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Kashgar: “Let Your Dreams Fly”

Our final day in Kashgar, we woke late and breakfasted at a nearby restaurant. For about 3 dollars a piece we  had steamed Uyghur dumplings and a stew made of pigeons. We ate this fine meal in a vine filled garden with a giant fountain in the center. As we ate, Scott and I tried to estimate how much it would cost to eat in such a place were we in Providence. The final verdict was 35 or 40 US dollars a plate. And the tea would not be nearly as delicious or as free.

AsiaWheeling at Breakfast

Pouring Tea

Dealing with the rawap for Harrington took longer than planned and when we were done we were hungry for a last wheel through the city. So we took off. We did the full perimeter of Kashgar, noodling into Uyghur villages, and spending time on highways. At one point a fellow driving a three wheeled jeep-like thing transporting five stacked wheelbarrows pulled up to us. “Hello!” he called out. We get a lot of hellos. We’re a couple of ridiculous white guys in panama hats wheeling through Kashgar after all. But most of the time, hello is the only word that the sender of the message knows in English. So we return in with a tip of the panama hat and on we go. But this guy was yelling something else. At first we though it was Uighur. But he was yelling so vehemently, and it was not Chinese; Scott verified this. “Kashgar… something” Then we figured it out, He was saying, “Kashgar, let your dreams fly.” We squealed with joy, and Scott called a forward position.

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Somewhere in the outskirts of old town Kashgar I got a flat. First flat of AsiaWheeling and we looked around desperately. We realized that where we were probably looked more like Tehran than China, with crumbling buildings of middle eastern style.

Flat Tire Rough Rider

We walked no longer than 5 minutes before we found a bicycle repair shack. The fellow was busy submerging an inner-tube in a murky basin of water and paid no attention to us. When we looked up we realized that we were on an entire street of bike shop after bike shop. We walked to the next, and a fellow who had been snoozing in the shade of the back came out. Three cigarettes later, he had fixed my tire. He asked us how much we paid for the bike rental and laughed out loud when we told him. “You know these bikes cost 300 RMB ($40) each?” he said.

Fixing Flat Tire

No we didn’t. But we knew we weren’t getting a great deal. Frankly,  as far as we were concerned, we were riding far more than 5 dollars a day from these bikes. And despite the fellow’s laughter, we rode away felling great. The flat had cost us 1 RMB, (USD 14 cents). And it felt great to be on the road again. We continued our tour of the perimeter. Finally riding past our hotel on Seman road out into yet another Uighur village. As we exited the city, we saw a giant line of maybe 100 cabs, all waiting in line for a single pumping station. We were unsure as to whether it was a gas shortage, or some deal with the cab company which forced all these fellow to visit the same station. But we saw plenty of cab drivers pushing their cabs, or simply leaning against them smoking cigarettes as they waited in line.

Seman Street

We continued on. And as our surrounds dissolved once again into mud buildings and crumbling roads, the sky above us began to darken. All day the pollution had been particularly terrible, with smog and dust, collecting in our noses and on our sweaty skin. Now it seemed, a rainstorm was raging above us. But not a drop hit the earth. It was all evaporating before it hit the ground. Still, the storm triggered that feeling which propels all animals to safety in times of meteorological strife. So we returned to the Seman Binguan for respite. Outside we met our bicycle rental man relaxing with a number of his cronies. All of them spoke varying levels of English and we chatted as we walked back to the hotel lobby to settle up. We had learned of a dish, a specialty in Kashgar, of which we asked these gentleman. The dish was a stewed potato and sausage dish. Hand made sausages (sheep intestines filled with rice and lung meat) were boiled with potatoes in a stew of sheep’s heads and hoofs. Opka Hesip, the dish was called. And it was what we were looking for to end our fabulous spree of dinners in this fine city.

And find it we did. On unanimous recommendation from the fellows in the lobby, we headed to yet another restaurant by the name of Orda (very common in this city). It was said to be the house speciality. And it was indeed superb. We ended up not needing to be bothered with the whole heads and hoofs deal. It turns out they stay in the pot. Placed before us was simply a plate of succulent sausages and boiled potatoes. There was plenty of stray pieces of “meat” scattered throughout, but they too were splendid.

We meandered home through the Kashgar night. It was 9:30, but the entire city was lit and the streets were full of people simply walking around, or shopping. Part of this is due to the bizarre relationship with time that this city posseses. But I believe there was much to do simply with culture. People in Kashgar (and indeed from the data so-far, all of china) do their living out in the open. While americans spend a lot of time at home, relaxing, eating and watching television, the Chinese are out in their cities. Meanwhile the empty streets of american cities become unsafe, or at the very least, boring.Back in Kashi, we were walking through a giant square, where a statue of Mao Zedong holding out his arm was upstaged by one of the largest televisions I have ever scene. It was just playing commercials and government announcements. So between adds for soft drinks and car, there were very well made public announcements discouraging spitting, littering, and rude behavior. There was also a short bit which might have been entitled, “familiarize yourself and your family with our communist heros.” A giant spinning gold computer animated sickle and hammer, spin around in between short descriptions and pictures in black and white of soldiers and factory workers, against a bright red background.

We continued to walk, and talk about China, Kashgar, and the world. One thing was for sure. Our time here had been great. A rousing adventure, a valuable experience, and a hell of a wheel.

Wheelin Hard Rough Rider


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