Today was a beautiful day – overcast, not too hot, and a bit breezy – for cycling, so we drove north and west out of Kuqa until we were on the small secondary road to Baicheng. This road gets less traffic now that the expressway has been completed, and it’s lined with poplar trees, providing shade and a bit of respite from the afternoon sun.
There were a succession of beekeepers along the road, each with a table in front of their hives with honey for sale, and we picked up a jar of delicious wildflower honey to have with fruits and bread. We then finished cycling the 53 km to this small and lively market town, where we stopped and packed up our bikes.
We had a typical Uygur lunch at a small cafe and barbecue stand on Baicheng’s pedestrian street – either cut-up noodles or long noodles with fresh tomato, which along with potato were the only non-meat dishes available! As we were eating, the wind picked up, and signs, bits of trash, and ashes from the grills blew everywhere, as it started to thunder and rain. We walked quickly to the van, and drove the balance of the way to Aksu.
We found a very nice hotel off the main road, with a lovely garden, the Aksu Di Qu Hotel. After we checked in and changed out of our biking clothes, we took a late night walk around town, and saw several markets, one in full swing selling clothes, toys, and other nicknacks, and another that was already closing. We had a snack of small vegetable hot pot and a beer, then walked back to our hotel.