I separated from Flavio because he had commitments in Xian. He took a flight, since there weren’t any available train tickets at the moment.
I went to Toksun by sleeper bus. The trip lasted !8 hours, it was near Turpan my final destination, there was no direct bus, both cities were near Ürümqi. Due to it being the busy season there were no more train tickets back from Ürümqi to Xian, only by plane. I decided to adjust my itinerary and include a few more cities before returning to Xian – later I would regret not having included even more cities.
As it was hot and the bus had not air conditioning, I spent most of the trip with my shirt off.
I thought the bus had a final destination in Toksun but it turned out I was mistaken! I had to get off earlier in Toksun, at one of the stops, but as I did not know this I ended up in Ürümqi. I wondered why it was taking so long to get there! I boarded another bus to Turpan, which required another 2.5 hours and 187 km of travel, I must have lost 6 to 8 more hours… patience.
Around here one of the most fearful things is the gas station restrooms. There is no door and you can see people crouching doing their deeds, since there is a hole in the floor, rather than toilet. Most people here don’t know the western style toilet. In many stops people just go to the bushes to do their business because the smell of the restroom is unbearable.
The scary toilets
In China my concern was less about “what to eat”, although I find strange or unhygienic some things, but rather more in “where to use the bathroom”, so I often adopted the strategy of not eating on long trips just to avoid this need. I was glad to have resistance to hunger. In a way, feeling hungry and cold, made me feel closer to the needy, with the difference that I deprived myself by choice, but the poor people for lack of option.
Turpan, or Turfan, the Chinese pronounce “tulufán”, is the hottest city in China, surrounded by desert, its heat is dry, which makes it more bearable compared to my first day in Tokyo, the worst heat of my life! It is located at a depression 80m below sea level, one of the lowest in China. The population is 600,000 people. Turpan is famous for its grapes and Xinjiang Province for its fruits (melons, watermelons, peaches, apples, etc.). It is also an oasis city, part of the North Silk Road, is located in Xinjiang Province. Here more than 70% of the population are Uighurs, and almost all have business with grape or wine.
I stayed at the hotel whose parking was also the city bus station, for USD 3 per night, it was reasonable. In the afternoon I wandered around the small town, strolling through a small market. It was so hot that I wet my t-shirt to stay cool when leaving my room and, in ten to fifteen minutes it was already dry. I walked to the Emin Minaret 1.2 miles from downtown. That night I had dinner on the street, in a tent, some cold and spicy noodle.