Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Riding In China.

Whether its well earned or not the Chinese seem to have a reputation around the world as lousy drivers.  After riding a motorcycle across a substantial part of that country I think I have a better understanding and maybe a little insight into the Chinese drivers' mind.   Having survived Albania where they are just plain nuts and Iran where the rules of the road are nothing more than an often ignored suggestion, China is a different experience all together.  I don't think it is so much that the Chinese are bad drivers but that they have this amazing ability to completely subjugate their self-preservation gene the second they take a steering wheel or handle bar into their hands.  In Albania and Iran the drivers absolutely knew what was going on around them at all times - there is no other way for them to have made some of the moves they did to take advantage of the smallest openings in traffic.  In China they just go... without looking in any direction except straight ahead.  

I'm not really sure why but I didn't take a lot of pictures in North West China.  Maybe it was because everything was covered with a half-inch thick layer of dust.  Maybe it was because the riding was so uninspiring.  Maybe it was because after coming down from the Pamirs the trip had entered its denouement phase.  Or maybe because I didn't feel like a tourist here; the sights, sounds and smells were all strangely familiar.  

Eventually we made it to Turpan, one of the lowest places on earth at ~ -150m below sea level.  Remarkably not more than 7-days previously we were traveling over some of the highest navigable road passes in the world in excess of 4500m above sea level.  The population of the city pretty much disappears during the day due to the heat but they come out at night.

One of the unique things here is that during the summer most everyone sleeps on the roof.  Looking out the window of the hotel there are large 4-poster beds on every roof and in the morning you can literally watch the city wake up.  

On the morning of the rest day we had an opportunity to visit the ruins of the capital city of an ancient civilization and some buddhist caves on the outskirts of town.

I was running low of sunscreen and braved the mid-day heat after the morning tour to restock my supply.  I eventually found a supermarket that looked to have the right assortment of associated sundries so I made an enquiry as best I could to the shop girl.  I guess I managed to convey the right information as she happily dragged me to the correct shelf.  When I pulled out my depleted bottle of 60 SPF hoping to find something stronger than the 30 SPF on the shelf she disappeared around a corner, returning with a smile and an umbrella.

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