35th day Fri 16th May – on the way to Kuqa in China

Just shows how versatile the Land Cruiser is, it also carries an air pump facility.
Pumped up, started to make our way to Kuqa.
For the locals, petrol filling Chinese style from the kettle – for security reasons the petrol had to go straight into the tank of their vehicle, not allowed to put it into a separate container. The guy was sternly told not to do so, by the petrol attendant. Over the last few years there has been some communal tension between Muslim community and Ham people (who are the Chinese majority). The young lady sitting at the petrol pump, had riot protection gear on the table, and Kirit had to see that it was in working order.

Unfortunately soon after leaving the petrol station, travelling behind a lorry a fair sized pebble hit our windscreen and cracked the glass, even though the road surface was pretty smooth – never mind, we will have to see how the cracks develop.
Driver behind the wheel- Kirit!

On our way to Kuqa, in the Kuqa Gorge (also part of the Silk Road) we visited a Buddha Cave site, numerous caves that housed some original murals dating back almost 1200 years. Interesting that the Chinese have preserved this site so well.
Continuing on our way to Kuqa, stopped at a couple of check points. We will have to get used to this routine especially when we are in Tibet. There is just a curiosity factor and our awareness suddenly increases when we get stopped – and that urge to take photos!

Reached our hotel in good time, thankfully not a frantic, manic day like yesterday.
Have not had much interaction with Chinese people so far, but those we have met to date are polite enough and helpful.



























Hoping to leave Kashgar today

34th day Thurs 15th May
Our man Bing, yesterday evening suggested a Chinese massage and Kirit and me not having had one took up the challenge of a back, feet and shoulder Chinese massage – as you can see my experience was somewhat unusual. Although I have had cupping done on my back in England, this was a bit more intense, probably language communication was the barrier, before I knew it I had a dozen cups on my back. What an experience, surprisingly not painful at all, but no more Chinese massages for me. By the way, no burn marks on my feet – but I can walk on fire now!

Left at about 9am to go to the car registration place again, on the outskirts of Kashgar. At the hotel before leaving, met a German couple who have been travelling for almost a year. Look at the monster they were driving.

By the time we arrived it was heaving with vehicles and the main gate was closed. We wriggled our way to the front; Bing and I walked to the main administration block, only to find a number of people congregated at a section of the main building. A big truck had just gone into a post, this telegraph pole had internet cables connecting it to the main building and these cables were now dangling inelegantly. Therefore without wi-fi connection and we knew we could possibly lose another day.
The purpose for this lengthy process, was for the officials to also check the road worthiness, register number plate of the LC and photograph it. All this information would then be uploaded, so where ever we travelled in China, information would be readily available to the authorities.
The extent of bureaucracy regarding this has been quite incredible, considering most of the official paperwork had already been completed by our agents long before our arrival to China. Again we did get a bit of movement after Peter did a Mr Angry on one of the officials, it comes naturally to Peter and as I mentioned, it seemed we were making good progress, with the vehicle checked and photographed. Now the final bit of getting the documents stamped, for which we had to go a short distance to another building. Their dreaded lunch time was not too far off, but we were told we had plenty of time. Not true, we missed the lunch time deadline and were once again in ‘no mans land’, until the officials came back. Another hour and a half wait – that bit about letting things flow was starting to wear thin.

We finally left the vehicle and driving registration place at 5pm – almost 18 hours since the start of this saga, from the previous day. We now have documentary evidence that we and our Land Cruiser can legitimately and legally drive on the roads of China. We also got our very own Chinese Provisional Driving Licence.

Finally left for Aksu, destination time 11 pm and destination 419 km. A bit precarious driving in the dark, with a lot of on coming and sometimes reckless drivers. Although it was surprisingly still quite light at 9.30 pm.
After a long time we have a decent hotel – still only £18 per person, great to have our Chinese guide Bing travelling with us. It saves a hell of a lot of time finding hotel accommodation etc.

Chinese Foot Massage CLICK HERE TO WATCH














Day in KASHGAR- To complete car formalities

33rd day Wed 14th May

Sending some more photos taken in during our long wait in China customs yesterday.

Spent a day in Kashgar ,we needed to get our car registration, insurance and have our car inspected, before we could get going with our China trip. I had my first experience of driving in China and the urban roads of Kashgar on route to this particular place.
It was a fair distance from the town, when we reached it appeared not to be very busy – but appearances can be deceiving as we experienced yesterday.
We also had our guide to help us, because without Bing no progress would have been made.
It started with a lot of activity and thought this is running smoothly, car inspected, car insurance issued, only registration left to do. After an hour of waiting we were told that their internet connection was down and at the same time the mandatory two hour lunch break was about to start. They actually get picked up to go to lunch and with it follows total shut down – no replacement staff.

Whilst the Land Cruiser was parked in the forecourt, we had masses of people who were really inquisitive about the vehicle and whenever we opened the door the numbers increased dramatically – just being nosey, nothing else.

We had two hours to kill, so the genius in us decided to played target with a plastic ball, we also had a ‘frisby’ and played a bit of cricket – by the end of this, I was a bit hungry, it was now 2 pm and I hadn’t had any breakfast. The guide said there is a local place we could try. I needed to go to the loo, and as per before the stench was unbearable, however on this occasion when I walked in, their were four guys squatting in a row, having a chat with each other (no partition or separation) all doing big jobs. I almost twisted my neck, reversing my direction to get out as quickly as I could. I still needed to go, and the ladies loo was next door. Someone came out and I indicated is it occupied she said no, and I also shouted “Hello” – no one in there and on the great odds (I thought) these will be cleaner as I was about to go in, this guard shouted out to say, not this one. Stuffed had to wait a bit longer and his lunch break was my chance – which I took!!
The local restaurant standard was not very good either, had some fried rice but hoping I don’t get upset stomach. Apologies, but have to go back to this toilet topic again – now Manvir wanted to go for a leak, he came back with another gruesome story, he didn’t bother going either – people were taking water from a large metal utensil when they went to do their business – we felt that this same water was also being used in the cooking – in addition the ‘site’ he went to was a box, with NO hole in it! Anyway enough of this, but one thing we were all agreed on that no one can call themselves a super power if there is not even basic sanitation.

I had visited Burma a couple of years ago, technologically and in other modern ways it’s way behind the rest of the world, however, never on our three week trip there did we come across a filthy toilet – even when we visited the remotest villages
Kirit the brave wanted to take a photo next to this icon outside the restaurant – so from pharmacy purchasing, he is thinking of diverting his attention to writing a book on toilets of the world. Good luck!

We back to see if the officials were back from their extended lunch break – yes they were, but the bad news was the internet was still down and was unlikely to come back on today – so we would have to come back tomorrow. When we left Chinese customs yesterday, there was a very clear notice which read – Enjoy your stay with super fast internet. Big gap between super fast and no internet. Unfortunately a day wasted, possibly, but slowly getting used to it, situation is not in our control.
Decided to go back into town and get some sight seeing done in Kashgar whilst there was still some light. Noticed there is a predominance of Muslim community in Kashgar and poverty quite apparent. Visited people’s square, which also has a large statue of Chairman Mao Tse Tung – took another great selfy. Played ping pong with one of the local kids – what skill, not me but the kid I was playing with. Used some random plastic bit to hit the ball.
Oh yes, one more minor incident – will I ever learn? So, army guys were guarding a little patch on the People’s Square, fully armed, on guard and had an armoured vehicle with them – I had to take a discrete photo. Not so discrete, he spotted me came over and deleted the photos – but for some reason left a few of them. Surprisingly he was very good about it, after all I am a tourist in a foreign land. Security will increase, no doubt, as we travel further into China and in particular Tibet.

Although a slightly frustrating day, still did quite a bit. Plan for tomorrow is to complete the vehicle paperwork and leave Kashgar.
Destination planned for tomorrow is Aksu which is a 490 km / 9hr drive – long day.



































The big day – will we make it into CHINA today? 32nd day Tues 13th May 2014

From Sary-Tash to Chinese border and beyond -

Left Sary Tash for China border early at 6am, all of us are getting quite used to the speed of getting ready first thing in the morning. Eggs were served for breakfast and black tea. Extremely crisp and cold outside where we were staying, but because it had snowed in the night, our surrounds changed dramatically.
Packing the bags on the top was finger numbing and precarious getting on the roof of the car with all the ice on it.

Our first port of call, about 70 km drive through the Irkeshtam Pass – one road through Irkeshtam to the Chinese border. During this short journey we reached temperature of – 5 degree C and a height of 12,440 feet – amazing !
Very rugged harsh terrain, saved a lot of travelling time because of the quality of the road we were on.

Had to go through several checkpoints before reaching the Kyrgyzstan side of border control. They were pretty good, now to the Chinese side.

As we approached the official Chinese border crossing, again by passing about 25 large trucks, we could see officials coming out. One by one, all smartly dressed came to greet us. There were six of them. Asked for passports as usual, but also told us they officially have to inspect the whole vehicle including our luggage. They were friendly but official. I stayed with the vehicle, whilst they removed the items from within. It was freezing outside and the officials were extremely thorough. Peter, Kirit and Manvir were led inside to passport control, always a bit of a niggly feeling when you get separated like this.

The car inspection was pretty efficient, although we will probably have to repack the back of the vehicle – we don’t have a boot. I rejoined the guys and thankfully before I did, I left my ruck – sack in the car. I am glad I did this, because the customs guys were still checking the ruck – sack contents and in particular the thousands of photos on Kirit’s iPad. It would have been another two hour wait if he wanted to go through my iPad – he didn’t ask me and we all quietly slipped through.

It’s amazing that after nearly 7 months of planning, this particular date for entry into China was quite specific, since we had planned to meet our Chinese guide today, more impressive if you also factor in, almost 6500 miles of travelling we have already covered to date.
Fortunately, we were successful in meeting our guide at the first of the two Chinese border controls we had to navigate, he had all our paperwork relating to our car. We then drove to the second customs point – getting through this, we all felt would be the last of the major border crossings we would encounter for the remainder of our trip. Easier said then done, the one and a half hours it took to reach, especially on the superb road we were still travelling on, was the comfortable part. On reaching our second destination the waiting was horrendous. They completed most of the formalities including passport control and rechecking our baggage, but took an absolute age to conclude, the vehicle documentation. When they informed us we couldn’t take and tomatoes and cucumbers, which were going to be our previous nights meal, through with us – all three of us started frantically eating it in the customs area, this was our lunch. Because I have been caught (I maintain, quiet innocent on my part) taking photos of previous border controls. With the Chinese I wasn’t going to take any chances and produce photographic evidence of us eating vegetables in customs for the blog, at the risk of being dragged away. Temptation was too great, managed a few snaps!

It’s also funny, actually not really funny for me, but we are eating very lightly at present and definitely in the last week or so the main meal is, for the present NO MORE. Peter loves this eating format, he can live on vegetables and sparkling water forever. But in fairness, out of the three of us, he is the only one it seems who has not put on any weight on the trip!!

The Final destination for the day, after crossing this second bit of the Chinese border was Kashgar. The scenery between the two border checkpoints was again exceptional – vast and endless.
We were finally given clear by Chinese customs – alleluia! Just could not understand why this much time was taken. Very much Chinese inefficiency on border control. However, even after 12 hours of traveling, we all had great satisfaction in having achieved a little personal milestone – we have driven all the way to China – it’s a great feeling.

Reached Kashgar pretty late, another two hour drive from border control. Have lost another couple of hours, we are now 7 hours behind UK. Again smooth roads, any potholes we encounter in China especially to major destinations will be frowned upon, especially when the Chinese are well know for their construction. Initial appearance of the roads, very well signposted.
I wonder, starting this part of the trip will break some myths about China and Chinese people: methodical, disciplined, perhaps oppressed, not very interactive – we will see.
Met our actual guide Bing, who will be our guide for the entire China trip.
Nice guy, I’m sure he will save us a lot of time and effort.

















Osh to Sary- Tash

31st day Mon 12th May

Left Osh for Sary – Tash, onward to the last leg before we enter China. Our scenery changed spectacularly, previously we saw the snow at a distance, now we were in the thick of it. From 30 degrees C to 1 degree C and we were all in our shorts still!
Great road surface, even though very mountainous. Climbed to an elevation of over 11,000 feet, absolutely breathtaking views.
Managed to find accommodation, again just by chance and conversation with a tour guide who was with a touring party. Sary Tash is a tiny place in the mountains and we did well to get a place for the night – otherwise it would have been the tent, sleeping in sub zero temperatures. Stayed with a young family, one room with four people sleeping in it – I think we have been here before. Guess what, yes the toilets were 100 yards outside the house and yes it was similar with regards to facilities as the one we went to in the borders of Uzbekistan – basic. Thoughts of wanting to go to the loo in the middle of the night immediately came to mind.

Fairly comfortable nights sleep, having manoeuvred getting into my sleeping bag.




























The Sacred Mountain of Sulaiman

Manvir took over the helm after breakfast at a local restaurant. The breakfast was Kebab Roll and some Roast Chicken, full English not anywhere to be seen still.

Unfortunately, he was stopped for a minor speeding violation, pulled over and questioned about.The tactic about shrugging your shoulders and giving a blank look to the police officer does help. He was the only guy on duty and you are wearing him down because he is missing out on pulling up other drivers doing the same thing. We acknowledged, in part what had occurred and he acknowledged and accepted something from us, which brought this matter to a timely conclusion, we got back in our cars and were on our way.

Stopped over at the Sulaiman – the sacred mountain in Kyrgyzstan. It dominates the Fergana valley and forms the backdrop to the city of Osh.

Osh being an important route on the Central Asian Silk roads. The sacred mountain is the only world heritage site in the country of Kyrgystan.

Photos: Great views from the top – Of Osh.
Photos: Peter and his newly adopted family!

Sulaiman (Soloman) is a prophet in the Quran, and the mountain contains a shrine that marks his grave. Stairs leading to the highest peak where there stands a small mosque originally built by Babur in 1510 – it’s our old First Indian Mogul friend again!

Good day, we will be heading for China in the next couple of days.
Tomorrow we go to Sary Tash.









30th day Sun 11th May – Back to Osh from our camping expedition

Thankfully no other disturbances, the tent did its job and we were up at 8am – packed everything up .Yesterday’s washing of cutlery, plates etc was done by the river. I must admit, it was quite interesting completing this task!

The guy who let us use his land to make the camp for the evening also made honey, I took a selfy with him, must be a first for him.

We made our way back to Osh. Because of our unexpected early entry into Kyrgyzstan we had a spare day in Osh.

I drove first, because I hadn’t driven on the mountainous terrain on the previous day. I wanted to appreciate the drive in the Land Cruiser on this type of terrain – its great fun. It certainly is a beast and handled difficult sections of the road with consummate ease.

One hand on the steering wheel and the other on the gear stick, it’s the only way, especially with the frequency of the gear changes you are making on these roads.




The camping experience

After Ozgon we decided to drive further into the mountainous area – breathtaking views mixed in with farmers on horse back, herding goats, cattle and cows.

Then we made a random decision- we were almost in the middle of nowhere, as indicated also with no phone signal and decided we were going to camp outside tonight.

Picking the spot was quite challenging but managed to find the ideal tent site, with a fast flowing river running past us and we were surrounded by mountains.

Second challenge – pitching the tent. After some skilfully manoeuvring and a couple of retakes, Kirit and myself got it sorted. Then bedlam struck…………the quiet spot that we had chosen suddenly turned into Piccadilly Circus!!

Our Camping Disaster CLICK HERE TO WATCH
It seemed like all the hundreds of animals we had previously passed were now gathering at OUR camping site! All very friendly but a bit chaotic and we had to move our tents because : 1) the farm animals were going to stay here for the night and 2) they were starting to be inconsiderate by dumping everywhere

We carried our tents still ‘intact’ a hundred yards to a slightly more secluded spot and tried to settle down for the evening – dinner still needed to be prepared.

With the vast lighting available on the land cruiser it wasn’t too difficult to get started. In the surrounding darkness you soon felt the vastness turning to isolation. Started to rain, which didn’t help much. I used as a canopy a plastic sheet, for seating on the grass, which I had picked up at the UK Olympics arena – little did I think then that something we had used to sit our backsides on, would some day be used as a rain-protector, somewhere in the wilderness in some inhabited region of Kyrgyzstan !

The ready prepared meals worked a treat, hot and satisfying. For deserts we had ready made masala tea- a treat.

Time to go to the loo – where, what, how, all challenging questions with one touch in hand. In the end you manage, you have to some how! The morning was good because it had a river setting.

It was a bit unsettling when on a couple of occasions we had an unexpected visitor – anything could happen and no one would really know the truth – well, ok I’m getting a bit carried away there. However, during the commotion earlier, Peter had lent some spanners to someone having a problem with his car. That guy came to return them at 12 that evening, whilst we were all tucked in. This was a bit scary – he was ok though, just wanted to thank us and return the spanner set. Kirit with his hearing aids out, didn’t hear anything and Manvir chose to sleep in the car and didn’t hear anything too. So it would have been down to Peter and me !20140511-193249.jpg20140511-193300.jpg20140511-193314.jpg20140511-193349.jpg20140511-193409.jpg20140511-193432.jpg20140511-193501.jpg20140511-193541.jpg20140511-193607.jpg20140511-193630.jpg20140511-193644.jpg20140511-193555.jpg20140511-193804.jpg20140511-193816.jpg20140511-193833.jpg20140511-194418.jpg


Just for Fun!

‘The Pharmacy News’ of the trip : Pharmaplus and Manichem have just made their first pharmacy purchase in Central Asia after agreeing a joint venture and expansion plans in this area. DayLewis’s offer to join in this superb investment opportunity, was rejected, by the two, at this stage. Daylewis, when asked declined to comment but inside sources, are said to be disappointed.

Photograph shows the first member of staff on the team in the recently acquired pharmacy!

We saw an extremely large statue of Lenin – probably the first one since Volgodrad in Russia and a selfy with the great man himself.20140511-191030.jpg20140511-191300.jpg20140511-191324.jpg20140511-191347.jpg20140511-191042.jpg


Osh and Surrounding area – 29th day Sat 10th May 2014

Initial thoughts of Osh – perhaps a bit more poverty here. No breakfast because too knackered from events of yesterday. Brunch at a very local restaurant, nice spaghetti. They make a great use of containers – as retail outlets!

The countryside looks like Cornwall at times, then the Lake District then Switzerland …

More of a Chinese feel here, also more of Islamic presence.


Ozgon village – had a very local atmosphere to it, mingled with the locals, who were friendly and engaging. Met an old army guy – who was still in uniform, bit eccentric but harmless.



A lady seamlessly cutting thin slices of mangos, whilst confidently not looking at her knife engaging with the mango.