After getting our passport stamped we set out on our next mission: food. A very welcoming, and presumably a fairly bored, soldier shows us a restaurant and acts as our translator. The border post is like a small island of comprehension in a sea of fumbling miscommunication. Though a large number of the people who live in the area speak a Turkic language, so a few of the words we picked up on the other side of the border are useful still. The border post is a few kilometers away from the town center. So Bert takes his bike to scout out the area and comes back to tell us he managed to negotiate a cheap room for the three of us. Andrea and I set out to walk into town, but we are quickly offered a lift by a guy with a three wheeled cargo scooter.
As we try to find our way to the hotel we are stopped by police who start taking pictures of us and our passports. What could be suspicious about two tourists in a border town? But we can’t ask why. The police do not speak English and we have left the island of comprehension, though in the end that does not become a problem. When we go for some food in the evening we are led into the kitchen so we can pick out what we think looks tastiest.
The next day we part ways with Bert. Two roads can take us to the Taklamakan desert to the west of us. The northern road has been more popular for centuries. The area it goes through is less inhospitable than the southern road. Bert and his bike go down that one, less potential for death by dehydration. Andrea and I actually like the prospect of a quiet road through endless hours of nothing. We know we’ll make it to the other side somehow.