Leaving Urumqi, I had a desire to cross the cold Taklamakan Desert, meaning “go in and you’ll never come out”. The Silk Road splits into northern and southern routes around the desert, sprouting oasis towns along the way.
Thus began about 36 hours of hellacious bus travel: 6 hours to Korla, overnight 22 hours 500 km on the Cross-Desert Highway to Hotan, and then a final 10 to Kashgar.
I had hoped for a day bus across the desert, but there were only two night ones (possibly a day bus coming the other way). I took it anyway and can say its been crossed, whatever that does. The scenery was predictably flat, barren, and gray.
The road bounced the bus every second of the journey quite roughly and a tepid headache turned into migraine status. I thought Minerva was going to spring from my head fully armored by the last leg, but finally Kashgar appeared.
Kashgar has been a hive of commerce for over 2,000 years and is the western most tip of the Chinese Empire, as the large statue of Chairman Mao in city center reminds you.
Kashgar is the heartland of Uighur culture filled with white beards, kebabs, and peculiar hats. The highlight was the Sunday Market and Livestock Market held on the same day.
The Livestock Market boasts an animal to people ratio virtually equal. Sellers and buys come to barter over sheep, horses, donkeys, and camels.
The Sunday Market proved even more packed with stalls of silks, carpets, fruits, clothing, everyday items, and knives. The area is famed for its handmade knife production and I picked up the one in the middle: