Day 51 - Monday 22nd May - Dunhuang to Hami

We were sharing our hotel with a bunch of students from business schools around China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. They were there for their annual university games. We had had a beer with some of them the night before at the markets. Today they were off for a couple for days in the desert. With the amount of gear they were loading into the trucks, either they were in for some serious glamping or heading out for a couple of years.

We were continuing westward along the G30 to Hami. The countryside was starting to look like a Mad Max set an the truck stops we pulled into for morning tea and lunch consolidated the point. Gone were the marble tiled flushing toilets to be replaced by some excavated ditches that made a long drop dunny seem glamorous. Tony thought he had seen something in Tibet which was more basic, but was not sure. The girls were challenged to believe that it was possible.

While there were piles of old tyres, trucks and other assorted rubbish adorning the sites, we managed to have a delicious spicy meal of local handmade fresh noodles with lamb at out lunch stop. I had the expensive $4 option. Lunch took a bit longer than we anticipated as the cook was not used to catering for so many. Appears they don’t usually get 7 people wanting to eat at once. But we are all still alive and no one was sick. Surprise!

We crossed into Xinjiang Provence during the drive. The full name is Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. There were police checks on the border and all the following toll gates. At the petrol station, cars had to register to get petrol (Passport and rego check), before w

Each time we came to a police check point, half the team would reach for their phones to take photos, while the others would be checking our documents. Then once they had done this they would line up with us for more photos with their cameras. It was special.

On entering Hami, the road was blocked by another police check and we were pulled aside. This of course caused chaos as every car that pulled past stopped in their tracks to take photos or packed in the middle of the road while the drivers exited to have photos taken with each of the cars. Eventually the police solved whatever the issue was and escorted us to our hotel (just lights, no sirens). Then they took their photos with all the cars.

Chinese security with be able to put together an encyclopaedic book of our travels through China with the number of photos of us they must have.

Hami is hot, dry and laid back. As usual the streets are all lush and tree lined with manicured gardens. It’s a small town with a population of about 500k. Like all places we have seen its modern. The old parts have long gone.

My new mates.

My new mates.

There were some tombs to see of the Hami Moslem Kings who ruled a large chunk of Xinjiang for 4 centuries until the 1920’s. from what I can glean it appears they were little more than local war lords who relied on the Qing Dynasty for support and power. The Qing on the other hand were happy to have them keep these western regions under control and not have problems on their western border. When the Qing Dynasty collapsed, and the Peoples Republic formed, it would appear that they were not interested in supporting the war lords anymore and took over. The Uygurs have not been happy since.

The cultural mix of people in the towns is changing dramatically. These are the Han Chinese. There are others with very white skin, some even have red hair and blue eyes. Others look middle eastern. But by and large from what we see, everyone seems to co-exist and get on with life.  

The biggest change is that the Uygur restaurants don’t serve beer. It could be the start of a dry section of our travels. Luckily the tea is always plentiful and interesting. A quick lesson on tea in China. We think of tea as short black leaves in hot water and green tea as stuff we get at the local Chinese restaurant. Over here tea can be any type of vegetable matter that is mixed with hot water. In the markets, I have lost count of the varieties and then there are all the flowers that get chucked in. Not to mention grains like Buckwheat that make the brew.