Monday 31st May
The weather has been sweltering, and so we have been starting at dawn to try and avoid the worst of the heat. We are following the main 'Silk Route' transport arteries lying to the north of the Tian Shan, but have managed to ride off-road for some of the time - and the stunning white peaks of the mountains have come back into view.
We have had a last minute change of route. I had hoped to ride across the Tian Shan from Kuytun, so we could then ride along wilder and more unspoilt valleys to the south, but the police in Manas advised Peng that it was very doubtful that we would be allowed to take that route as the high passes were still under snow. Even the Kazakh herdsmen would not be starting to move their animals up to the high summer pastures for a couple of weeks. So we have decided to continue along the main routeway to the north of the Tian Shan, which should get us to the border at Korgas in about two weeks, and save a week's riding.
Another emotional farewell as Peng has now left to return to his elderly father in Beijing - and I suspect I will not see him again before I leave China. Two months on the road and the lack of a proper rest in Urumqi is beginning to tell on me, and I am feeling quite drained of energy at the moment. However the capable Valerie has taken over most of the work with the horses which has enabled us to crack on regardless.