2005.09.10 Kaghalik, China
Sunday Bazaar, Kaghalik
Sunday Bazaar, Kaghalik

We checked out of the New City hotel this morning. We're staying at the family home of another of Nisagul's classmates from Xinjiang University: Gulnur's family lives just the on edge of town.

We spent most of the day with Maryamgul and Gulnur. For some reason all of our belongings were left at Maryamgul's house, which is a bit inconvenient. I can't complain: it certainly is nice to have local families to host us and cook us meals. The personalities of our new hosts contrast: Maryamgul seems shy and sad, Gulnur more open and talkative. Both graduated alongside Nisagul this spring, earning math degrees from X.U..

We took lunch at Maryamgul's house. Her father seems to be a good source of information about the road to Tibet: he's traveled it 8 times himself, although the last time was nearly 20 years prior. He used to be close friends with many truckers, so will ask around about rides for us. Additionally, it seems some people know other people who drive (I'm a bit hazy as to who's who down here) so things look positive for finding a lift.

This afternoon Nisagul went out to Zero Point and found out lots of good information. No rides are free. The locals' price to ride in a truck to Ali, the largest city in Western Tibet, is 250 yuan. The going rate for foreigners is 400 yuan. The first two checkpoints are at 70 km and 160 km outside of Kaghalik. We have a potential lift with a Uighur trucker on Monday, the 12th. Bus service is infrequent, currently on a 40-day hiatus due to military exercises. The bus is a moot option, anyway. We figure it would be more interesting to go by truck.

Tiffany and I ran errands while Nisagul asked around the truck depots. We picked up small necessities for the trip: bandages, pencils, cigarettes, and toilet paper. Nobody in our entourage smokes, but sharing cigarettes may be a good way of building rapport with drivers, officials, and others we interact with along the way. I thought pencils could come in handy in a couple circumstances. Perhaps we'll encounter temperatures so cold that the ink in our pens freezes--no journal updates. Also, if we should meet some very special children somewhere en route they might be part of a nice farewell present.

Gulnur and Maryamgul
The late afternoon was spent around town. We played SET at an ice-cream parlor. Nisagul and Tiffany bought headscarves, I got a doppa, a traditional men's Uighur cap. We were hoping a bit of local dress might help us to blend in later down the road, we've found it's already helping. Kaghalik is overwhelmingly Uighur and conservative. Well over 90% of the women I've seen around wear some sort of covering over their head, even Nisagul's peers. Tiffany is a magnet for attention anywhere with her striking red hair; putting on a headscarf instantly reduced the number of people who gawk on the street.

Twice while we've been waiting on the bus (usually the Route 2) local Uighurs have noticed the odd appearance of Nisagul, Tiffany, and I, and shared their conclusion: I must be Uighur, Tiffany a foreigner, and Nisagul is our daughter. Never mind that Nisagul and Tiffany are roughly two years apart in age; that I speak minimal, broken Uighur; and that Nisagul is of course fluent in the language.

We're presently at Gulnur's house. It's a traditional Uighur house, with traditional toilet facilities. To one side of the garden is a large, open pit with wooden planks above. It's not terribly rank, but frightens me. I weigh a lot. If those planks don't hold...