Kashgar. Perhaps no other Silk Road city conjours up in the mind images of camels laden with trade goods, bearded Muslims haggling over the price of sheep and the spicy aroma of a bustling, frantic market town. Even now, 2000 years later, this image is not inaccurate. Walking through Kashgar’s famous Sunday market you feel you have stepped into a time warp, where people live and work as they did two millenia ago. It is a maelstrom of consumer goods, fabrics, spices, bellowing vendors, animals and shish kebabs. Everyone, it seems, has something to sell.

Kashgar sits at the edge of the Taklimakan desert and at the foot of the Pamir mountain range. It’s where all the the different Silk Roads converged before going over the mountains into Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan. If you go to China you really should visit Kashgar. See the following map for my location.

There’s not much more I can say about it. The following pictures tell the story.

We begin in Kuqa, a four day ride from Kashgar. The market here is smaller, but only slightly less chaotic.

Since most of the Uyghur population is Muslim, and most Muslims wear these little hats, there’s a huge selection of hats in the markets.

This guy had a stack of sheep heads for sale. Not sure if you are supposed to buy the whole thing or if he fillets it for you.

Out of Kuqa I had good weather and lots of camping space. Here is a typical campsite.

I was cycling past a police checkpoint when the cops yelled at me to stop. ‘oh great,’ I thought, ‘here we go again.’ But happily it turned out they were just curious (and probably bored). They bought me a few drinks and we chatted for a bit.

I stopped for lunch in a small outdoor restaurant one day. As I was eating this guys pulls up on a motorbike with a sheep strapped to the back. He proceeds to lay the sheep down, get a knife and slice its throat open. Being mostly a city person, I was revolted but fascinated by this slaughter. My brother and his family, who live on a farm, would have probably just yawned and said, ‘so what, he is slaughtering a sheep.’ Me, I lost my appetite.

The road to Kashgar was flat and paved. With few distractions, I made good time. Three days over 120 km. Here is the road.

In Kashgar you see more Muslim women with a full veil. Here, a group of them are greeting each other. I wondered how they recognize each other?

Kashgar has one of the largest statues of Mao Zedong in China. Here’s the man himself. But what is he doing, hailing  a cab?

The Kashgar market.
Orange drink vendor. I don’t usually try this stuff because the water may be suspect.

The kind of food vendors you see in the market

The market, fabric section

Ice cream vendor. Nope, I don’t eat this either.

Shopping for fabric in the market

Fabric saleswoman

Many people still get around via donkey carts

Of course there are thousands of carpets for sale too

I ate noodles at this little cafe. Here’s the noodle maker.

A couple Uygur kids

A view of the old city

More Uyghur kids in the old city

The old city

Old man sipping tea in the old city

Well that’s pretty much it for China. With luck I will be in Kyrgyzstan in a couple days. I will do a final wrap up on China next post.