Silk Road Tour day two: Part one

After our cold but amazing stay at Karakul Lake, it was time to hit the road again. We were heading to Tashkurgan, a small mountain town and another stop along the historical Silk Road. The Karakorum Highway had some more treats in store for us however before we would arrive there.

As with the first day, Yusef stopped the car any time there was something interesting to see. Just shortly after departing, we came across a vast pasture filled with grazing yaks. Our first official yak sighting!

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A baby yak. So fuzzy!!

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More of those massive yellow trucks thundering past the pasture

There is a lot of mining taking place in Xinjiang. Apparently the mountains contain gold, iron, brass and copper (source: Yusef). This was one of many mountains we passed along the way that bore the scars of mining.

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We stopped to take in the view of some amazing mountain glaciers in the far distance.

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Massive glaciers. Just amazing!

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Our car and a whole lot of nature – felt like we were the only humans for miles around!

Another beautiful scene from my car window.

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At one point we made a rest-room stop, and I encountered the most simple toilet I’ve come across yet on our big trip. Although clearly not simple enough since some earlier visitor failed to use it correctly (yes, that is what you think it is)…

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One wedding and a funeral

At one point we drove past a small village. Yusef noticed a large-ish number of cars parked in front of one house. He said something to Driver and suddenly we were near-off-roading it across a narrow, bumpy dirt path towards the gathering.

Yusef explained that this was a Tajik town and that he thought this might be a wedding. Tajik people, he told us, are either very friendly, or very crazy, so as long as this particular Tajiks were the former, we should be fine. But Roman and I had better wait in the car until he ascertained the situation. Hm. 😉

He hopped out and approached a stony-faced group of men. Roman and I began speculating if and how soon he might get punched. Soon he was hurrying back to the car. Half laughing, he hopped back into the passenger seat. “This is a funeral!” Well, I guess that explains the serious looking men. “But there is a wedding on the other side of town!,” he proudly announced. And off we drove across the bumpy track, to the other side of town where there was in fact a much larger, much more cheerful looking group of people assembled.

Roman and I felt awkward about gate crashing, but Yusef assured us, after asking around, that we were absolutely welcome. Indeed, the people we met were totally lovely. It turned out we were there on the first day of the festivities. The actual wedding and the real party was the next day and in the end we got invited to return and take part in the festivities. If only we had more time in Xinjiang! 🙂 It was awesome though to be able to see at least a little glimpse of the Tajik wedding ceremony.

I was able to join a big group of women in a yurt where sweets were being eaten. Yusef had told us we could take photos of anything and everything. I felt hesitant at first but then the women actually asked me to take pictures of them. I wasn’t allowed to leave the yurt until each and every one of them had been photographed and each snap had been thoroughly laughed over. 🙂 Here are just a couple of the photos I took. (The women look relatively serious, but they would burst into giggles once the photo had been taken. 🙂 )

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Afterwards, Yusef led us to a yard behind the buildings where a sheep and a goat were being prepared for the wedding feast. We had missed the slaughter (thank God) but were in time to watch the butchery. Steam was still rising from the bodies; the eyes of the heads (still attached), were still open. With quick efficiency the men removed organs, cut bone away from bone. I was amazed at the astounding brevity in which a living, breathing creature is transformed, reduced to composite parts organized by their usefulness to man.

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We got to meet the bride; she was sweet but I think probably too busy taking in the whole wedding thing to interact with us much. The groom was arriving the next day for the ceremony.

Outside, we watched the crowd that had gathered to witness the gift giving. Traditional gifts to newlyweds are bedding. Lots and lots of bedding – blankets, mats, cushions – to flesh out the new home/yurt. Seems like this couple would have enough to set up 50 yurts!

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Gifts piled high inside one of the houses

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A few of the women watching the gift giving

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Some women take a break from the crowd. Take a look at the background – this little village was really in the middle of no where! So awesome that we got to visit it!

5 thoughts on “Silk Road Tour day two: Part one

  1. I’m surprised you haven’t seen toilets like that before. When I first visited Guangzhou, public toilets were basically trenches in a shed used by both genders and open to all. There’s nothing like squatting over a hole in the ground with a supporting cast of at least half a dozen other people providing background harmonies… I guess things have changed since the mid-90s and I can’t it’s for the better. There’s something deeply prudish and foolish in our objection to communal ablution.

    Totally jealous, by the way. Your trip looks amazing and I would love to be a long way away from here, particularly with Winter coming.

    • Come join us! Although maybe wait till we’ve moved on from China if it’s warmer weather you’re looking for. And at the risk of sounding prudish, I’ll take the toilet I’m given, but if plumbing and privacy are on offer I am not about to turn them down!!! 😉

  2. I’ve told you before that I think your photos are wonderful. You’re also a beautiful writer:
    “I was amazed at the astounding brevity in which a living, breathing creature is transformed, reduced to composite parts organized by their usefulness to man.”

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