Thursday, April 7, 2011

Itinerary for China and Turkmenistan

On April 15 we will arrive in Beijing, and the next day begin our exploration of the 38th parallel across China at the delta of the Yellow River, where it empties into the ocean right on the latitude line.  The Yellow River Delta National Nature Preserve is an important site for migratory birds, including cranes.  Our route westward keeps intersecting the river as it swings in great loops, north and south of the line.  Cities that we will visit along the river include Yinchuan, at the edge of Inner Mongolia (38°28'North; 106°16'E), and Lanzhou, once a key location on the Silk Road (Marco Polo passed through) and now a major industrial city.  From there we will go to Xining and the Qinghai Salt Lake Institute, where we will be  educated about the region's salt lakes, thanks to a connection made by Dr. Robert Jellison, a local expert on salt lake ecosystems here in the Sierra Nevada.  Qinghai Lake is China's largest lake and shares some traits with Mono Lake:  it is salty, a key location for migratory birds, and is currently being "saved" by the government from ecosystem declines caused by activities in the surrounding watershed.  We will fly across the eastern half of the Taklamakan desert and then drive along the southern route of the Silk Road from the oasis town of Hotan west to Kashgar.  We will also go to Karakul Lake (37º59N; 75º01E) and Tashkorgan, another Silk Road town along the Karakorum Highway on the Pamir plateau.
After more than 3 weeks spanning over 3,000 miles of China, we will fly direct from western China above parts of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekhistan to land in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (37º58'N; 58º24'E).  We will learn about the 500+ mile Karakum Canal that transports water to that capital city and irrigates farm fields along the way, and also visit Merv, site of an ancient Silk Road city that is half-way around the world from Mono Lake along the 38th parallel.  Merv was perhaps the largest city in the world from 1145 to 1153 A.D., with a population of 200,000 back then (it's a ruin now).

We will only stay 3 nights in Turkmenistan before flying on to Istanbul, then Madrid, and finally returning home on May 18.  Following this trip, only Japan will remain to complete our around-the-world explorations (hopefully in September if conditions there allow).   As always, while exploring the water-related cultural and environmental stories along the 38th parallel, we will blog about our experiences when time and internet connections permit.  Your comments about the blogs are really appreciated.


  1. Nice trip! Interested to hear your impression of Golmund, as gateway to Tibet. Kashgar is SOMETHING to see on its market days. DO GO if you get the chance. Also take note of natural gas in Turkmenistan and desert people who used to raise some of the best horses in the world (can't remember the name). TKMSTAN is, of course, also one of the most closed dictatorships in the world. Mind your cameras!

  2. Best wishes on this next phase of your epic adventure. Looking forward to following your journey, and seeing you back in the Mono Basin.

  3. I look forward to following all your adventures. Good luck!

    Carolyn and Zane