Most of the day was spent spent riding through a pleasant little oasis region where grassy pasture fronted the road left and right and tree lined routes through small villages provided welcome shade. A real effort was being made to stop the encroachment of the desert into this comparatively verdant region. Large wooden frames formed tunnels along walkways that ivy and other climbing plants would soon cover to create shaded paths from house to house.
Riding along this cool, flat road with a tailwind we were making great time.mwe took a rest at a small shop along one of these tree lined roads. The young girl who was looking after the place brought us out some bread and tea while we sat by our bikes. She had a smattering of English which she shyly practiced on us.
By lunchtime we had made it to Keriya, a medium sized town with the usual, somewhat out of place wide roads and high rise buildings at the centre.
After lunch and out the other side of Keriya the desert returned again, dusty and sandy as ever. The road was straight and flat and there wasn’t much to see all around. A haze hung on the horizon. Off in the distance a line of trees indicated a welcome change of scenery. But soon we couldn’t see the trees, even thought we had gotten closer. They were swallowed up in the haze, which was moving towards us.
It wasn’t haze, it was a sandstorm barreling down on us. The wind hit then the sand, we donned sunglasses and buffs to cover our face as the wind blew right into us and the sand streamed around. The sand only lasted about ten or so minutes mercifully, but the headwind continued and the dusty haze stuck around to limit visibility to about 2km.
We only found this out later: the sandstorm was the start of a season dust storm that would last for the rest of this leg to Qiemo. Normally the wind blows from the west, which would have provided a tailwind all the way to Qiemo but around this time of year for a week or so the wind changes direction and blows from the North East, picking up dust and sand as it crosses the Taklamakan.
We passed a small checkpost as evening closed in filling up our water and then walking our bikes out to one of the barren fields next to the road. A raised earthen barrier, designed to protect the crops from the wind when the field was fertile provided us with some rudimentary shelter from the wind that night which howled until the early morining.