Well, a miracle has happened: I have time to blog! Yesterday, I finished the rough-draft of the paper and can't make more progress without feedback...so I can talk with you guys about our last day in Kashgar, when we went to Shipton's Arch, the highest free-standing arch in the world (as per our guide, so take that with a grain of salt).
We started off by driving 50 minutes on a really nice road. It was quid-pro-quo Kashgar until out of nowhere, this huge convoy of Chinese military supply trucks came by.
We were really impressed until a convoy of 52 TANKS drove slowly past us (they were numbered for those of you who know how much I love to exaggerate). Each tank had huge guns and tons of soldiers inside and on top (like Indiana Jones-style)--it was a pretty terrifying show of military force made more poignant knowing that those tanks were there for a reason. (Last year, the Uighur people rioted all over Xinjiang protesting government policies.)
We then abruptly turned off the road and started driving on a river bed with enormous rocks and no path. We were in a 1980s SUV, so we could handle it, but before we got our "sea legs," Alison and I were bouncing across the aisles. Here's a pic to show you how desolate it was where we were going.Actually, we took a ton of pictures of the desolation, but we love camels so had to choose this one. (Fun fact: we could have bought a camel instead of a rug. I think we made a good choice though.) Eventually, we arrive at the "ticket stand" where we had to pay some random man on a motorcyle 50 RMB each to continue on.
About 2 hours of being thrashed around in the car, we finally arrive to our destination, which admittedly was beautiful.
We then hiked between crevices and up sketchy ladders...
...hopping over pools of what our guide claimed was mineral water. He said we could drink it, but we politely declined. The combo of cigarette butts floating in the water and algae growing on the rocks was too much for us. 20 minutes later, we got to the arch!We thought it was pretty, but not worth the bruising car ride...especially if you've been to Moab, Utah! Our guide gave us all of 10 minutes there, so Alison took a ton of pictures of the arch and then we took a few of us before our drive back.
The drive back was much better, perhaps because we had a view that we thought best summed up Kashgar. In this picture, if you look closely, you can see 4 different mountain ranges (2 in the background!).
We returned to the airport an hour before our flight left (so 40 minutes before non-white people got there). It was a fantastic vacation, one that we will never forget. I have to say, though, that the highlight of the trip for me was getting to spend an entire week traipsing around with Alison, she of the...
...strikingly beautiful blue eyes.