Buses Anyone? Urumqi to Kashgar by Sleeper Bus

Today I received an email from my sister-in-law. She just returned to the States. It seemed to me that she left less than 24 hours ago. She flew from Shanghai to Detroit and even managed to clean out her attic when I received the email. I was shocked at how quickly she arrived. She had a direct flight, and obviously everything went smoothly. Immediately I was reminded of our recent 36 hour ordeal. The Gallery Cafe Kashgar had to go to Urumqi and we took, not one, not two, not even three but four sleeper buses.

We needed leave our Cafe in Kashgar for about a week. Bus was not our first option, but because we needed to travel right after students got off school, our options were limited. We could only get a seat on the train, and the thought of being on a train seated for 24 hours was not appealing at all. So we opted for 12 hours on a seater in the train with the plan to switch at Korla to a sleeper bus, which usually takes 6 to 7 hours. According to plan we should have arrived at Urumqi at 10am.

The plan was set but, as usual things don’t always work out as planned. We left a little late on the train (which is not unsual) at about 1:30pm. It was 12 hours later when we arrived in Korla. We took a taxi to the bus station and some taxi drivers with connections promised us a sleeper bus soon. We waited in their taxi, and waited, and waited. Before we realized, it was almost 6am. We ditched our taxi driver who promised to hook us up with the bus and walked up to the highway. As soon as we arrived, 3 buses pulled in. One of which was going to Urumqi. But for some unexplainable reason, our bus took a loooooong time. We arrived in Urumqi 24 hours after we left Kashgar. Dirty, tired and hungry. But that was nothing compared to the trip back.

We left Urumqi at 10am Sunday morning for Kashgar. We were in great spirits and hopeful that we would be back in Kashgar in 24 hours. If everything went smoothly, maybe even less. There were once again no sleeper tickets on the train, so we took a bus to Korla, which ended up taking 8 hours. We ran to the train hopeful to get seats back to Kashgar, but arrived at the station only to find out the train had already left. Still hopeful and cheery we took a bus to the main bus station to get a bus back to Kashgar. The buses were all gone. We went back to our favorite stop on the highway, where buses pull in to drop off passengers and pick up new ones. We arrived and there was a bus there. But it wasn’t going where we wanted. It was going to Hotan, and the closest spot it could drop us off at was Bachu, which would be another 5 hour bus ride to Kashgar. We shrugged our shoulders and thought ‘hey, maybe Bachu is interesting!’ Little did we know.

The bus to Bachu took another 12 hours. When we finally arrived in Bachu it was already 28 hours since we left Urumqi. Eager to return to Kashgar, we were also tired, hungry and a little grumpy. We stopped for a meal, a 5 minute rest in the main hotel in town and tried to find something interesting to justify our trip to Bachu. There was nothing. Bachu is a clean town with probably two main roads and lots of little shops and that’s about it. At least our curiosity for Bachu was satisfied. There is no need to go, ever again.

We got on the bus to Kashgar at 4:45pm. The bus had an air conditioner that didn’t work and most of the seats were falling apart. It was a painful end our torturous journey. By the time we pulled into the bus station in Kashgar it was 10pm, 36 hours from when we left, and 36 hours from the cheery optimism we started with.

To think in half that time, with a quarter of the trouble and none of the filth, my sister-in-law made it all the way across the world and cleaned out an attic is really quite amusing. The adventures never cease in Kashgar and I’m not complaining. I guess that’s why we came, right?

Note: This article contributed to our blog from Gallery Cafe in Kashgar when they left from Kashgar middle of  summer 2011. We missed Gallery Cafe!

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