On the road to Hami, from Liuyuan, Gansu -- Xinjiang, The Peoples Republic of China
This old derelict building
And I

Two hundred kilometers
Away from

Nothing but gravel, rock
A winding strip of bitumen
And heat

So much heat

Well beyond the horizon
Well beyond my imagination

Even by the crazy foreigner
Pedalling a bicycle

Who looked at me
As he passed by
Like I was the crazy one

So much heat

He wavered in the heat-haze
Then disappeared
Like a desert mirage

As the swirl of heated air
Swallowed up this fantastical sight
I thought

In this punishing heat
Is it I
Who have lost my senses?

On the road to Hami
From Liuyuan
The People’s Republic of China

Taken during travels, 1998

In 1998 I bicycled from Shanghai to Kashgar via Beijing. A trip of some 6,000 kilometers over the spand of six and a half months. About a third of that distance skirted the edge of the Taklamakan desert, a vast expanse of sand second in size only to the Sahara. I didn’t see much of the sand, but plenty of the high desert wasteland which surrounds it.

This highway roughly followed one of the ancient Silk Road routes.

I saw many a strange sights in China. Few stranger than the occasional lone individual standing along a desert roadside hundreds of kilometers away from anywhere. No bags. No hat. Just standing there. Patiently. Waiting for . . . I will never know what.

Several times, there was no building or other road to be seen. Just the highway and one puzzled face, watching as a Western mountain bike, towing a fully loaded trailer, cycled by, its rider looking back with an equally puzzled face.