Tuesday 4th May
As I am now riding on my own, but there is only room for one horse on the truck, I am leading Zorbee – luckily he is a very easy horse to lead. But at least I had perfect riding weather yesterday – breezy and cool. And the added bonus that the Karlik Tagh mountains suddenly emerged out of the haze to the northeast to provide a picturesque backdrop.
However a pleasant day’s ride along a quiet road across the desert had a slightly frustrating end as there appears to be some confusion over the location of Yaziquan, the ‘Duck Pond’ referred to by the Trio, and where I had aimed to stay. I am still not sure where Niyaz went, but he was not waiting at the place I had identified as Yaziquan (just to the north of the new town of Sandaoling), and the resident Chinese seemed unaware of its existence. Slight panic when I also then discovered Niyaz was not using the mobile number he had given me. I did not relish the thought of spending the night alone at the side of the road in the dark with two horses and no money. However, eventually I managed to contact him via his family, and he thankfully turned up after I had asked some locals where I was – Sandaoling according to them.
Today I followed the abandoned old road across scrub desert at the foot of the Karlik Tagh, stopping at a lovely small oasis at midday. The new unopened and empty G3 motorway then provided a fast track route to Liaodun, where there is an old watchtower by a pretty little oasis pond surrounded by sheep.
Niyaz had met up with friendly fellow Uighur Mehmehti, who let us park the truck and horses in front of his farmhouse, and invited us in for milk tea and the stale bread which seems to be de rigeur in these parts. He keeps sheep and also runs a herd of about fifteen horses on the foothills, so we had plenty in common.
And when Niyaz and I had a shopping trip to Sandaoling, we were treated to a meal at Mehmehti’s son’s restaurant. I am sleeping in the lorry tonight and have made myself a cosy nest in the straw, and Niyaz is sleeping in the farmhouse with Mehmehti – there is no separate accommodation for women!
Cheering news today that Peng’s father is better, and Peng hopes to rejoin us as soon as he can.