Last time we checked in with David and Janet Carle, the two had followed the 38th parallel along the path of the Yellow River, from Yinchuan, near Inner Mongolia, to Xining in western China, home of the country’s largest lake, Qinghai.

Now, they report back from their trek through China’s Uighur region, along the Southern Silk Road, and describe their journey to 11,999 ft Karakul Lake, at China’s western border.

Read on to hear more about their investigations of water-related environmental and cultural connections, and follow the links to their blog, Parallel Universe 38° North: The Water Line. The Carles’ book The 38th Parallel: A Water Line Around the World will be published by UC Press in Fall 2012.

David Carle is the author of several UC Press books about California’s environment, most recently Introduction to Earth, Soil, and Land in California.

The Karakorum Highway to the Western Edge of China

Near TashkorganIt was time for us, as mountain people, to see the high country near China’s western border.  We headed up the Karakorum Highway to Karakul Lake, at 11,999 ft (38°26”), said to be the most beautiful lake in China.  The weather cooperated providing a majestic view of Muztagh Ata, rising over 23,000 feet above the lake. Enroute, we made a side trip to Oytagh Glacier, which is melting fast in a hanging valley at 9,500 feet.  The valley community was raising crops and livestock at this high elevation in small green fields along the river, backed by towering mountains.

The Southern Silk Road: Hotan to Kashgar

Sheep into BusHotan is an oasis on the Southern Silk Road, east of Kashgar, famous for centuries for its jade. It was here we met our friend from home, Rick Kattelmann, and our new guide Abdul, and began our trek through far western China’s Uighur region.  Hotan is an island of green in the Taklamakan Desert, with orchards of fruits and nuts and fields of wheat going on for miles.  We drove to the “green wall” at the edge of town where men were planting and drip irrigating peach trees and tamarisk, trying to hold back the shifting dunes.