Across Continents

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Lipstick and ladybirds

Synchronised swimming

I thought the judges a bit harsh. I’d definitely rated the Kazakhstan contingent a bit ahead of their Russian counterparts. Maybe I’d been influenced by their garish lipstick. Choices had been limited. Synchronised swimming or a stalker movie in Uighyr with Chinese subtitles. Helped to take my mind off my recent excursion to the second worst pit toilet of the expedition. First prize went to one about ten miles back. So terrible I’d wretched.

I’d ended up in a small settlement south of the city of Hami. Last outpost of habitation before the Gobi proper. Secured a room for the night behind a cafe for a few pounds. The sort of place that was often reluctant to admit foreigners lest they incur the attentions of the authorities. But not tonight. I’d enquired at the nearby toll station as to whether there was anywhere to stay. Produced the magic card. Encouraging signs. Waited patiently amidst the clouds of ladybirds. Then a Police escort. Right to the door.

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