Another long bus ride, and the local Kashgar hotel scene.
The final leg to Kashgar was supposed to take ten hours by bus, but turned out to be much longer, due to the usual attempt to overload the bus with passengers and luggage. When we finally reached the desert again we both sighted, at least no more stops for a while. That was right, but we had not counted on the sandstorm that crossed our path. As the driver couldn’t see 50 meters, he slowed down, a reassuring activity. We were all urged to close the windows, intend to keep the dust out, but this did not work very well, owing to the quality of the window fittings. Just then the woman behind us decided to take off her shoes, something she had evidently not done for a while, judging from the smell. We cursed the sandstorm, and the closed windows. After the storm had blown over we picked up speed again, until one of the tyres blew. Again reassuringly, the driver reduced speed to a minimum, and stopped at the first possible repair shop, where it took almost an hour to change the tyre, without actually repairing it. Not exactly suitable for Formula One racing. To increase the level of torture, somebody switched on the radio. Anyhow, we got on the road again, and praised ourselves lucky that we had at least not encountered any major road works. 65 Km before Kashgar we hit major road works.
We finally arrived in Kashgar past 11 in the evening, in an anti-climax. We checked in in the Seman Hotel, the old Russian Consulate, apparently the hotspot in town, but suffering from unhelpful and unfriendly staff, an overdose of souvenir shops, power cuts and no running water (although it later turned out that nobody had running water in Kashgar for two days, because the municipality had decided to clean the reservoirs). A bite in John’s Information Cafe, where we encountered the largest gathering of foreigners so far on our travels, did not really improve things. John’s café is an institution in Kashgar. The legend has it that it was started by a hippie in the sixties or seventies, who enjoyed Western China, and its plentiful supply of cheap hashes, so much that he decided to stay, and carve out a living for himself. The real story is that of a Chinese entrepreneur with a feel for the needs of Western backpackers. He established the first cafe in Kashgar, and later opened branches in Turpan and Urumchi, to serve bacon and eggs in the morning, and a variety of simple western dishes, including hamburgers and fries. This turned out to be an instant success with people who had been eating Chinese or Uygur food for months, and John’s Cafe quickly became the meeting place for travelers. In the process it established itself as an Information Centre, and by popular demand started organising tours, or really, facilitating the sharing of taxi’s for low-budget travelers.
The next morning we changed hotels, and moved to the Chini Bagh Hotel, the former British Consulate, and the only other hotel option in town, this one only suffering from powercuts and the water problem.
Continue: In Kashgar