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23.11.09 04:48 Age: 8 yrs


By: Roger and Megan

... down towards Kashgar

We crossed into China on November 17.  Riding down through Irkeshtam pass towards Kashgar, we passed through very barren and mountainous landscape. This region, west and north of Kashgar, is the Kyrgyz autonomous prefecture within the Uyghur autonomous region of Xinjiang, and in line with this, most of the people we met were Kyrgyz. But of course, living under a different political regime and with more influence from the east, there were a few distinct differences between these Kyrgyz people and the ones we'd met in Kyrgyzstan. Firstly, they used the Arabic script instead of the Cyrillic script for their writing (it was very interesting that the Kyrgyz people in China and the Kyrgyz people in other countries could easily talk to each other, but not read each other's writing at all!). We also saw that their manti were often more like steamed dumplings. And they ate with chopsticks.


Another clear difference was the presence of large, two-humped camels amongst their livestock. During the daytime the camels jump wander amongst the wild bushes, munching all day. The older camels all looked very astute, with big bushy beards, and they'd often put on a show for us as we rode past, bending their necks back and grumbling. In Xinjiang, camels are used for everything, from towing carts, to providing milk for drinking and meat for eating, to be ridden as work animals, and for sport. The camels can weigh up to some 350kg, and are covered in huge amount of very shaggy high loft fur. Here the camels are used as work animals even when it is -40c and in deep snow. These camels are the most expensive of the livestock and they are most useful for the oasis-dwelling Uyghur people around the Taklamakan desert, with their ability for tredge through the soft sand dunes. Their mountain-dwelling Kyrgyz neighbours had adopted them for their daily duties as well, but we never saw any evidence of camel use beyond the Irkeshtam pass in Kyrgyzstan itself.