The Kuqa mountain road (day 2)



The Kuqa mountain road : DAY two !

On the road the next day, we saw yet another of China's minorities : Mongolian nomads who come down south towards the end of their hard winters (especially this last one which has seen hundreds of thousands of cattle freeze to death) to settle in the grasslands of China's Xinjang Province. There were wild horses (and not so wild ones with 2 legs chained to each other), plenty of goats and sheep, a few camels but also longhaired cows and yaks. 




As we left the grasslands of the small village called Bayan Buluk where we fueled up, we headed into the mountains again. The road here has just been opened a few days because of ice and areas blocked by rock falls. Troopie can be seen on the right picture under the mountains. At the end of this mountain pass is a tunnel where we got stuck for more than half an hour. Fearing the tracks in the ice in the tunnel were too deep, we tried to leave them and got stuck diagonally with the right front wheel in the left-side track. As can be seen from the red rear lights of the car, the back of the car (and our fragile tent) is dangerously close to the tunnel wall. We worked at trying to get back in to the right path (!) for more than half an hour during which no single other vehicle drove into the tunnel. As we exited the tunnel we had two surprises : First, this road worker had been sitting there doing nothing when we were only about 100 meters from the exit of the tunnel and he must have heard us shouting and the car howling trying to get out ! Second surprise : although we had shifted into 4WD and short gear 4WD, we noticed we had forgotten to shift the hub on our wheels into 4WD ! All this time we had been in 2WD... No wonder the front wheels didn't spin ! 



The stunning view at the exit of the tunnel.


Miss Xinjiang ? No, a roll of 200 firecrackers as we decide to "officially" inaugurate Troopie, outside the mountain tunnel. 


Stunning scenery on the way down : is this where painter De Saedeleer got his inspiration ?


Stunning scenery on the way down : The Dragon lake.


As we drove down into the valley, we went past what one of our guidebooks called "Dickensian coal mines" : individual pit shafts with "one-man doors to hell". Small holes into the ground out of which big slabs of coal are carried out. These are then burnt to make charcoal. Long live the environment !


Just 50 km before Kuqa at around 20.00, we succeeded in resisting the idea we had to reach the town that day. We stopped for dinner along the road and parked the car in the courtyard of the road restaurant for the night. The next morning we had a rare occurrence in this part of the world : rain ! We had not had rain since Xi'an, more than 3 weeks before.  


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