• Tag Archives Qiemo
  • Section 2: The Takla Makan. From Hetian to Kargilik (900 Km)

    We made this 900 Km in three stages:

    – Hetian – Minfeng (Niya) 300 Km by bus
    – Niya – Qiemo (Tchertchen, Charchan) 287 Km by private car, although we made a 500 km detour through the desert
    – Qiemo – Ruoquiang (Charkilik) by bus

    None of these cities is interesting in itself. Of course, everyone of them has a mosque, a bazar and a main square (and a lot of Police stations), but nothing really that “must be seen”.

    But.. I wanted to see the desert, I love them. And this trip is 900 Km of desert. Different kinds of desert, of course. The sand of the Takla Makan is like flour, so, there is sand everywhere as soon as there is a little breeze. Dunes are everywhere, quite high, some of them swallow electricity poles, and bury the wires

    But really, outside the desert, there is nothing to see…

    In Qiemo a policeman asked us what we were doing there, Qiemo was a small and quiet town and tourists never went there. I told him that I loved deserts, and small towns, and do not liked tourist places. He was half convinced by my answer, because in the afternoon I received the visit of a Police Officer (with a Police card) and a translator who asked me to show all my electronic equipment. They verified the photos stored in my phone and my computer, and left. So, if you travel there, be careful, no photos of
    – police posts
    – armoured vehicles
    – official buildings
    – airports and train stations
    – people begging in the streets (there are not a lot, but poor people are everywhere)

    Said that, I was not really interested in the cities in themselves, nor in ruins, or mosques (after my experiences in Iran, I prefer skip this sort of visits).

    So, this part of the trip was, essentially, what I remember of Ella’s book, and this part is what we see:

    The road that slowly transforms itself from a road in the desert

    to a poplar bordered road in the oasis (here, entering Nija)

    or the tamarisks area where the kid (wawa) of the gold diggers was lost (yes, in Ella expedition the tamarisk field was near Golmud, but I am sure it was identical).

    It is while going to walk with Peter to visit abandoned fortifications I understand how our oasis is dangerous, for miles of tamarisk bushes rise, all identical. The paths made by the sheep cover the ground with a real network, and in this labyrinth there is only the compass which can serve as a reference. There is only the Demon of the Sands, an opaque whirlwind of dust, an immense column that flares out towards the sky, whirling on its base, almost compact, with a disturbing rustle

    I love deserts, so we hired a shared taxi only for us (900 RMB, 110 € for the full day and 500 km) to go from Minfeng (Niya) to Qiemo (Tchertchen) via the new Cross Desert Road, that goes to Kuka. From Niya this road goes North, and, after 220 km, it meets a road that gives service to the Tazhong Oil Field, and from there it goes to Qiemo. It is a kind of inverted Y, the two branches being Niya and Tcherchen, and the cross is Tazhong.

    (see the map which opens this post)

    Our taxi driver wanted to be sure that he would not have problems driving foreigners through this area, so, we went to the Police station in Niya before leaving and we went again before turning towards Tazhong and Qiemo. We did not have problems, although each control took something like 15 to 20 minutes while they checked our passports, register them in books (it seems that computers are not widespread, at least on isolated Police posts), they take some mug photos, and afterward, eventually, take also some selfies with us. Of course, for the sake of safety, I did not asked them to take a selfie with my camera to keep memory of them… and it was a shame.

    Definitively (if you like deserts, of course) I must recommend the detour through the Cross Desert Route. The branch from Tazhong to Qiemo was not finished in my Gizi Map but it was on my Chinese map. The Cross Desert is well maintained and it is irrigated all long with bushes planted to stop sand to invade the road. The Tazong Qiemo branch has not it, so, probably in case of wind (even light) the road would be closed.

  • A diversion in Qiemo or map-makers horror vacui

    “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

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

    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).

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

    This is a very short summary of the stages of the journey, and their focus: The next post will include my comments to it, and feel free to add yours!! (or to send me your data through the contact form at the end of this post, and I will keep you updated)

  • 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?

    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.