After 91 kilometers of riding across the Taklimakan desert I am tired, dusty and hungry. It is 6pm in the evening and we have just finished riding for the day. Despite finding a small hostel in a tiny village we are informed by the local police that it is not possible for us to stay there. Furthermore, they won’t allow us to pedal onwards, loading our bikes into a police vehicle and driving us half an hour out of town, dropping us and our bikes back into the vast exposed plans of the desert basin.
It seems we are to camp in a highway drain for yet another night.
I have packed lightly for this journey. When you must carry everything you need on your bicycle you strip it back to the essentials. That means three pairs of underwear in total. And we are three days in, and on our third campsite of highway drains. I’m all out.
I brought the towelie on the trip because I am a StokedNZ ambassador and because I thought it might be useful. At the very least, I knew I would get some cool pics. But on this dusty evening, tired from a days riding, it becomes my favourite item. While the heat of the day remains, I don the towelie and strip to nothing. Even that feels amazing after a day in sweaty dirty riding clothes. The warm fresh air against my skin. And then, in the vast open desert I fill my cereal bowl with bottled water, tip in some laundry powder and set about hand washing the few pairs of underwear I own, carefully hanging them out to dry on the barbed fence that separates us from the main highway.
Recalling the tales my Grandfather told of conserving water in Egypt during WW2, I opt to use one more bottle of water. This time, on myself. Brush your teeth first. That was the rule he told me. And so, stripped naked in the desert I take a bird bath under my towelie. Removing some degree of the grime that has built up over recent days. It feels incredible.
I am the envy of my companions, as I swan around the camp, completely decent and yet with all my freshly laundered clothes out to dry. Even better, the towelie dries faster than anything else. While I am wearing it.
I am stoked. It is such a simple thing. A towel. That’s a poncho. Who knew we needed these things? Debs, I've said it before, but you're a genius. These things are so bloody useful. And only 6 days in to this three month long journey (www.The2018ChinaTraverse.com) I have a feeling there will be some funny stories and epic pics of the towelie and I to come.