The bus ride from hell
Hotan Travel Blog› entry 12 of 24 › view all entries
I got on, was pointed to my berth, and the bus pulled out on the dot. A minute later it drove into a compound and stopped. The other passengers got off and wandered away, and the driver indicated that we'd leave at 2:00. Odd - and a bit frustrating, but hey. At 2:10, I tried to ask why we weren't going. They laughed and indicated 'No, 2:00 Xinjiang time'. In other words, 4:00. When I protested, they just laughed at me. I wanted to go back to the bus station to get an Urumqi bus instead - but I hadn't a clue where I was.
At five we finally set off to cross the desert in what must be the only non-air conditioned bus to do so. Even the little ventilation outlets that all buses have, didn't work.A slow, bolted on fan above the driver's head, was all that there was. All my fellow passengers were Uighur, and hadn't changed their socks for a week.
The one upside of dripping sweat for 24 hours, is that I didn't need to wee much. Toilet stops in the desert are simply a case of 'men to one side of the bus, women to the other'.
I got to sleep at about 00:30. At quarter to one, I was woken by being shaken and having a torch shone into my eyes. The police. They got me (only me) off the bus, and went through a great palaver with my passport. The same happened again at 2am and 3am.
At 9 ish, we stopped at a truck stop place, and for the first time, a Chinese toilet totally defeated me.
Mid afternoon, we pulled into a lay by. At this point we were in the Turpan Basin. The hottest place in China - average summer temperature, 45 degrees C. We stayed there for an hour and a half. No-one spoke a word of English and I hadn't a clue what was going on. My Uighur phrasebook was of no use whatsoever, though it provided huge entertainment for the drivers and other passengers. I gathered, towards the end, that the bus had broken down, and they were waiting for someone to come out and help. I was beyond frustrated with this disaster of a journey. The other passengers plied me with grapes, sensing my mood, but it didn't help that much. I didn't believe it was possible to be that hot.
I phoned Jon, just to hear a familiar English voice, and whinge on a bit.Then, fortunately, whatever it was, was fixed, and I was in Turpan 29 hours after I'd set off. I checked into a hotel, wrung the sweat out of my clothes, and showered in cold water for ever.
If you want to know what Turpan's like, put your oven on for ten minutes, then open the door and stick your head in front of it.