The Taklamakan Desert for the Desk-bound.
and then shifting to the east a little, homed in on the Taklamakan desert.
The sand dunes were as regular as a patterned wall-paper; exactly as I'd seen from the plane on my way back from China. Then, without zooming out again, I 'travelled' in all directions trying to find a place where the sand gave way to something else, but it didn't. The sand went on and on; all that change sometimes was the size and direction of the sand dunes. It was only after I'd zoomed back out that I could find other features: rocks, dried up lakes and a hint of grass.
I am trying to understand the geography of the Silk Road, but it is a complicated process, not helped by the fact that the area has changed so much in recent years. With the fall of the Soviet Union new countries sprang up, and at the same time new nomenclatures seem to have become popular to describe cities in China.
In the front of the book I am reading now (Peter Hopkirk's Foreign Devils on the Silk Road) five different names for a place called Urumchi - which now, I believe, is known by yet another: Urumqi. No wonder I'm confused.