Sun, Oct 6, 2013
We had an early departure at 7:30 because we have many Kms through the Gobi Desert to the next city of Turpan which will take 1.5 days of driving. Leaving Dunhuang, we saw many fields in the oasis of Dunhuang, specifically melon and cotton fields. We drove by about 20 Kms of windmills – I’ve seen alot in CA and MN and central WA but never this many in one spot. There wasn’t alot of scenery today – just dryness and an occasional mountain range. It was a day of eating junk food and sleeping on the truck.
We found a fantastic place for bush camping that night. There was an opening in the fence along the toll highway and we drove off to see what we could find. What we found was a spot surrounded by rocky mountains in a dry creek bed. Some of us climbed the surrounding hills. I took some great photos of desert wildflowers, miniature trees, and another amazing sunset.
We built a nice campfire with some dry twigs we found in the desert. Dinner was mashed combo of potatoes and sweet potatoes with chicken gumbo. The bush camp dinners have all been tasty and abundant.
Mon, Oct 7
Had a nice sleep last night. Although it was 45 degrees, it was not windy and not wet so a far cry from the 39 degrees or less that we had in the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau. So this is what they mean by “Happy Camper”. There was a nice sunrise and nice scenery of mountains. We passed a number of oases in the desert and lots of brick buildings with ventilation for drying raisins.
Before arriving in Turpan city, we hit the lowest point of our trip – about 40 meters BELOW sea level. There is a dried-up lake in the area that is 154 meters below sea level and the 3rd lowest spot on earth. It’s hard to believe we were over 5200 meters only a week ago – I’ve gone from my personal highest to nearly the lowest spot I’ve been. Luckily, none of us is suffering from altitude sickness nor the Bends!
We had lunch at the John’s cafe at our hotel in Turpan – a huge complex in the middle of town and the cafe roof was covered by grape vines and hanging fruits.
Barb, Anna, and I headed to the Karez center which was a museum dedicated to the working of the Karezes – irrigation systems built underground to bring up underground water that originates in the snows in the mountains to the surface of the Gobi desert. These water systems have been used for thousands of years in this area. The museum also showed us a little about local life and the grape drying process which was something we all had been curious about.
In the gift shops, I bought a pair of camel hair socks to keep me warm in the upcoming bush camps this fall. The taxi ride to the Karez was pretty short and I had remembered the way back to our hotel, so we decided to walk back. It was a very balmy but comfortable 86 degrees. Walking in these cities has been one of the best ways to see the local life. We went to the locals market and looked at several shops – especially those that sold fabrics and homemade goods. The Uiyger people are much different than what we think as typical Chinese – even their language is different and uses an Arabic script in writing, as they are Muslim.
Later I went for a walk to the supermarket to buy some Coke Zeros and check out the night market which was supposed to begin at 8:00. I went back to the hotel but those headed to the night market had already left. At the night market, I couldn’t find any of the group but I ran into our Chinese guide, “Rambo”. He wasn’t in the mood for street food so we went to a small local restaurant nearby. For about $3 I had a big plate of homemade noodles with beef, onions, ginger and lots of red peppers and a large beer that I shared with Rambo.
After dinner, we met up with some others near the hotel who were watching some local folks putting on a show – singers and dancers but the highlight was a little boy who was doing a Michael Jackson imitation to “Beat It”. The crotch grabs were the funniest! Tanya and I had our photo taken with the little MJ.