2009/04/22: Dabancheng 97 km
Leaving Turpan took us quickly from oasis back into desert, uphill and into the wind. As we rode up a valley that took us out of the Turpan Depression, we followed a small river, fringed here and there with welcome bits of green. The valley served to funnel the wind and direct it straight against us, and we plodded on at 8-10 kmh. I watched the odometer and allowed myself a swig of Pepsi every 5 km. On days like this, caffeine is good. The wind was so strong as we emerged from the valley that we dismounted and pushed our bikes, rather than risk being knocked into the traffic by a gust.
We dragged ourselves into Dabancheng for noodles, and were directed to a truckers’ binguan (guest house) for the night. The sheets were clean, but the loo down the hall was pretty bad. We’re used to that. There was a shower house across the street. We were given plastic bags in which to carry our towels and clean clothes, we paid the lady 6 yuan, and stood side by side under solid streams of lovely warm water. No shower heads; just a simple pipe.
2009/04/23: Urumqi 93 km
The last day to Urumqi was less than scenic. Chris took reality pictures of the industrial hinterland. Then there were camels. Not plastic or plaster ones this time; real ones. Lot’s of them. We stopped to watch them.
Once in Urumqi, we rode to the hotel where we’d made a booking and where Louise had sent our parcel of sunscreen, language books, brake pads, and more. I went in to inquire about price, and was rather shocked at 600 yuan per night, more than double the price of four star places in Jiayuguan or Dunhuang, and more than the online price. Our booking was not till Sunday, so we were not obliged to stay as we arrived on Thursday. As they checked our booking, they recognized the name as that on the Fedex parcel they were holding, and handed it to me.
I slipped outside to confer with Chris, and we discussed whether we were morally obliged to stay there as intended because they had received and held our parcel. Meanwhile, we were due to meet Leon and Carsten for dinner, and they were staying at a convenient hostel. We feel more comfortable at hostels where we can meet other travellers, and where there is usually a washing machine. It was clear the hotel was doing a fine business without us, and that they may have been as uncomfortable with us as we were with them. Fedex parcel in hand, we pedalled off to the hostel to meet Carsten and Leon. Plugging in our laptop, we cancelled the hotel reservation.