Day 52 - Tuesday 23rd May - Hami to Turphan

As we left Hami, Green warned us that the predictions were for wind and a dust storm and the temperature would climb to 30c. Turphan is the hottest part of China and one of the lowest an -50m below sea level. We thought that the drive would be all downhill. What we did not appreciate was that before we descended we climbed to 1600m.

The wind and the dust storm came. Luckily it was mainly from behind and blew us along. The dust swirled across the highway like snow spindrift. The landscape reminded me of the Painted Desert south of Oodnadatta.

The toilets in the truck stops for morning tea were a significant improvement on the previous day. They had both porcelain and running water. The trucks were over loaded and one looked as though it was about to topple over its load was so lop sided. They carried sheep and chooks, all crammed in so tightly the animal liberationists would have had a fit.

Clusters of wind farms dotted the landscape. This time they were working.

On our way in to town we visited the Astana Ancient Tombs dating from the Tang Dynasty for our lunch stop. This was probably the least visited tourist place we have been in China. The guards and staff were asleep when we arrived. The graves contained mummified bodies (in Perspex cases) and some well preserved paintings.

Turphan is thought of as a laid back town. Maybe it’s the heat that gives it a relaxed, torpid feel. Its also known as the grape capital of China. They are dried for sultanas and also sold fresh. Unfortunately its early in the season. The vines are everywhere, even down the main streets of town, as are the open irrigation channels to water them.

We have been in so many hotels now and changing every day it’s a challenge to try and remember where the car is parked, let alone where our room is. All have big marble foyers and then go downhill from there. Invariably everything works, although the internet has deteriorated significantly since entering Xinjiang. But we never forget what day it is because the lifts always have a carpet in them with the day, but unfortunately not the date.