When we departed town the temperature was already scorching heat and the forecast for the next few days was for an escalation. Fortunately we were looking at the forecast for Turpan.
Desert and wind farms greeted us on the way out of town. We were expecting that the continued drive west to Horgas would be flat and get increasingly hot. But after a short while we started to climb from the -50m at Turpan to around 1100m and a distinct change in temperature. Grassland and grazing vistas opened up before us. The snow capped Tien Shan moved from the right hand side of the car to our left as the G30 passed through a saddle.
An amazing amount of construction was underway. Trucks, people and concrete were everywhere. The G30 seemed to be perfectly good, but they were building a new highway beside it and overhead the pylons for a new highspeed train were being installed.
We passed around Urumchi. The largest city in the region (approaching 4m. The hotbed of Uygur dissent if you follow the ABC. New apartment blocks abounded. These were a large part of the problem according to reports. The issue was that the government had bull dozed the old mud brick hutongs that had been home for the Uyghur for centuries and replaced the narrow winding street with the new high rise apartments. The reports that I had seen implied that the Uygur were being discriminated against with their old traditional housing demolished and their way of life stamped out in favour of the Han. This probably true to some extent. But I am not sure that the Uygur were selectively being discriminated against. As far as we have seem around China, the government has been demolishing the hutongs in every town and replacing them with modern high rise. There is a big stink about it happening in Beijing. One of the may issues I see is that the hutongs have no running water or sewerage. In Beijing each street has their own shared public toilets, as you head west I am not sure whether this is the case. And there was no possibility of providing water an sanitation to the mud brick dwelling, its just much cheaper to bulldoze the lot and provide wide streets and transport access, electricity and modern sanitation. Unfortunately out goes the colour and traditions of generations and the sameness of modern China stamped every where. The reality is don’t try and stand in front of the bull dozers.
Urumchi also has a huge fruit and vegetable market. Produce is traded and distributed from here across the country. And for mile after mile we could see where it was all coming from. The flat desert plains with the addition of irrigation yield up an abundant amount of produce. We were nearly 4000k from Beijing and there appears very little of the countryside that it not cultivated.
And of course, every now and again we would spot the ubiquitous power station, steel plant or petro-chemical plant. Even smaller towns (pop 500k) seemed to have them.
We had a late lunch and visit to a Changyu Vinyard. Bigger than Disneyland, I think that the designers had managed to addbit of every major French Chateau into the construction. It was portrayed as a working vineyard. It had less than 50 acres of grapes, although there were plenty on surrounding land. After our tour, our team was convinced that the place was a theme park and did not make any wine. This was reinforced by groups of wedding couples with their photographers draped all over the place (more than 8 groups as we were departing).