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The Endless Sky Trip -- Cycling the Himalaya cycling in western Tibet

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Kudi, Xinjiang, China

Kudi, Xinjiang, China (Far Western China) - May 20, 1998

It has been a week since we left Kashgar, a city known for the largest market on the old Silk Road. The Sunday market draws 100,000 people from this crossroads of central Asia. You can test drive a horse or a camel, trade for small flock of sheep, or sit down to a meal of homemade noodle soup and bagel-like bread. Straight sections of road carried us out of Kashgar toward the massive Taklamakan Desert. We hopped from oasis town to oasis town following the tall, thin poplar lined streets to the edge of town, then making a quick dash across the flat stony desert that separated us from our next chance to find cold drinks and maybe, if we were lucky, an ice cream pop.

After leaving the tourist trail back in Kashgar we became somewhat of a rolling "freak show" when we showed up in the small towns & villages. Crowds of 20-30 people poked at our bikes, pinched our tires and sized the three of us up. Some wondered if Liyang was a man or a woman, and what was I doing with a beard and long hair halfway down my back? None of this made any sense to the local population, which consisted mostly of Uighurs, Muslims of Turkish descent. Men had short hair and women had long hair. Men wore hats and women wore skirts. In the larger towns, Chinese settlers ran small shops and restaurants. In one town, we met a woman who had been sent there in 1964 as part of a campaign to relocate intellectuals to the more rural parts of China. After 34 years in this remote dust bowl town, she was finally going to be able to retire and return to her hometown of Shanghai in just a couple of months.

In the last couple days, this six-wheeled freak show has climbed up out of the hot, dusty flat land to the foot of the Kunlun Shan Mountains, the north border of the Tibetan Plateau. With the exception of about 10 miles of steep downhill, it will be more than 120 miles of continuous climbing, of climbing the high altitude lands that will lead us to the distant land of Tibet.


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