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  • What does not fit anywhere

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.!

    [showmap address=”Qiemo” marker=”click” caption=”Cherchen” map=”ROADMAP” zoom=”12″ scroll=”1″ street=”1″ zoomcontrol=”1″ pan=”1″ mapcontrol=”1″ overview=”1″]

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

  • Please, give me a break! not yet another blog from a friend!

    Versión española al final del post.


    How to deal in writing with something that happens at different levels?

    In this blog I would like to speak about two people, Ella Maillard and Peter Fleming, the trip they did in the Takla Makan Desert, and also about who they found “en route”. But this is the excuse to talk about myself and the trip I plan to do next spring, on their steps. And not only that, but I will write also my impressions on the same places when I return from there, in May 2017

    So, these are at least three levels… what Peter and Ella did, what I hope to do myself, and, finally, what I found there.

    I will organize this in three categories: “1935” (their trip), “2016” (what their trip inspires to me now, on this blog), and “2017” (my own trip)

    I will add a fourth category, always needed 🙂 : “Others


    Then, let me present myself :

    This is me:

    2009-10-27 at 15-19-06
    The guy in red shirt, not the one in blue boxers, who was my boss then, trying to unblock from the sand our rented Fiat 127 somewhere between Nefta and Matmata, in the Sahara


    This is what I like, long stretches of non paved road, with nothing to see other that a fugitive chacal (here, in the Namib)

    2008-03-23 at 06-16-09

    or sand dunes at sunrise (more standard “desert stuff” , here in the Atacama)
    2011-12-10 at 20-18-07

    and the “repos du guerrier”, old bars, lost in the middle of nowhere (here in Copiapó, a small mining town in Chile) to have a well deserved beer.

    2011-01-04 at 20-15-35

    Said that, welcome to my blog

    more information in About me


    ——— Spanish Version ——-


    Traducción del título: “Un poquito de por favor. No quiero otro blog de un amigo!”

    ¿Cómo tratar por escrito lo que sucede a niveles diferentes?

    En este blog me gustaría tratar de dos personas, Ella Maillard y Peter Fleming, y el viaje que hicieron en el Takla Makan, pero también de los que encontraron en el camino. Pero eso es una excusa para hablar de mi mismo, y del viaje que espero hacer en la próxima primavera, siguiendo sus pasos. Y no solo eso, pero también de mis impresiones sobre estos lugares, antes de ir, y también a mi regreso

    Y eso son al menos tres niveles, lo que ellos hicieron, lo que yo espero encontrar y lo que encontré realmente.

    Organizaré el blog en categorías: “1935” (su viaje), “2016” (la preparación del mío), “2017” (escrito durante el viaje, o a mi regreso, y a todo ello añadiré una cuarta, la siempre necesaria: “Otros”

    Este soy yo:

    2009-10-27 at 15-19-06

    El de la camiseta roja, no el de los boxers azules (este era mi jefe), tratando de desatascar el Fiat 127 de alquiler en algún lugar del Sahara entre Nefta y Matmata


    Esto es lo que me gusta, carreteras rectas sin asfaltar y sin mucho que ver (algún chacal en este caso, eso era en el Namib
    2008-03-23 at 06-16-09


    o dunas de arena, “desierto modelo Lawrence de Arabia”, tan fotogénicas al amanecer. Aquí, en Atacama

    2011-12-10 at 20-18-07

    y el “repos du guerrier”, viejos bares donde tomarse una chela helada, en medio de ninguna parte (aquí, en Copiapó, ciudad minera del norte de Chile)

    2011-01-04 at 20-15-35


    Dicho esto: welcome to my blog

    Mas información en sobre mi