Silk Road by MGB – China & Kazakhstan Day 47 to 57

Monday, 5 June 2017

I’m in to Uzbekistan now on Day 65, but here’s a quick catch up from Day 47 to 57

Day 49 – Dunhuang is famous for its Buddhist caves and for the Singing Sand Dunes. The caves were indeed terrific, but after Maijishan it was hard to be impressed. The sand dunes, however, were wonderful. I climbed up to the first ridge to catch the sunset and watched these climbers heading up the ridge line of a higher dune. Meanwhile ultralights sailed by overhead, visitors scooted downhill on sand toboggans, camels trudged by, it was all activity.

Day 53 – Turpan – the mosque/minaret/tower of Emin’s Mosque/Minaret or even the Sugong Ta is named after a local general or the Emin’s son (the Sugong label) and looks like something that should be in Mali in North Africa with its mud construction. The curious minaret design is rather reminiscent of architect Norman Foster’s St Mary Axe/Swiss Re/Erotic Gherkin in London. Unfortunately you cannot climb the minaret, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

Day 54 – Jiaofe City – this ancient city with its extensive riverside setting is just outside Turpan. Driving in to Turpan we dropped below sea level and although we’d climbed up above the zero line by the time we reached the city centre this is reputed to be the hottest place in China. Nearby the Aydingkul Lake is indeed the lowest spot in China in China at 154 metres below sea level, it’s China’s Dead Sea or Death Valley.

Day 55 – Sayram Lake near Horgas – as we approached the China-Kazakhstan border town of Horgas or Khorgos the county made an amazing switch. I’d imagined we’d be driving into desert and that would extend into the Central Asian ‘stans, starting with Kazakhstan. Instead the countryside became greener and then more mountainous and at times it felt like we were in Switzerland. Shortly after this lakeside stop the road swept across a steep valley on a spectacular bridge, then looped back and down through two tunnels and emerged underneath the soaring bridge. Chinese infrastructure, wow!

Day 57 – Charyn Canyon – it’s Kazakhstan’s Grand Canyon and indeed it is pretty impressive. Watching these mountain bikers swoop down to the track running along the bottom of the canyon.

Day 57 – approaching the Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border the road deteriorated away to become a potholed track, it continued that way for a spell across the border before Kyrgyzstan started to unroll some more surprises along the Silk Road. Our Kazakhstan stay was a short one, we just cut across a corner of the vast country and my one previous visit was on the other side of the nation when I visited Baikonur back in 2008 to watch a tourist go up into space on a Soyuz space launch from Baikonur.