The modem consignments going west are coal, rubber tyres, Map China marsta oil drums, building materials, scrap iron and metal; while trucks coming east carry live Map China marsta donkeys, bales of goatskins, hides and wool, and bundles of straw and dry reeds, some so long that they trail behind the trucks and sweep the road. The desert, now a salty alkaline plain of crusty white, has also changed, in the way that deserts are always changing with the wind and passing of centuries.
In this Taldamakan desert the alterations caused by the mountain streams drying up or changing course over the years have accounted for the rise and decline of many vanished cities. At one time the cities had been prosperous centres of trade, study and worship, richly nourished with fresh fruit and vegetables from their advanced irrigation systems. Prosperity produced lavish temples. One such ancient site is at Kucha, where the bus driver stopped to re-fuel and do engine repairs, which gave us passengers the time to take a stroll locally.