After getting a brief feel of Ürümqi, it was time to catch yet another train, except this would be the final time – a 28-hour train ride that would bring the lads to the last stop on the trip, to Kashgar, an oasis city and also the westernmost in China.
The change was incredible. Everywhere that had an unobstructed view led to snow-covered mountains and icy lakes. The people had also changed dramatically. It appeared as if we were in an Arabian country, or so it seemed – an array of street vendors, bazaars, mosques, mud-brick housing and even holy tombs of once-powerful saints. It was like a scene from Aladdin.
Kashgar has a colourful history, being under Turkish, Mongol, Persian, Tibetan and Chinese rule – all of which has been absorbed by the city. It still holds strategic importance today, along the Silk Road at the convergence of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, at the very western frontier of China, close to the Kyrgyz border.
There we would find a market which has traded livestock since the existence of the city. Tens of thousands of camels, yaks, llamas, sheep, goats, cows, bulls, geese, chickens and more are sold on a daily basis.
We also passed by Shipton’s Arch, the largest natural-forming arch in the world, which was known to the locals for a long time, but for westerners it was ‘found’ in the 1940s before being lost again some time later, only to be discovered once more in the year 2000.
All of this cultural melting pot soup was spiced up as Vladik Scholz, Taylor Nawrocki, Barney Page, James Capps, Daniel Pannemann, Tommy Zhao, Patrik Wallner, Mike O’Meally and I took to the streets for the final time, this time as mates. The bonds were much stronger and the laughs were much louder as they boomed through the freezing Uyghur air.