(Emily) Our impression of the hotel in Kashgar did not improve the following morning when we found that all the breakfast buffet had been decimated  even though we arrived half an hour before it finished. By the time Muza came back to meet us at 9.30 am, we were all a bit disgruntled – remember, the five days in China were costing each person over $700 so we felt entitled to be looked after a little better than this. Muza agreed that the hotel was crap (er, why bring us here in the first place then) and proposed that we change to another. The tastefully named ‘Seman Hotel’ turned out to be much better, thank goodness, but it did mean a whole morning was wasted with the palaver of getting repacked etc. Then we had to go to the Newland Travel office to pay our fees, finally meeting Taher who was the owner and had been our contact via email for the past six months. There had been a bit of confusion over who had paid their deposit or not and it seemed to us that getting money off the rich westerners was the main priority. James and I had been sure that the money had come out of our account when we were asked to transfer it to the Bank of China back in July. As it happens, it turns out that the payment hadn’t gone through and once we’d seen on our internet banking that HSBC had returned the $200 to us just a few days before, of course we were happy to pay again. However, Muza’s flippant comment that it was ‘just a day’s wages’ for us didn’t go down too well…

Several people had issues with their bikes that needed seeing to so that afternoon we followed Muza (on his bicycle!) down to a local garage where we (‘we’) worked on them until the sun went down. Donato’s Harley probably needed the most work having been bumped and shaken to bits on all the bad roads, plus Carl needed a new hinge making for his panier system and Stefano’s rear sub-frame had a big crack which needed welding. The guys at the garage seemed to be able to make and do just about anything and didn’t charge a huge amount so there were lots of satisfied customers that afternoon. (James and I felt almost uneasy that nothing needed sorting on our bikes – what were we missing?! Good little bikes, they’re holding up really well). It was dark by the time we left; cue another interesting ride through the chaotic streets back to the new hotel. Poor Muza was a wreck when we arrived – he’d been pedalling so fast, as you’d have to when leading a group of motorcycles on a push bike, and all on an empty stomach due to Ramadan. However, once he’d finished being ill he perked up and took us down to a local Uyghur (the indigenous people) restaurant that he recommended – it didn’t disappoint. We were really fortunate to have a local with us as he knew what was good and ordered a fantastic selection of food; each plate was a new taste sensation. The pumpkin manty (a bit like large tortellini) was particularly good – my mouth is watering with the recollection! Not only was the food great, but the restaurant itself was in a fantastically grand building with intricate wooden carvings all around, and it was absolutely packed with local families – always a good sign.

On Sunday, with the jobs done, we got to see a bit of Kashgar itself, heading first to the legendary silk road animal market and then the bazaar. The animal market was a similar set-up to the one we’d been to in Karakol but this time on a much larger scale and far more chaotic. It felt more like we were in Pakistan than China as most of the local people were Muslim and not very Chinese looking but of course where we were was so close to the borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We picked our way through the hundreds of goats, sheep, cows and yaks, careful to avoid getting caught hemmed in next to a rear end… There was a particularly comedy breed of sheep with a big bottom, all the more emphasised if the animal was sheared! Bartering was much more in evidence than in calm karakul, with some of the haggling getting quite forceful, and it was fun to be amid all the craziness. It all felt very foreign, which was great! The Sunday bazaar was another good experience; very colourful and selling everything from dried fruit, to fabrics, to musical instruments. A fur seller jumped on Stefano and me, making us don hats made of real fox fur. I have to say, the rabbit fur hat/scarf combo he tied round my head was beautifully soft and warm but there was no way we were going to support somewhere that also had tiger furs hanging up – WRONG! What did get in the market though, was a lovely sheepskin to go on our seats. We’d been keeping an eye out for one since Istanbul but only come across rather ‘raw’ looking untreated skins hanging by the roadside. This one was beautifully done, soft and white – too white really! Bene, James and I clubbed together for one skin that we could cut into three and bartered down to 200 RMB (about twenty quid – same as Ikea!) We also picked up some extra large rubber gloves to go over our rather inadequate summer riding ones when it rained, and some extra bungees – you can never have too many bungees!

The afternoon was spent relaxing in ‘John’s Café’ next to the hotel where people were able to catch up on emails and Bene and I sat down little good little women to sew elastic straps onto our sheepskins. In the evening we walked down to the night market which was thronging with people at the food stalls, able to eat now that the sun had gone down. The sheep heads and trotters didn’t look too appealing but luckily there was some more innocuous fare and we stuffed ourselves on noodles, dumplings, chickpeas and melon, happily ignoring the somewhat dubious hygiene standards. We started to walk back and then spied an empty motorised cart taxi (front bit motorbike, back bit cart)… we couldn’t resist and the six of us piled into the back for a rather hair-raising ride back to the hotel! We could have all done with another day in Kashgar as I’m sure it has more to offer, but the itinerary was set and the following day we were due to continue south, at last putting wheel to tarmac (hopefully) on the famous KKH.

6 Responses to “Kashgar”

  1. Jackson says:

    looks like you are having similar issues to those i encountered in Egypt. A guide who, when he should be looking after your wellbeing doesn’t even worry about his own…..who starves himself all day!!! I wonder if he is allowed water. the dive guides in egypt were even off that and were permanently boggle eyed and lethargic. Maybe it explains Muza’s snidey comments??

  2. mama/kate says:

    Hmmm. I’ll stick with Woking! Been writing you emails Em so hope you can access them. Some pics of Wilbur stuck up the newly ‘bonsaied’ Yew tree. I think she was trying to empathise with the
    tricky spots you guys have found yourselves in.

  3. Jess says:

    Sounds so cool Pies! x

  4. Lorna Souch says:

    I must say your blog is doing wonders for my geography! Thank you so much. love to you both.xxxx

  5. M&M says:

    Good bike choice james- glad they are holding up so well!

  6. Mandy & Ru says:

    Loving your blog. The bazaar sounds fun and yuk – sheep heads and trotters make me gag just thinking about them… Keep safe
    Love from us all.

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