After the uncertainty of its final border crossing due to avalanches, the Journey of Discovery entered China. The roads varied from the tarmac of National Road 314 to the rugged terrain of the Taklamakan Desert. Its name ominously translates to read: ‘go in and you will never come out’.
Where there’s deserts there’s always some racing, and the Journey of Discovery met a group of around 200 petrolheads from the Xinjiang Extreme Rallying Society. The region is increasingly being seen as one of the world’s top off-road driving locations. Terrain Response turned to the correct setting saw the Land Rover Discoverys tackle the dunes, proving once again their breadth of capability.
Unlikely as it sounds for a desert the Journey of Discovery encountered rain in Taklamakan. The persistent rain, loaded with Taklamakan sand covered the vehicles with a mottled marble ochre-like film. Sand storms filled the gaps between the rain, leaving the Journey of Discovery to fight dust devils and poor visibility.
One consolation was the wide open road, National Road 314 between Aksu and Korla having recently been transformed to a new, glass smooth four-lane highway – the infrastructure no doubt a result of China’s exploration of the area for oil and gas.
Next stop for the Journey of Discovery was Turpan where sultana and raisins are big business. One local company claims to shift 15,000 tonnes a year. Situated some 50 metres below sea level, the Journey of Discovery had dropped nearly 4,000m in altitude to get here from the highs of the Torutgart Pass which preceded its entry into China. With grapes being grown for the sultana and raisin industry it’s no surprise to find a sideline in wine, and quite a sideline too – the Turpan Loulan Wine Industry Co producing 6.65 million bottles.
Pre-sunrise starts aren’t new to the team on the Journey of Discovery, so with alarms set early the crew woke in the dark to cover the 280 miles from Hami to Dunhuang. There the Journey of Discovery team would meet up and join some celebrations with another Land Rover expedition.
The ‘Never Stop Discovering’ journey saw 12 Land Rover Discoverys travel in convoy from cosmopolitan Shanghai on China’s eastern seaboard, to the high-altitude Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Covering 5,000 miles the trip was celebrated by a gala dinner, with a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and some dazzling entertainment including Chinese folk singer and songwriter Sa Ding Ding.
A further highlight for the Journey of Discovery crew was the surprise and incredibly generous donation cheque of¥2,471,600.00 RMB (approx. £246,000) to the Journey of Discovery’s £1m fundraiser for the InternationalFederation ofRed Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ water sanitation project in Uganda.
The Journey of Discovery also enjoyed the company of Wong How Man and Professor Zhang Fan of the China Exploration and Research Society (CERS). Wong How Man is Founder of the China Exploration and Research Society (CERS) and has been listed in Time magazine in ’25 Asian Heroes: China’s most accomplished living explorer’. CERS explores remote regions of China to conduct multi-disciplinary research and conserve nature and culture. It also seeks to educate through its results and findings.
To enable them to reach such remote, difficult locations, CERS’ fleet of expedition vehicles consists of nine Land Rovers – a mixture of Discovery and Defender vehicles.
Despite 43 days worth of road dust and grime, the Land Rover Journey of Discovery reached a significant milestone on its arrival in Jiayuguan. Located in the Gobi Desert, Jiayuguan is the most westerly point on China’s iconic Great Wall, and a gigantic yellow-stone fort, built in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty, marks its terminus. The Journey of Discovery will follow the iconic landmark’s path as it spends its final few days on the road to Beijing, arriving in just a few days.
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