Off to Turpan (or Turfan or Tulufan) from Urumqi, just left the hostel the bike handlebar leaves me. The screw which is inside the pipe is gone for good. We get to a mechanic near the hostel, there is a street where all the bike shops are. This custom is practiced a little 'everywhere, at least since Georgia: you need glasses?, there is a shopping zone of glasses, you need a guitar? there is a zone of musical instrument shops. Very convenient and practical.
But mostly here they sell brand new road and mountain bikes (mostly if not only Giant) and do not know nothing about mechanichs. A tiny deaf gentleman in cycling clothes takes us to an old man who does repairs to cheap city bikes and helps explain the problem. With mute gestures we understand very well. So the old repair man starts to struggle and finds the right screw.
Turpan we're coming! The way out the city of Urumqi is long and uphill. Maybe it seems longer than it is because it is in the city, very busy with traffic. After the city began the stony desert, desolation. This is the western stretch of Gobi desert where is meets the Taklamakan, names that summons epic images, but indeed here's just a ugly rock expanse. When reality kills your dreams.
We cross a more older and inhabited village, it seems that everyone is a car mechanic here, even here mud houses. There's a nice bazaar with many sort of dried fruits and baked poultry. Here also everybody should get through a metal detector and open the bag to get in. Anti-terrorist measures everywhere in Xin Jang. We go in search of a pond that should be nearby, we find it, the water is not much and still is at the center of the village. Not a good place to camp. We continue, even here rows of trees are planted on the roadside.
We follow the old road, next to the new, crowded with abandoned service station and deserted villages. The construction of the new road had killed the weak economy of this poor roadside towns.
We pass the Chaiwobao lake and reach the so called Salt Lake, where we decide to camp. The landscape is alien, to reach the lake you need to walk a long stretch of mossy bulges of the soil, they move as you step on, there's water down there; and once you reach the lake you find that it is an optical illusion. In fact the water is not there, but further away, here there is only what was the bottom of the lake and now is a quicksand. We know this because Daniele has put a foot and a second later sunk up to his knees!
In the distance, to our left, there are the shepherds and to our right a small brick cottage where he lives a man with his dog, weird birds dot the lake in the distance.
We sleep well, weird dreams. In the morning a host of midges that wasn't here last night attacks us. It's really an alien place.
After a few kilometers, we reach another country, most large and clean and we stop at the bazaar. Even here to enter the bazaar you go through the usual metal detector, although the gals who are in control do not seem very convinced. At the market there is so much stuff, we buy dried figs that are perfect when you go cycling.
We arrive in the evening, the town is really nice, a green paradise in the middle of this desert of stones, full of vineyards and beautiful clay houses with large low outdoors tables where people are sitting to eat, sleep or chat. It seems to have been teleported.
Today we did 120km, our new record.
Back in town we see a sign from the ominous name: "Kerez paradise", it seems nothing more than a tourists trap (watch out, in China there are many many many). There is a swimming pool with water from the kerez and a sort of garden. We take a bath in fresh stream of the same water that runs right in the parking of this pickpocket plant.
The desert does not end here of course, and we are a bit tired of steppes, we go to the bus station and get a ticket. Tomorrow morning we will be in Dunhuang, always in the desert, again an oasis. Oasis hopping in Xinjang.