To whom I owe a lot.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012 48 °C
Turpan, August 15th 2012
I walked back to my hotel. Major mission: find a driver and car. Minor mission: keep away these 'Arabic dumplings'.
The front desk staffs seemed busy and the one who could speak English wasn't present. I expected the luck in Jiayuguan to re-happen, but there seemed none. Instead, an Uyghur tour guide approached me speaking Japanese. Ah, I'm on vacation. Don't you ever remind me of Japanese.
I walked the streets with a feeling of fire sticking on my back thighs. I looked at my thermometer. 480 Celcius! I'm not yet in Turpan Pendi -- the lowest ground on earth where they said you can bake a cake -- and it's already heating like this. How hot would it be in Turpan Pendi? 50 degrees? 52? I imagined my thermometer bursting out because the max number written is only 500 C.
Previously I had contacted John's Cafe which I've read about here and there. However, until the night when I was leaving for Turpan, John didn't give any assurance of whether a group tour would be conducted on this day. Let alone how much the rate would be, he didn't want to mention. He just told me over and over to come to his office in Turpan and his staffs will find the best for me. Besides John's Cafe, I've also contacted Old Road Tours. However, their rate was far exceeding my budget. Therefore I decided try my luck with John's Cafe. Through the assistance of Google Map, I searched the city.
The heat of Turpan that day was killing me. When according to Google Map I should be only meters away from John's Cafe which was inside Turpan Hotel, I couldn't find the hotel. My eyes bumped into a long alley shaded by grape trees, instead. Is this that Grape Valley mentioned about? But what attracted me more was the shade. I think I know now how precious it had been when God grew a tree to shade over Jonah. Maybe Nineveh was in Turpan. Aha.
Once the heat on my back thighs were wiped off by the shady vineyard, I could feel the fascination of the grapes hanging over me. I laughed at myself remembering the time I visited the vineyard in Khao Yai Valley, Thailand. There, every piece of grape was taken care like jewel. Here, the grapes just hung down in a public place and so many. Some were even rotten. Obviously there were just too many. In Khao Yai I thought "wow!" whereas it was actually nothing.
I gave up looking for John's cafe. I decided to try calling Cory's number whom I got from Alex from China Expedition Tours. So here's how it started. I was searching the internet for local tours that fitted my itinerary. My browser hit China Expedition Tours. I sent an email request. Alex Guan replied. Unfortunately there weren't any local tour that met my requirement. But he gave me several phone numbers, including his. He told me to feel free to bother Cory when I come to Turpan. He would help me find a driver and car. Although I wasn't taking any of China Expedition Tours' services, Alex was very attentive giving me the information I needed about the places I wanted to visit.
It was here, under the vine shades when I made my first deal with Cory but had not yet known how much it would mean to the rest of my journey in China.
We agreed on 200 yuan for a 2 day trip to all the places you would see in my next posts. That 200 yuan included gasoline, driver's meal, and drop off at the railway station. The car was just a taxi actually. But the driver was a kind and safe driver. Cory said that I would get a car with air condition. Oh yeah, that would mean a lot in Turpan. However, when the red mountains sprang on my side, I rolled down the window and here's one of them. See that tiny bus in the middle? Imagine how vast the desert was.
We are running on a highway in the middle of Gobi's close neighbor.
Here's a better close up of the mountain dune than the one in the train. I felt thrilled seeing how the wind had left its traces of scratch on the mountain surface.
First destination: Gaochang Ancient City. See you there!