Across Continents

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Around Xiangfan

November 30th, 2010

Xiangfan - web

For all their madness, Georgian drivers were predictable. Not the Chinese. And it was getting worse. Towns. Cities. Vehicles stopping abruptly. Bicycles, electric scooters, motorbikes weaving through the traffic. As often against the flow as with it. Pedestrians drifting into the road. And yet it is the very absence of order, the uncertainty, that prevents complete calamity. Engenders caution. Just enough.

Construction - web

Xiangfan was no different. Not just the traffic. For it was a warm day. Mid-twenties. Reminded me of Urumqi, the first city I’d encountered in western China. Construction and consumerism. Shopping plazas, office blocks, housing complexes. The usual international High Street brands. Familiar fast food outlets. At first a novelty. But no longer. Not for a long time.

Consumerism - web


Up through the mountains

August 10th, 2010

Up through the mountains from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Pristine dual carriageway, vast construction projects, and smoking brakes…


To the lake

August 10th, 2010

"Always be a little unexpected" – Oscar Wilde

The ascent to Lake Sayram Hu. Penetrating dust. Thick, black choking fumes of ascending lorries. Billowing, acrid smoke pouring from the brakes of those in descent. Pristine dual carriageway ends as abruptly as the mountains start east of the frontier town of Khorgas. Rough, stony track, a strong headwind channelled down the steep sided narrow valley makes progress very slow. Demanding. Struggling to control the bike at such slow speed amongst the ruts and loose stones. Lorries crawling past unnervingly close. Neatly cultivated fields, sunflowers, small villages on the plain below soon forgotten.

It is that steep - web version

The pass rises to almost seven thousand feet, the summit col overlooking the wide expanse of the lake. A centuries old trading route from Kazakhstan in the west towards Beijing in the east. An ancient Silk Road. Today, a vast construction site, perhaps thirty or more miles in length. New road tunnels being dug, wide carriageways being built, a vast suspension bridge close to completion. Workers encampments dotted along the route. Not so much an upgrade as a bold re-design.

Mountain montage

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