Silk Road tourists on a high despite the lows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 August, 1999, 12:00am

Eleven Hong Kong tourists stranded on the Silk Road for a week spoke yesterday of their trek out.

They told how they had been trapped in a flood-hit town without fresh food or clean water and had to send out rescue messages in Morse code.

Ma Wing-cheung, the only man on the 18-day sightseeing tour which started on July 18, said the group would continue its journey before returning to the SAR on Saturday.

'We are excited and delighted to escape. We are in high spirits and want to continue our trip,' he said.

The group was stranded at a hotel in Taxkorgan on the Parnis Plateau in Xinjiang after floods and rock falls cut them off on July 31.

The tourists arrived in the Xinjiang border town of Kashgar on Sunday after travelling by foot, horse, Jeep and bus in a seven-hour trek.

'We were really scared at the time,' Mr Ma said.

'The water was not very clean and food supplies were scarce. We had no vegetables to eat as the whole town was cut off by floods.

'My wife had a fever and some other members suffered stomachache.

'In the first two days, all communication was cut off. We didn't know what was going on or whether we were going to be rescued.' Mr Ma said the group had had to rely on an old telegraph key to send out rescue messages in Morse code. He gave no details of how they encountered the key.

But despite the group's problems, Mr Ma said there was a feeling of warmth and unity as every member tried their best to support each other.

'We forged a special kind of friendship among the tour members. And the people in Taxkorgan were also very friendly and helpful,' he said.

The group was welcomed with a banquet by Kashgar government officials.

But Mr Ma said nothing pleased them more than to sleep in warm beds and make phone calls to their families.

He said they would not claim compensation from their travel agency and blamed no party for the incident.

'Some of us had bought insurance and maybe they can get some compensation,' he said.