The day after tomorrow I am setting off on my 50th birthday adventure from Beijing to Bishkek across the Takla Makan desert. Takla Makan roughly translates as "go in never come out again" and in the days when camels were the only way to get across it, this was quite likely. Today there is a road, so hopefully we will re-emerge...
It's always been my dream to go across the Takla Makan, ever since reading Peter Fleming's News from Tartary, his account of travelling there in the 1930s. Older brother of Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, he was also married to Celia Johnson, star of Brief Encounter. Their recent marriage didn't stop him linking up on this particular journey with fellow solo traveller, a Swiss journalist called Kini Maillart. Fleming's book contains a fulsome tribute to her stoicism and unflappability during their journey, although back at home the (reasonably) suspicious Johnson unlovingly dubbed her "The Swiss".
The textiles link to our journey is that we are travelling along the old Silk Route across western China and into Kyrgyzstan, and the trip includes a visit to a silk production centre, as well as to see carpet weaving and Jade craft. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities to buy! This dovetails very nicely with my yarn fibres project for Module 3 of my City & Guilds Hand Knitting course, which is, you've guessed it, silk!
Congratulations to Lyn Wymers for being the first (and only!) person to respond to the quiz in my last post - yes my 50th birthday is on Tuesday 2nd June. If you haven't yet done so, please consider making a donation to my Just Giving website for The Lavender Trust:
My 50th birthday challenge is to raise £1000 for this charity, which advises young women diagnosed with breast cancer, by 13th July 2009. Yes, the challenge was originally £500 but my wonderful friends responded so fast that this was raised within a week! I will update you on progress on my return from Bishkek in mid-June.
By the way, this post's picture is not the Taklamakan Desert but the Atacama Desert in Chile, which we visited in November 2007.