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Week Six Chapter: 07 June ~ 13 June: China

National Flag of Turkmenistan

"The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them." - Amelia E. Barr (1831 -1919)

Starting location for this week: Jinghe, China
Ending location for this week: Dunhuang, China
Planned mileage for this week: 899 miles (1,438 kilometers)

Nî hâo,

Nín hâo,

Nîmen hâo,

Néih hóu,


Lay ho,

Ho yat,

Ngh on,

Jou san,

Non ho,

Eh ho meh,

Zao sin,


U du tah ma,

U du tah ma de,s

Nang lakéung é-éu? ,

Lakéung é-éu? ,

Nyob zoo,

Nyob zoo tsis zoo,

Zoo hwv lauv,

U du tah ma,


Cheh sha la,

Assalamu äläykum,

Salamatsyz ba,

Khayrly kün,

Cheh sha la,

Cheh sha-ah la,





Kam sangbo dugay,



Yahsh mô,

(In no particular order, ALL of the above are forms of "Hello" in different parts of China!)

With over 1.3 billion people spread across its 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 4 municipalities, there are many ways to greet a fellow traveler in China! For all of its vaunted population, the birth rate there is 13.14 births per 1,000 population, compared to 14.14 per 1,000 for the United States - ours is higher! Although she has four times our population, China consumes "only" 5 million barrels of oil a day, compared to our 20 million. On a per person basis, we drink from the rapidly diminishing pool of dead dinosaurs at 16 times the rate compared to those living in the Middle Kingdom today.

At somewhere between 30 and 55 miles to the gallon (depending on the bike), our riders will spend the next three weeks in this vast country. They'll descend from the high mountain passes of the Tien Shan Range, down into the Turfan Depression, which at 505 feet (or 154 meters) is the second lowest point in the world after the Dead Sea (which is 1,321 feet or 400 meters below sea level; Death Valley is 282 feet or 86 meters deep).

In Urumqi, the group will be at the most inland city in the world (furthest from any ocean), and the surrounding area is home to over 55 different ethnic nationalities and cultures. Although the Turfan Depression is inhospitably hot, it is also famous for its grapes and melons, due to an extensive system of deep well and irrigation channels called the "Karez", which were built over 2,000 years ago, and are still in use today.

Most importantly, the riders entered China and will travel for the remainder of the tour on Highway 312 - even on today's maps, this is still called the Silk Road. Although they'll be staying at the Torch Hotel (in Urumqi, named in honor of the World Olympics that China will be hosting in 2008), more appropriate lodgings await them in Dun Huang, when they'll check in to the Silk Road Hotel.

Welcome to Week Six!

Mike, Your Webmeister

* * * * * * * * * *

Unless otherwise noted, all photographic images on this page were taken by Helge Pedersen

The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about China in this week's leg of the Silk Road, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

06 JUN 2005 - Korgas Pass, China

[Editor's Note: When the going gets tough, the tough whip out their multi-band cellular phones and start SMS text-messaging! As the nearest wired internet connection was a LONG ways away, Judy Robinson, gave this series of "mini-reports" from the chase vehicle as the group cleared the Russian border post at Zharkent, and the Chinese one at Korgas, then descended towards Jinghe, PRC. Note the time stamps on the messages.]

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 2:42 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


It took about 5 hours thru Chinese border (I think!)

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 3:05 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


... was hot at Border, but just climbed high pass (after working way thru LARGE herds sheep, goats, horses, even some camels. Shepherd ...

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 3:23 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


... families moue their livestock to 'high pastures' in summer for grazing. (Families live in yurts.) COLD & windy & beginning to rain.

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 3:24 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


Headed down dusty road to a 'mini' Grand Canyon, led by our 2 new local Biker friends. Know it's late there.

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 5:19 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


Only problem at Border ... wouldn't let David Ow thru Passport Control...refused to believe he's American!...

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Monday, June 06, 2005 8:54 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: RE:From Mike

...sent from the van, i.e., 'Van News' !....

-- Judy

07 JUN 2005 - Urumqi, China

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 7:07 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: 2nd day in China


We all entered China 2 days ago except Dean French who had to go home because some business deal in Chicago was going wrong and needed his attention. He left his bike with some biker friends in Almaty and they are helping to have it shipped back. That is how life is sometimes, business over pleasure.

The border crossing into China was pleasant enough but we got caught in the time squeeze. Kazakhstan Border opens up at 9 am only ( it's 2 hours “later” in China, so just 2 miles away it's already 11 am.) It took us some time to fill out all the paper work and when we got to China they helped us a lot but . . .

. . . we ran into their lunch time which started at 2 pm China Time and lasted until 4 pm. China X-rayed all our bikes at 4 pm and then we could go. So we started riding the 5 hours it takes to get to Jinghe at about 4.30 PM. The ride was over a mountain pass at about 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) and some road construction work, too. A nice area, rugged and yes we saw camels, horses and real yurts. No tourist thing but the real life people live everyday around here. We arrived in Jinghe by about 8 PM, ahead of schedule.

Today we rode to Urumqi, 450 KM (279 miles) thru the desert. I rode and thought about how difficult it must have been for the Caravans to do this on foot. These men were extraordinary to do this in the heat and the dust. No water for miles and the sun beating down on you relentlessly.

China is building a new highway from Way Out West to Way Out East - the longest highway in China. That is the highway we were on today. Yes, we had some constructions to fight but all went well. A few bumps in the roads and lots of trucks to get around but like I said, all went well.

We had the help of Mr. Yu (Sim) who had a fake ID to use the partially finished highway. It worked, he showed the stamp (red color) and everybody believed him and we rode along portions of the unfinished, finished highway. We all smiled a bit to ourselves when we arrived today in Urumqi. We bluffed our way thru. [Editor's Note: Generally in China, no motorcycles are allowed to use the national highway system unless it is the only way to cross a river or train track.]

The heat is now getting intense. 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) in the shade! (what shade ?)


P. S. - here is a repair report:

(1). I have a bubble on my front tire on the sidewall, I hope the tire will last and the bubble will not break because that would leave me without a front tire.

(2). Roger's shock is eating bolts. He breaks the bolt that holds the shock and is now on # 3.

(3). David Ow's shock came with Mike to Almaty and he is riding now on his replacement shock. The original Ohlin's broke a while ago and he was pogo sticking over HUGE potholes.

(4). Laura had some loose bolts and nuts but caught them in time before they got serious.

(5). Rick thought he had a dead battery and needed to push his bike to the Hotel in Almaty but it was because he had a loose connection only.

That is it. Not bad for all the miles and rough roads we put the bikes thru. BMW makes good bikes.


07 JUN 2005 - Urumqi, China

From: David Ow

Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 7:56 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Greetings from Urumqi, China

Greetings Family & Friends,

Well here I am at an Internet club in Urumqi, China . . . .

It has about 100 computers and it is full of locals playing games and watching movies. The trip across the boarder took some time. Kazakhstan took a couple of hours starting at 8:30 am to process out and China took a couple also but they took a 3 hour lunch break from 1 to 4. At 4 we put all of the motorcycles in a large building to get X-rayed for drugs and weapons. While being processed into China one of our members was given an intensive search and interview. A young male customs officer asked questions repeatedly and did not understand the answers. Asked 5 times what is your surname, what is your Chinese name, why can't you speak Chinese? Guess who it was!

All my answers made him more suspicious. I was ordered to give him my wallet. I took the money out and he found a small piece of paper with a scribbled note that was from Helge for $25 given to him for a payment. He did not understand this and I think he thought it was a secret spy code. Well I had to bring my luggage inside for inspection. He also asked me if I was Jewish. When they found nothing I was allowed into China. The custom inspector’s last words to me - you should learn to speak Chinese. Yes, I said, but I am too old now to learn.

The motorcycle is running well thanks to the new rear shock. The broken shock was an Ohlins with 27,000 miles on it. It had survived the 2000 GlobeRiders World Tour and 2003 GlobeRiders Africa Adventure, a Northern Italy tour and Copper Canyon, Mexico and Baja. I should have had it rebuilt a couple of times. Helge has his rebuilt after each tour.

We went over a 6,500+ feet pass and it was beautiful. Hairpin turns, snow-capped peaks and some dirt sections. On the other side was a deep blue lake. Got a little rain on the way down to the plains. The finished roads have been great. Fast and smooth with little traffic. It's easy to cruise at 75 MPH which is the speed limit. Some sections are under construction and we must detour thru rough asphalt, gravel and dirt.

I am doing well. The effects of my crash have worn off and I feel fine. The food has been delicious. Getting rice and vegetables and fruit. Yummy.

Going sightseeing tomorrow and to a bazaar. Well, back to the hotel (4 stars) to do wash, or should I spoil myself and have the hotel do it?

Such decisions . . . .

Motorcycling On,


07 JUN 2005 - Urumqi, China

[Editor's Note - again, dial-up internet connections are rare; a brief burst of cell phone SMS messages, but from Bud Robinson this time.]

From: Bud Robinson

Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 6:47 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


1/3 Got to ride expressways coming in to NW China...both under construction (some same as off road) and open great ones this trip!

2/3 Some provinces allow motorcycles on expressways this trip! Hit warm weather after final passes...and the famous raisins here in...

3/3 ... Jingyang (sp?) Region...wonderful ones! Regards, Bud

From: Bud Robinson

Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 7:06 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal


1/3 China is now on Beijing time everywhere although should be 3 time zones. BUT, here in extreme NW China, people defeat that by...

2/3 ... starting day at 10am and working until 8 pm..with 2 hrs for lunch at 2pm. This roughly puts them on what there correct time zone would ...

3/3 ... call for versus normal day times.

[All photographs in this story courtesy of Emily McGay.]

09 JUN 2005 - Los Alamos

From Emily McGay

Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2005 11:20 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Home again in Los Alamos, NM

Hello family and friends,

I’m home safe and sound, and the richer for having had the adventure through Central Asia! This was the most exciting and phenomenal trip I have ever taken, let alone on the back of a motorcycle! I know I grew and have changed as a person, and that’s a great feeling.

I left Roger and Beez, and the whole group of really wonderful people in Almaty very early Sunday morning (June 5th), and arrived in Los Alamos Sunday evening (June 5th), a 26 hour trip where I actually felt the loss of time. But I’m catching up and am back at work—went to Lake Charles on Tuesday and came home late last night.

Attached are some pictures of our ride through Kyrgyzstan, a beautiful country, teeming with life, animals everywhere (and oodles of baby animals, too—the cutest of which was a solid black baby donkey that I did not get a picture of because we went by so fast!) where for much of the ride we had snow-capped peaks to our right and our left. It was awesome to ride along and know that China was on the other side of that mountain to the right.

While in Lake Issyk-Kul, we stayed at a very “Soviet” hotel that was a retreat for the former Communist Party top brass, and sports training center. There we encountered a massage therapist who was really good and charged only $10.00 an hour!! She was wonderful. When I coughed a little during the session, she ordered me to have an “inhalations” session in the clinic downstairs the next morning and she wrote the prescription for 3% salt and 3% something else that I could not read. I showed up to a laboratory like setting (very strange) and had my five-minute session of breathing in deeply and exhaling through my nose. There was no charge. I have not coughed since!

The photos attached are of

- What Roger looks like when he arrives to check in at the hotel—when his riding suit gets really grubby he just gets into the shower fully suited and washes it all off!

- The ride up to Senenov Gorge to see a demonstration of the traditional horse games (truly amazing!); we had lunch of freshly slaughtered lamb and vegetables in the family yurt (see photo) on the hillside.

- The traditional mode of transportation for most people in Kyrgyzstan.

Hopefully Roger will be able to send an update from China. I have talked to him since they crossed the border into China and everyone is doing well.

Hope you are all doing well, too.



09 JUN 2005 - Turfan, China

From: John LaChapelle

Sent: Friday, June 10, 2005 4:56 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: update

Four countries later and I'm finally getting off another email, pathetic, I know.

First I'd like to say Mike Paull has been a total stud with this website, getting all of these missives from us, and I'm sure they all coming in willy nilly. He has done a tremendous job making us look good. I hoist a cold one in yer honor, Mike!

So, a quick recap...

Turkmenistan... herding Camels with Rick on our motorcycles? Out of this world!

Uzbekistan... police escorts from border to border? Truly bizarre.

Kyrgyzstan... watching horse men play football with a goat carcass near Lake Issyk Kul? Perhaps one of the most beautiful and incredible places I have ever seen.

Kazakhstan... not really much to say here except Hotel Zharkent in Zharkent rules! Those that were there know.

China... holy shisse, I'm riding a motorcycle in China. Crazy.

So here I sit in Turfan from the sixth floor of my hotel looking out on the madness…beer in hand of course. Lot’s of beer on this trip? No tequila other than what Roger has managed to have air dropped to me, so far two bottles of Don Julio and one bottle of Patron. Huge thanks to Emily and Beez! And Roger, you are a true gentlemen.

It's next to impossible my trying to explain what this experience has been like, any attempt to translate the emotions would be senseless. I can sum it up best through a "sense" however...smell.

Yes, the sense of smell. Traveling by motorcycle one is constantly aware of the numerous smells - manure, pollution, cut grass, roadkill, burning trash, flowers, rain - you see, when you travel by motorcycle you are in such a direction connection with the world around you, blasting through these clouds of scent. One doesn't get that when traveling by auto or plane. This gives you a real sense of being somewhere. Gradually smelling my way half way round the world, I guess. It may sound silly but you really become one with your bike and 6 inches beneath your feet the world is singing by.

I just can't believe it sometimes.

When you have the Rolling Stones cranking in your helmet and yer flying along a beautiful sweeping curve, Tian Shen mountains in the background, and a couple of yer pals on bikes in front of you, well… you can honestly say, “today does NOT suck.”

To all my friends and family, I wish you were here.



Thursday, June 9, 2005

King Kahn John
[Photograph by Helge Pedersen, caption by your webmeister.]

This is out of the lonely planet guide . . . hilarious!

Also hilarious . . . .

Me herding camels in Mary Turkmenistan, (picture by Rick Wetzel, aka "Noodles").

"Noodles" herding camels, (photo by moi).

Performers at horse games.

Lake Issyk Kul at sunrise, Tian Shan mountains in the background.

[Unless otherwise noted, all photographs in this story courtesy of John LaChapelle.]

11 JUN 2005 - Turfan, China

From: John LaChapelle

Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 4:10 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Re: update

Here's a quick little on-the-fly post on China.

Woke this morning to check the sunrise from the rooftop of our hotel. Six AM and the air was cool, oh sweet Jesus, was it cool. See, the hottest recorded temperature...ever, is where we be at, well, actually out in the Flaming Mountains about 30 clicks from here. 82 CELSIUS!! That's roughly 'bout 179 to you and me. I ain't kidding, it's hot here. Hot like you read about. Adds to the beauty and strangeness of the place though.

Anywho, back on the rooftop... I'm looking down on the homes - adobe like structures - surrounding our hotel and see that everyone is sleeping on their rooftops! The majority of whom have literally set up their bedrooms on the roof - bed, side table, water etc. Others simply have bedrolls. Makes sense right, coolest place to sleep. Problem is it doesn't cool off until about 1:00 AM and it's pretty blazin' by 7:00 AM. Rather short night by my standards, and if you just happen to feel like sleeping in to catch an extra hour of shut eye, forget about it, the sun won't let ya. Live and die by the heat.

So there I am watching all these folk slowly crawling out of their beds, felt a bit voyeuristic as I was literally "looking into" their bedrooms as they woke, in fact one woman had sat up and lifted her shirt, doing a bit of the ol' readjustment I guess, and that's when she noticed there was a little bald white head staring down on her from above. If she'd had a phone I bet she'd a called the po-leece.

The people are just incredible, living in a place with such extreme heat (and it gets to - 20 Celsius (-4 F) in the winter as well!!) I've never seen people smile and laugh more, and big giant happy smiles too. The kind that scrunch up yer eyes. The women are beautiful, but the beer ain't so cold.

Oh well, can't have everything.



Saturday, June 11, 2005

11 JUN 2005 - Gobi Desert, China

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:13 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: (SMS Text Message)

Spectacular dunes of Gobi (black sand) to our right (South)..fertile green of irrigated land to left...abundant vineyards...hills

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:23 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: (SMS Text Message)

..square mud brick latticed 'drying houses' for grapes (raisins)..Pass Moslem funeral...Many men in white hats carrying body. (N

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:49 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: (SMS Text Message)

..o women)..Sterling got great pictures of Laura, Chris, Rick, David Ow coming down Burning Mountain (in Gobi)...Thanks for fanta


12 JUN 2005 - Hami, China

From: Laura Seaver

Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 2:59 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: The hottest city in China

The hottest city in China (and some truths about travel)….

Each country we have traveled through has had its own distinct personality. Sometimes, this is due to the government -- Turkmenistan and the strange "cult of the leader" or Uzbekistan and how the restrictions on motorcycle travel affected my interaction with and reaction to people I met. Sometimes, it seems due to the geography -- Kazakhstan's oceans of grass leading to their history as nomads or Kyrgyzstan's dramatic mountains demanding such self-reliance. However, there have been consistent themes all the way across.

With one exception, all these nations are predominantly Muslim (Georgia is predominantly Christian). Most of the languages are related somewhat; words I learned in Istanbul come in handy every now and then even now. We are traveling the Silk Road, which has been spreading and mixing these cultures for thousands of years.

China, so far, is no exception. We are currently in Xingjian Autonomous Region, a region populated primarily by Uygurs, a Moslem people whose language is also Turkic. Uygur food looks familiar; some of the words are also the same. However, this is also China, so there are also large populations of Han Chinese, speaking Mandarin and eating "Chinese food." It's an odd mix, to say the least! As we continue to travel east, I expect the Han influence to dominate. Certainly, by the time I fly home from Shanghai, I expect mutton shashlyk (shish kebap) and nan (flat bread cooked in a tandoor -- yes, just like India andPakistan) -- to be a distant memory.

The scenery this far west has been quite dramatic. Soon after crossing the border, we went up and over Khorgas Pass, to be met at the top by cold, windy, rainy weather by a large lake. Several of us used the photo stop to bundle up with another layer. I'm glad I didn't, as the temperature rose steadily as we dropped out of the sky.

A few days later, we stayed three nights in Turfan (or Turpan), known as the hottest city in China. (Another distinction that belongs to either Turfan or Urumqi, our previous stop, is the city most remote from any ocean.) Turfan was hot!!! I can't believe that its high tourism season is July and August. I tried to avoid knowing the real temperature, but I overheard some of my fellow GlobeRiders saying things like "110 in the shade" or "155 under my bike cover." Our sight-seeing was done in the morning, giving us the afternoons free to hide in air conditioning. A weld had broken on my luggage rack, so I did go to a welding shop one afternoon with some others (Thanks Helge, John, and JimH!). A quick and easy repair, but very hot work!

I have also learned that in Chinese, "Gobi" means desert with rocks, as opposed to the sand dunes found in places like the Taklimakan Desert. We saw a lot of Gobi, today. The word that keeps coming to mind, over and over and over, is Inhospitable!

All of China runs off of Beijing time, but we are so far west that the local time should be two hours different. This leads to some interesting statements such as "at noon-time, around 2 o'clock." One nice thing for us is that by being on Beijing time, we are able to leave at 7 in the morning, which is just a bit after sunrise. This makes the riding much cooler!

After three very hot days in Turfan, there were some grim faces at breakfast this morning, anticipating a grueling ride through 400 km of 100+ degree heat. I think we were all delighted with the day. The heat dropped considerable as we gained altitude. The part of the day we spent over 5,000 feet elevation was downright pleasant. It's hot here in Hami, but now we know it's not the Hottest City in China.

And now, for some truths about travel. I've been getting some questions and comments in emails, and I know from conversations I have with people after trips like these, that my stories from the road present only one side of my travel. Several of us were discussing this the other day, so I figure it's time to address it just a bit. We all know how incredibly fortunate we are to be having experiences such as we are. This makes us reluctant to complain, even within the group.

Who are we to get sympathy? This trip is amazing and exciting and absolutely fabulous. However, this doesn't mean that it is always that way. There have been times that I am hungry, or tired, or hot, or worse, all three, and really cranky. The group is amazing, but we are all used to being very independent, so some times it just rankles to have to adjust what I want to do to what the group plan is.

It's exciting to meet new people, but we have the same sign language conversation over and over again. I appreciate that I am unusual as the sole woman rider in this group, but how many photos do I have to pose for at gas stations? You don't hear much of this because when I'm bummed out, I'm not inspired to send emails, and I know it will pass, usually with food or a good night's sleep. But for the record, yes, I do miss my own bed, controlling my own life, my favorite local hangouts, my friends and family, and most of all, my sweetie. But I'm glad I'm not missing this amazing experience!!!

From Hami, Xingjian, China


12 JUN 2005 - Hami, China

From: Helge Pedersen [on behalf of Ann Roberg]

Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 6:38 AM

To: Mike M. Paull

Subject: Letter and pictures from the Robergs

Mike and All:

As we crossed the Gobi desert today with all the heat and wind, we had a chance to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. For all the heat we have endured over the last 72 hours, today’s hotel seems like a true oasis in the desert. With outside temperatures in the 100 plus degree range, there is air conditioning in this hotel that really works!

As we spend most of our time riding, the roads are the most important part of our day. Some of the roads that we have traveled could barely be called roads. Some were more pothole than road with an occasional open manhole to increase our awareness. We have always had to be on the alert for objects in the road such as rocks, sticks, bricks, animals and even people. Just about everyone has had some sort of minor damage to their motorcycle. Drivers in other areas were so bad that we felt that 90% of the locals should not have driver’s licenses. Many other roads were beautiful country roads traveling through flat lands and mountains similar to the United States. We are now experiencing a few of the new freeways that China is developing from east to west.

Eating is another important part of our day. We have experienced meals containing lots of fruits and vegetables that we don’t see in our local markets. Lunch today consisted of six different varieties of raisins and nuts, most of which would not be found at home. All this new food is great and fun to try, but sometimes not prepared to the standards we are used to. Most of us have experienced some type of food-born illness, probably more from how the food is cared for than from the type of food.

Harassment and attempted intimidation from the authorities in earlier countries has subsided and today we are enjoying more relaxed travel in China. All riders were issued their own license plate and driver’s license.

Everywhere the roads take us there are people to meet who are friendly and glad to see us. We will have cars pull up next to us on the roads just to wave hello. We have met local dignitaries, hard working shop keepers, workers from the fields and animal herders, as well as girls of the night. We have been entertained by professional, locally-born musical artists, designers and models, dancers and musicians.

We have stayed in caves, restored camel hotels, old Russian military hotels, sanatoriums, and everything from 1 to 5 star hotels.

Jeff had a fun birthday celebration with the group and a beautiful cake provided by the local guide. We often have joyous celebrations after difficult border crossings and after hard days, but this was quite a surprise for Jeff. We also want to extend birthday wishes to our daughter Michele who turns 24 on the 14th of June. Michele is also an avid BMW motorcycle enthusiast. To Chuck, our other family BMW motorcycle enthusiast, we hope you are saving you money for our next family motorcycle adventure coming up in September.

We feel fortunate to be the only couple to make the entire trip on the motorcycle. We have tried to pick up a specific item that represents each country or area that we have been to. So far our prize is a hand made silk carpet depicting the silk road of centuries ago. Someone has hand tied about 700 knots per square centimeter to make this rug. It is getting harder to find quality carpets at reasonable prices because there are hour and wage rules creeping into these developing countries (which is good for the workers!).

With all these positive experiences, and despite the hardships and challenges, the group is still one big family. We have had cultural and riding experiences that we feel fortunate to have had and look forward to sharing them further with all of our friends back home.

Ann Roberg

[All images courtesy of Ann Roberg.]

12 JUN 2005 - Hami, China

From: Sterling Noren

Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 6:14 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: journal update


It’s been three years since I’ve been to China and the western approach is definitely different than the Eastern one that I experienced three years ago on the World Tour. After traveling the Silk Road for more than a month, China has been something that we eased into, relatively speaking. The immediate culture shock of being thrown off a plane into the streets of Shanghai three years ago has been replaced by a more cool, laid back approach this time around. After all, we are all experienced Silk Road travelers now that have been through seven countries already...what’s one more?

That’s not to say that China isn’t different, because it certainly is. It’s an animal that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I continue to be amazed at the scale of things here on a systems level - how a society so big functions, how they organize their daily routines and build their cities...how so many people can function in an environment that seems completely chaotic too me.

Today I was thinking...if I had to choose a few words to describe the China that I have experienced what would they be? Immediately the word "kinetic" comes to mind. There is something about the movement of people and vehicles that seems kinetic to me. It’s a strange dance of chaos and control to navigate the roads of the Middle Kingdom. On a less pleasant note I have to admit that the other words that came to mind today were "dirty" and "smelly". I don’t want to sound pretentious but this place really needs a bath. Especially in this heat. There were some things I smelled today that should never enter the nostril.

That aside, I will cover some of the highlights from our first week in China….

We just left the city of Turfan which is known to be one of the hottest places on the planet. In fact, our own Frank B measured the air temperature under his bike cover at 2pm and it was an astounding 155 degrees F! The word "hot" does not begin to describe the heat here. People really get into growing melons and grapes. In particular, grape arbors are used to cover everything from backyard patios to entire streets, providing a degree of shade and comfort from the heat. We had a great lunch yesterday with a local family underneath one of these arbors.

The Uygur people who live here basically shut down for the afternoon (like a siesta) and come back out again in the evening. Many businesses are open until 10pm or later. Helge and I spent one night walking in the city after dark and there were many families enjoying the evening as well. It was really very pleasant and relatively cool after a long hot day.

In the morning, I went up on the hotel roof and looked down to see dozens of families sleeping on the rooftops below. They had beds and blankets, bedrolls and pillows...all spread out below. As the sun came up I filmed and watched them wake up and begin their days. It was one of the most intimate parts of the trip for me but I also felt like it would be too easy for me to romanticize their experience when the reality is that they didn’t have air-conditioned hotel rooms like we did and sleeping outside was probably a purely practical matter for them.

Today we rode out of the sub sea-level depression (and the heat) and made our way to the town of Hami. We only have a day here but we have already managed to pack in several days’ worth of fun into our afternoon. The short story is that we had a great lunch followed by a visit to a small amusement park where we rode bumper cars and attracted a following of local children. We won some stuffed animals for them and bought them ice creams and then headed to a local street bazaar where I was finally able to buy a Chinese meat cleaver; something utilitarian that I decided to purchase while I was here and it only cost 20 Yuan which is $2.50. It has a brass handle as well which seems pretty high quality so it seemed like good deal.

Life rocks in China and we are all pretty much still having the time of our lives. Tonight we hatched a plan to bury a time capsule if you will - a container with a signed t-shirt and a secret gift for the next Silk Road Adventure team to come this way. Were going to put it into the ground and take a GPS reading of its location.

Take care wherever you are and drop me an email sometime!


12 JUN 2005 - Hami, China

From: Hans Muellers

Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 6:53 AM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: Hami, Gobi Desert


We made it to the town of Hami, known for their melons throughout China. Not a small town for the US but a small town for China. This was the first major oasis for the North Route of the silk caravans.

I can not imagine walking with camels thru the Gobi. Rocks the size of golf balls and bigger, and no vegetation at all. Nothing but rocks and dirty sand.

The heat today, in June, was 104 F in the SHADE. There is not shade in the desert. We drank water from bottles that we had in the van. There is no water in the desert. Miles upon miles of rocks, of sand. The sun beats on you mercilessly. We rode 240 miles in just about 5 hours on a nice road. There were no roads back then and the top miles per day then where about 40 miles. That would mean 6 days of heat and sand and sweat. All that so some lady in Rome could look good. I cannot imagine the burden those folks way back took upon themselves to carry silk all the way to Istanbul.

Totally amazing.

We are just short of Xian, another 2 weeks but it took those folks back then 2 years to walk the distance we rode in the last 2 months.

This trip is mind-boggling. So many new impressions that it is almost incomprehensible. I would recommend this trip to everyone. I am just sorry I did not read more before taking the trip. I was unprepared for all the cultural impressions and, like I said, it has blown me away.

Still 2 weeks to go. All is well, the heat is not for me and somehow I am a cold weather person, but I can take it for 2 more weeks. The folks 2,000 years ago could take it for 2 years.

I will survive.


12 JUN 2005 - Gobi Desert, China

From: Judy Robinson

Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2005 5:46 PM

To: Silk Road Live!Journal

Subject: (SMS Text Message)

..flat desert today. Heavy winds, blowing sand. Bikers having a challenge...even van...JR


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