Karakul Lake – Day 2 (and closeup of the epic toilet!)

Rewind to 4am last night: Thanks to the failed heater, it was freezing cold and five layers of blankets plus many layers of clothings didnt seem to help. It was way beyond what I could bear, and I couldnt hardly sleep. I tried to wake up Az to set the heater again but he said it’s impossible and continued to (pretend to) sleep. I woke up and with little help by the dimmed, generator-powered light, I searched for lighter to set up the burner again. But with old papers alone the fire doesnt seem to stay!

I recalled seeing Mr Same Price putting some coal and gasoline in it to set up fire, and I searched around for the bottle, and the container was running out of coal. I was so determined to get the heater on again so I rushed out of the yurt (!!!!) in the middle of dark, freezing night to get the coal from bag Mr Same Price had left outside. With coal and gasoline, the fire still doesnt want to set!! :( It lights for a few seconds then died. So instead of getting a fire, I was getting alot of smoke inside the yurt! This is disaster! I gave up and went into the blanket and tried hard to sleep again for another few hours.

When it’s dawn we woke up and I instantly called Mr Same Price, but couldnt get through. I sent him a SOS sms asking him to come for help. I was panic that the smoke was still inside the yurt, and if I wanted to open the door to let the smoke out, it’s crazy coz the cold wind would go inside. Around 20 minutes later, he turned up and he set up the heater again… actually he uses a piece of old rubber! No wonder he could get the fire stay easily =.= I should have known!

It’s funny to realize our leftover soup (from instant noodle last night) turned frozen this morning. So is our bottled water. And they’re located *inside* the yurt with us! Imagine the yurt has turned into a refrigerator overnight? And we’re inside! Inga says it was even too cold for her (despite coming from Europe!) and she could guess it was -5 degree celcius.

After breakfast, we packed our stuff to get ready to catch bus for Kashgar. Mr Same Price and Inga says the bus from Tashkurgan would pass by here around 12 noon Beijing time = 10 am local time, so we have to be early to wait at the road side, if you miss the bus then the only other alternative would be asking Mr Same Price drive us (or I guess, his friend) to Kashgar for some hundreds yuan. The chance of getting the bus seat is also unknown, as the bus is probably full. So all we can do is just hope.

Mr Same Price came with his daughter Bibi (in this picture) to help him do housekeeping in they yurt. Inga is staying for another night because she’s too in love with the sunset view of Karakul Lake yesterday and would like to see it again today. We, on the other hand, need to go back to Kashgar despite of enjoying this place so much because our camera has been dead since yesterday!! And this morning all the photos are taken by my cheap HTC phone. Not the best, but better than none.

When walking down the lake again, we could see the lake was half-frozen. And we get to hear some chirping sound from the lake, and it’s amazing to learn that the sound is made by the broken ice that surface the lake water. I purposely try to break the ice layer just to hear the sound! :) Watching this great view on our last day in here, it’s so beautiful that we dont feel like leaving!

Can you spot the outdoor toilet? It’s facing to the lake. And believe it, this is the most stunning view I’ve ever seen while using a toilet!

The toilet, close up. Yes, it’s open air, and the proper way to “flush” is using the sand. Luckily there’s only us living here at the moment, I can’t imagine of using it when you know other people are around. Okay, and you can always use the lake water! :P

It was when I was just done with my toilet business, we caught a sight of bus passing the road!! We got panic and ran for our live towards the road, waving with hope the bus driver would see us and stop. But it did not. It was so much a tense, thinking if we already missed the bus and no other bus for Kashgar today, we have to stay in here for another day without camera, or, to ask for Mr Same Price’s car for some extra fares. Or, maybe we could hitch hike some lorry! Nevertheless, we keep waiting by the roadside and hoping for another bus would appear (I was trying to recall reading there’s some Tashkurgan government bus or something).

There’s hardly any transport passing by except big lorries. We wait for like half an hour, before a small bus finally pass by to save our soul. The bus is different than what we used to ride from Kashgar, but nevermind. The driver doesnt immediately ask for fare when we get in (possibly coz we’re the only who get in at the middle of the road!) and only when reaching Kashgar, we just paid 36 yuan per person, as much as we had paid for inbound bus earlier.

Xinjiang: Places we visited (and not)

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, being China’s largest region and located in the Far West, it borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and obviously the home to many ethnic groups descendants from neighboring countries and ancient Turkic kingdoms. Probably this what has made us pull all effort to visit this colorful land, apart from wanting to get mesmerized by snow capped mountains and taste the world’s softest, juiciest grilled lamb ever. Here’s a summary of places:

1) Urumqi

The capital of Xinjiang and main connector between Xinjiang and other region (and some Central Asian countries) by air, and the city is far bigger than we had expected. Not being fan of big city, we dont find Urumqi very exciting. The Tianchi Lake is pretty, but seems enough to spend a few hours there. It’s been very touristy anyway. I dont find anything amazing about the Grand Bazar either, despite looking like an icon of building from China Silk Road time. We have spent around 3.5 days in Urumqi including transit, which actually could be shorten it to 2 days or not visiting at all.

2) Kashgar

Although Kashgar also turned out to be a rather bigger city than we had imagined (no quite such views people riding donkeys..) but more than half of Kashgar is still purely blended with Uyghur culture, Old Town, exotic food, cattles and easygoing people. We spent around 5 days in Kashgar (includes Karakul Lake) and still couldnt get enough of it :) Az even wanted to change our train ticket last minute and skip Kuqa and Turpan so that we could stay longer in Kashgar, only they didnt allow us as the tickets were booked online by Derek and any changing isn’t possible done in train counter.

3) Karakul

It’s the most distant point we stretched beyond Kashgar (given that we didnt have time to proceed to Tashkurgan finally). Being here is like in a quiet, hidden paradise, watching views you had never imagined to see, all for yourselves without a sight of people. We spent one day and one night in here after 5 hours journey from Kashgar, and we would have wanted to stay for another night if our camera hadnt run out of battery (and if the night wasn’t THAT cold!)

4) Kuqa

We wanted to visit Kuqa as to divide 24-hour journey between Kashgar to Urumqi/Turpan by half, as I believe in traveling during night and spending the day time for sightseeing, whatever place it is. Thefore Kuqa was our chosen transit place to do a day sightseeing before continuing night train to Turpan. But tragedy came unexpectedly, the sleepy town was in heavy dust thanks to sudden sand storm from nearby desert. Because of bad weather, we missed the chance to go sightseeing (only stayed in train station and made a short city bus trip between station and town) and even worse, our train to Turpan was cancelled and we were stranded for another day in this town.

Places not visited

5) Tashkurgan

It’s a town 2 hours beyond Karakul Lake via Karakoram Highway. I read there’s nothing much of intrest about this town except that you can see Tajik ethnic people. The bus between Kashgar and Tashkurgan run only once daily which is the only means for you to have a ride and get down to Karakul Lake in the middle of the road. Were worried if the inbound journey to Kashgar bus can be full, so we thought of hitch hike(?) the bus going to Tashkurgan instead (when possibly some travelers get down at Karakul, and we get to have their seat).  It turned out that 1) We went to Karakul Lake 1 day later than itinerary 2) We could finally get the inbound bus with seat, thankfully. It’s just a matter of going with the flow.

6) Khunjerab Pass

Wanted to go here but not included in initerary because too far. It’s 4 hours beyond Tashkurgan and is actually the Pass entering Pakistan. I read that the mountain views are really majestic when reaching this place. If only we had more days…

7) Turpan

I still can’t belive we had to skip Turpan last-minute because of wasting a day in Kuqa after the train cancellation (afraid not having days left in Urumqi). I dont know what to expect, but Turpan is said to be a must-visit, then again its attractions are mostly ruins of old city, which we dont have much interest in afterall.

8) Kanas

I so wish we could include it in our itinerary, but when you’re planning to go southern-most to Kashgar, Tashkurgan whatsoever, it’s almost impossible to make another trip to the Nothern-most point of Xinjiang. Kanas has very beautiful pine tree lakes and villages bordering Kazakhstan and Russia, yet we have to be realistic that it could be too cold to visit there in April, and the pretty pictures you see on internet are taken in Autumn! Let’s hope there will be a next time to Xinjiang.

9) Ili

Didnt really think of visiting despite having pretty grassland, mountains and lakes. You can never visit ALL places in Xinjiang in a time (unless you’re in one month trip or longer). This place is located far northwest of Xinjiang, with high possible of being an untouched beuty.