It was Chinese breakfast as usual at the Transportation Hotel restaurant. I had a lot of boiled and cooked vegetables, local bread with pickled vegetables and a couple of boiled eggs. Yingchu managed the check out without any fuss. All the hotels we stayed in thus far have taken deposit ranging from Yuan 150 to 400, for which a receipt is issued. During checkout the deposit is returned upon surrender of the receipt.
We hit G3012 for Kuerle. Once we got through the Tien Shan Range the road was a beauty. Not that the road was bad in the Pass. One had to take the winding roads more carefully. The landscape was interesting contrast for most part of the route via the mountain range; it was dessert sandy mountains on the right side of the road and Rocky Mountains on the opposite side. The rest of the road was as if laid using a ruler. Buffeting winds was a bother in some stretches. The highlight of the drive was the cheap fuel price, the lowest in China thus far. It cost Yuan 7.06 per liter. We were stopped at a few places for police check. The first was as we were leaving the city of Turpan. I gathered that the checks were more on account of their curiosity regarding a right hand drive and the branding. Yingchu handles these occasions deftly. When they hear that we are driving to London it does produce some awe and more shock, whatever the audience.
Aju Jacob of Synthite offered the hospitality of the Company in Kuerle on the journey to London. Accordingly I got in touch with their manager Frank Tong at the Kuerle factory. Yingchu kept close liaison with Frank over the past few days. We could not go to the Synthite factory, which was a good 60 plus kms diversion from the highway. However, Frank sent Wu and the HR Manager to receive us and make us comfortable in the Garden Hotel, a five star facility. Four rooms had been booked for us, which we changed to two twin-bed rooms. After checking in Wu and Ms. Dorothy took us to the Minyang restaurant for a delicacy of the city – the Zhuafan. The delicacy consists of a plateful of coloured oily rice with red and yellow carrots and a huge cooked leg of lamb. The sight of the dish itself is overwhelming. However, it was not very difficult to get through the meal. But it was very heavy on the stomach. Added to that Wu got loads of kebabs, which saddled the bellies substantially. With such a heavy meal tucked in it had to be bed for a while before Frank came to fetch us for an evening out in the city.
Kuerle is known by various names including Korla and Kurla. Most famously the city is known for its fragrant Pears. This is the third ‘fruit’ city in consecutive days. In Hami it was the Melon, in Turpan it was Grape and now, in Kuerle it is the Pear. A rather interesting Fruit Run. In Turpan the grapes were not yet ready. The melon in Hami was juicy. The Pear in Kuerle will be ready only in September, but is supposed to be rich in taste and flavor. The Konqi River flows through the city of Kuerle, which is unusual for cities in Xinjiang. The literal meaning of the river’s name is “Peacock River”. The temperature in the city varies quite dramatically between minus 7 degrees C in winter and 40+ degrees C in summer.
The view of the city and the river from the 18th floor room of the Garden Hotel is glorious. While enjoying it I suddenly saw heavy drops of rain fall; from the 18th floor the drops looked in a hurry to hit the ground below. And gradually the pace and urgency of the rain drops increased. Soon I saw shards of ice fall from the skies. The sight of this rainfall mixed with ice fall will forever remain etched in my mind. It was a special show that Mother Nature had put on for me in this city that very rarely receives rain. Later I learnt that the residents had not experienced such heavy rain in the past five years. Most roads were clogged, many cars got stuck in the accumulated rainwater under bridges and traffic was disrupted. As the rains eased up Frank arrived and took us to the Tujuan River which skirts the city and where white swans are often seen. We parked the car and walked along the sidewalk on the bank of the River. The rain had increased the flow and muddied the water. However, we were lucky to see a few swans were gleefully accepting food from people who were there to feed them.
The skies darkened once again and we made a dash for the car. It was nearing 9 pm and Frank suggested a special Hot Pot dinner. He took us to an exclusive restaurant that had a buffet Hot Pot. After we were seated and the Hot Pot soup was ordered I walked around the large restaurant to familiarize with the Hot Pot ingredients available. There were 7 different types of mushrooms, various types of sea food like squid, octopus, etc. Beef, chicken, varieties of fish and vegetables, fish and meat cakes, crab – I stopped looking around after some time. There were kebabs and chicken wings too. Besides these a large number of sweet dishes, ice creams, fruit juices and fresh fruits were on display. Draught beer was available on tap. More than two hours later we could barely move. With such feasts, almost daily, it is not a surprise that I gained 5 kgs in the past three weeks since embarking on the journey. When we were at the fag end of the dinner the power supply suddenly went off; another unusual event according to Frank. The heavy downpour seemed to have disrupted supplies. Frank insisted on a drive around the main square of the city before getting back to the hotel. The power supply disruption took the ‘life’ out of the apparently well-lit city. The drive was truncated and we got back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.