After Garze, pass the guru praying in a field then navigate through a large temple with dozens of young men running around in yellow and red robes. Exit through the back gate they will unlock for you, ride your bike for a couple of kilometers along a single track of dirt and past a stupa. You will find a tiny and ancient temple set into the mountains, where an old monk resides with a lama and a couple of nuns. After purchasing eggs, as the nuns led me the long way around the temple to continue traversing clockwise along the outer wall, I return to my room upstairs.
The horses are below me, the other monk is the room next to me reading ancient texts and reading…I can feel the breathing of the walls all around me. Standing in cheap purple Chinese thermals, barefoot, teeth chattering and my arms wrapped around me. I have no other clothes as everything is wet after tipping head first into the hot springs a few hundred meters away. Silently, I slowly move my body along the concrete covered wood planked floors with my eyes examining every brush stroke along the walls. Reaching out to touch the colors and shapes, my finger tips feel the cold walls and the story begins to come alive in front of me. There are magical beasts, great spiritual figures, symbolism that seems familiar but from where…and when. I sense synchronicity with all the inanimate around me. Everything seems so quiet, yet so vivid and lucid. Am I the only one that can hear this…surely not…
"Hey…you" is whispered from a hatchway in the roof. Grounding myself, I look for Brandon, a cyclist from San Francisco I had met a week earlier in a remote Tibetan town, also on a Saga. I climb the rungs feeling every grain of bamboo in my arches and I am now at one of the highest points in the valley at the base of glacier topped mountains.
We say nothing, stand silently, faces turned upwards to the heavens. I begin to see the first stars of my own constellation. It would take years and thousands of miles to finally make out the Lone Huntress with her faithful chiru at side…eternally traveling northwest, the direction of the unknown.
Sitting with 8 siblings in a small living area, lit with one bare fluorescent bulb, that smells of human spirit, animal pelts, and unpasteurized milk and cheese, there is the thunderous rumble of a machine outside. The excitement in the home grows; the smiles turn into laughter and the old rickety door is nearly thrown off it’s hinges as father comes through the doorway as blustery as a gale-force wind.
Mother begins to laugh from the corner where she slices old wilted vegetables with her dark brown fingers that appear as dancing twigs from an old weeping willow tree. He’s a man of great stature, gentle composure, and the grandest smile that makes wrinkles appear at his eyes like the most exotic fish tails you could ever envision. The children run to him and embrace him tightly; countless arms wrapped around his massive body and I have to refrain from running to him as I’m overtaken by the simple joy, love, and harmony all around me. He removes his thick animal pelt to keep the frozen Tibetan air from freezing his bones on the blustery evenings and sits to enjoy the evening with his family.
Each and every child, all 8, took turns sitting next to him, sharing stories of their day, explaining who the awkward foreigner was in the corner grinning from ear to ear…she must of looked as if in ecstasy.
These are the moments, the memories, the dreams I roam with through this life….etched into my memory that I will never be able to convey with images or words.
Standing next to a cliff with fresh ice melt trickling into a stream, weaving between hundreds of animal skulls and pelts; the smell of the rot is overwhelming. I carefully, and respectfully, walk away from the site while never turning my back upon the site of ancient rituals and magic. A small group of Tibetans greet me and there is a community of three or four families living in permanent, mud packed structures. I watch her laughing to herself as she marches along the perimeter of a mad packed wall. Walking towards the stupa, she slips her hand into my palm. Closing her tiny, weather worn fingers around my hand and we look at each other and smile with a child-like gaze. No one is leading nor lagging; traveling together in unison and harmony; souls complementing one another. The touch reminds me I’m human, with all my insecurities and fears; overwhelmed with the innocence, imagination, and purity of the child’s love. We play with the horses, laugh under the prayer flags while inspecting and investigating everything that sparks our curiosity. She falls over with giggles after watching my attempt to milk the goats, even after her excellent hands-on instructions. She is flying around all of us, feet barely ever touching the ground, buzzing with energy and joy. Her brightness and warmth glows as intense as the last, and single ray of sunshine.
"Just choose one, Moseman…both will you lead you somewhere". At a crossroads where I don’t have a legal permit to be, only 2 buses passing a day, 1 liter of water remaining, eating emergency food rations, and extended time at that altitude was causing horrendous physical effects, I was predicting my demise…you don’t have time to sit at a crossroads examining the paths to see which seems to show a history of more travel or kicking dirt around trying to forsee what will be at the end of each road. It’s not about the path we choose in life, it’s about making a choice and then cycling through with conviction, passion, dedication, free thought, and open heart. It’s not what route you choose that matters, it’s how you live through the journey that you felt was the "right"one at that moment. People say they are "lost", no, they aren’t…they have chosen not to choose…they haven’t yet begun their journey. How can you be lost in life when you aren’t even living? This ain’t the gospel…just the inner-ramblings of a long-distance-lunatic-cyclist on a saga with skies in the eyes and a fiery heart that rules my journey.
Hours spent sitting along the banks of Namucuo, the highest (alpine) lake on Earth, watching the current bring the most crystal clear water to my feet. Complete silence except for a single heartbeat, the pulsing of my own blood, and the water gently rolling and crashing to accompany the beat of my own rhythm. No one around for as far as eyes could see, small schools of fish in the water, massive coal black ravens along the bank tending to themselves, and insects skimming across the surface. The waters and skies merging into one along the horizon, no longer able to differentiate between earth and the heavens. We are one and at the mercy of it all.
After publishing a book of Tibet, I received countless requests for a collection of Uyghur photos.
After a year of returning from the region and trying to budget a return photo trip, I’v compiled 140 photographs in an eBook. If you’ve been following my feed and work for awhile, you know all profits I make go to continue these projects.
Again, thank all you, specifically the Uyghurs from all around the world that have helped, advised, and supported my endeavor and work.
The book is dedicated to all Uyghurs, specifically Eliyar and Akbar Tursun and their entire family.
A prostitute in Hebei province, China. Curious of the female foreign guest, which is probably the first to ever stay here, she spends time asking questions of simple curiosity.
Recently, China’s security ministry has ordered a crack down on prostitution throughout the mainland. Prostitution can be found from the biggest cities to some of the smallest towns and villages in the far western reaches of China. Officially, prostitution is illegal but up until last month, government officials usually turned their eyes from the matter.
There are seven tiers of prostitution. The first tier are “second wives” which is a very socially and culturally accepted form of “prostitution”. Then downwards from “packaged wife”, “three halls”, “doorbell girls”, “hairdressing salon sister”, “street girl”, to “down the work shack”. This woman would fit more into the “doorbell girl”, forth tier.
From personal experience, there are much less prostitutes in religious areas, such as Tibetans and Uyghurs, but you will find Han women on occasion in these regions.
A Uyghur father cracks open apricot shells for the interior seed in his traditional mud packed home in Kashgar. Apricots are one of the most common fruits you will find in Xinjiang and all along the ancient trade route through Central Asia, The Silk Road.
A father, and uncle, is always someone special in every young girl’s life. The 12 year old daughter snuggles into her father’s lap still wearing her pajamas from the previous evening while his niece wraps her arms tightly around his neck. No one wants to be left out of the love that’s shared within the household. It’s never an odd sight to see family members giving each other physical affection in Uyghur culture. Often you will spot fathers holding onto their young adult sons.
It’s morning inside a traditional Uyghur home near Korla, Xinjiang. After chai and breakfast the family generally sits around discussing life, family issues, and what things need to be taken care of during the day.
Teen Uyghur girls take a break after an afternoon of chai and dancing. Songs ranged from American pop stars like Ke$ha to traditional Uyghur and some tunes from Central Asia.
Through thousands of miles of travel and the dozens and dozens of dance parties I’ve been involved in…I’m beginning to believe that dance could bring the entire world together in peace. The laughter and love that comes through dance overcomes culture, religion, and language.
A Uyghur husband and wife work together, storing away the Fall’s harvest of fruit for the winter. The fruit, which is usually apples and pears, will be used by the family and given as gifts until the Spring.
It is quite common for Uyghur couples and families of Xinjiang to work together in the fields, with a high respect for the mother. Not only does the older women work in the fields but also will tend to the family matters late into the evening.
The sacrifice of a sheep for Eid al-Adha عيد الأضحى October 2012, Aksu Xinjiang
Feast of the Sacrifice is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismā’īl (Ishmael) as an act of submission to God’s command and his son’s acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a Lamb to sacrifice instead. In the lunar Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days. In the international Gregorian calendar, the dates vary from year to year, drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.