of minor importance, because herders and guides were, essentially, illiterates.

    gI_113477_Middelfart-MiddlefartSo… when Peter says that they see the Ayak Kum Kul, on their way from Issik (or Issyk) Pakte to Cherchen (or Tchertchen), what place he refers to?

    They usually wrote the name of the place in their own phonetic transcription, which depends on the “landing” language, for example, what Ella (who writes in French) spells as Ou (as Ourumtchi or Doulan) is an single U. Peter does not need this, because the French OU is the English U.

    They departure name is the Mongol or Uyghur name which has nothing to do with the Chinese name. What they spell Cherchen (Peter) or Tchertchen (Ella), is written in 2000 maps as (Chärchän or Qarqan), but also as Qiemo, which is the Han name, and which will be, probably, the “official” name of the place. So, probably maps will have always the Han name, that people do not know about (or do not want to know, due to political reasons), and sometimes the local name.

    The algorithm to find the place is:
    – Try to find the place in Peter’s book.
    – Wrote it in the Search panel of Google Earth

    If it does not appear (as usual), Google it. It is worthwhile to note that Googleing unusual place names is useless, there are profiles on Facebook for each combination of vowels and consonants.

    If you do not find it, search in the US military Place names database.

    Once you find the place, you copy military coordinates (easier, as it is a single code, and not two) and you paste them in Google Earth and that’s it, you got the place.!

    Photos: Place names from the Internet
    Featured Image, Namib Desert, Author


  • 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.

     

    DSC_9375