Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kashgar – The Taklamakan Desert and Camel Trek, Part 1

In Kashgar, in the hostel, in our room, we woke up late and the sun was high in the sky, sizzling down on an otherwise chilly day. All the other people in our bunk room had already left, a testament both to the late hour and the nature of the people who travel to Kashgar. In any case, the situation afforded us a nice few hours to collect and compose ourselves before our guide was to meet us. A venture out into the old town got us to the tea house – the perfect place to ease into the rhythm of Kashgar. Sitting on the balcony, we talked about what we thought the day would present us with, and laughed at all the terrible hypotheticals our wild imaginations were concocting. A desert – in China. Who’da thunk it? Not me, that’s for sure. This time last year I would have laughed at (read: stared skeptically/quizzically at) anyone who tried to tell me that there was a massive dessert in the middle of China. But there is. The Taklamakan Desert, to be precise.

I look down at the Kashgar I have come to love, and think about how I never could have conceptualised a place like this to really exist, let alone in China. Just another reminder that I still know absolutely nothing about the world. I sigh. Maybe one day I’ll be one of those wise-but-silent people who can sit quietly and just trust the fact that everybody knows they’re thinking the right thing. Those people are so awesome. I think maybe I’ll approach that plane of awesomeness in about……. two more decades. Or four. Hell, if I can reach that nirvana land of cleverness before I die, then I’ll be more than happy. Life mission accomplished: to be wise.

I digress. We finished two pots of tea and strolled through the crowds back to the hostel, where we sat on the floor pillows around the downstairs courtyard, and munched away happily on (surprise, surprise) bread and apples. Ten minutes later our trek guide arrived ten minutes early, and we were off. Off to where? Off to make new camel friends and then ride in between their humps into a place where humans aren’t supposed to survive.

It’s gonna be magical!

The drive to get from Kashgar to the edge of the desert was about 3 hours. I think. I could be totally wrong because I was just so darn excited the whole dang time that I wasn’t keeping track of the ticking hours. It was a while though, because the Uyghur music CD we were listening to on the trip repeated itself several times. Not complaining! It was authentic! (Read: Added to the experience of driving along some of the most beautiful scenery in the world but I’m not gonna find that shit on iTunes.)

Alright, so we pull into a deserted-looking driveway that seemed to have just materialised out of nowhere. Ticket formalities were adhered to, and we drove further into the grounds of what looked like a post-apocalyptic version of a Xinjiang country club. Totally wack. The place was totally, absolutely wickety-wack. There were overgrown and awkward lawn sections in places that were clearly supposed to be hedges, there were freaky statues/plastic sculpture things of animals with kind of melted faces, everything that was supposed to be metal was rusted. The driveway turned and opened up to face a big lake, which was surprising considering we thought we were going on a desert trek. Turns out this place was a kind of natural oasis before it was developed (and then runover with zombies, right? No, but looks like it-) into a kind of weekend getaway place for rich folks.  

What is left around the lake now, is a big slide sitting about a hundreds meters from the edge of the water, a mini-jetty surrounded with half-sunken boats, and a rusty shed full of strange sand-suitable vehicles. Predictably, the small number of people present on the property were all around that shed, lining up for what appeared to be crazy-fast drives around the edge of the desert. It did look cool, I’m not gonna lie. They were those open-roofed Jeep kinds of thing, with roll cages and safety belts that go in a cross over your chest like a rally driver. But no! It was not to be! This was not why we came to the fame Taklamakan desert! We came for the true/real/genuine experience of riding camels, and we stick to our guns. (Read: we only didn’t do it because they wouldn’t let you drive yourself. Which now that I think about it is probably a very good thing.)

So anyways, we moved upwards (literally, up the hill) and onwards, to meet our trek guide and our new humpback buddies.

Ok. So the first thing you need to know about camels, IS THAT THEY LOOK FUCKING HILARIOUS!!!


To begin with, humps. I DON’T EVEN NEED TO SAY ANY MORE. HUMPS!!! They are surprisingly fluffy, though. Really, I mean, almost plush.

Seriously, I’m ending this first part of the story here, just so that you have time to digest how awesome camels are. I mean, come on. I’ve rode horses a few times before, and I really loved it, but I think maybe I am a camel kid at heart. There is something really majestic AWESOME about these creatures. Apart from when they spit, which is SERIOUSLY GROSS AND DISGUSTING. Also, if they have to pee when they are sitting down, they kind of pee all over their own legs. Lol, that’s some silly animal design right there, creatoroftheuniverse – what were you thinking? Also, they look eternally and simultaneously perplexed, bored, and kind of ugly. I could make jokes associating camels to British people, because they both share shocking lack of dental hygiene, but camels take the bad-teeth thing to a whole new level. I mean, of course it doesn’t help that they have bottle caps stuck through their noses, but there really isn’t an excuse for how ridiculous these animals are in general.

Definitely. Creatoroftheuniverse must have fallen-asleep-at-the-wheel when these guys came off the conveyor belt. Or ran out of that fancy being-making-clay options, and then had too many beers and mooshed the leftovers all together then accidentally sat on it all. Okay metaphor too far, but however these things came to be, you have to agree, that they are a strange species.  

And I'll also just leave you with this photo to prove how hot we are. TWINS!


  1. I totally dropped down from my chair. lol.

  2. Please, PLease PLEase! DO NOT make that face when the wind is up . . . not even a LOVING MOther could LOVE that!!!! Only joking . . . MaYBE?
    What is very scary is that even your jumpers match . . .very COOL!

  3. Hi!
    I saw yr blog on a cmmt in the sartorialist blog...i went to the same place on a trip on the silk road, in 2007...liked it a lot!

  4. wow great post! and i loled at your tags as well XD


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