Xiahe to Turpan (China)



Xiahe to Turpan
On our way to Turpan, the famous oasis, we headed to Jiayuguang (not on this map) which is quite well know in China due to the fact it was the furthest garnison town of the Great Wall. Beijing has decided to develop the West of China (West of Xi'an) in an attempt to lower the gap between the rich East and the poor West. This has given us plenty of road works all over our journey from Xi'an. Quite often we would also be following (and crossing) rail tracks. As in many other countries, the rail is the lifeline of the country and new small towns develop alongside the tracks. As can be seen from the map, we are driving through desert (although not the dune desert version) and crossing oasis towns every now and then. The desert is on a high plateau and sometimes surrounded by impressive looking snow capped mountains.


The Great Wall of China
Tourist literature claims the Great Wall is the only man-made building that can be seen from space. Problem is, sometimes, you can't even see the Wall from the Wall itself. Check it out.

The Western tip of the Great Wall & Jianyuguang Pass


Trip to the glacier
From the city of Jiajuguang, we decided to make a day trip to visit the Qilian Shan glacier. The stunning mountain road that lead us there went up to 4200 meters and gave incredible sights (below 2 pictures "stitched" together).



We walked up from 3600 meters (as far as we could go with the car) to 4200 m, the bottom of the glacier. As it was already quite late and the road back was not the best, we decided to camp out in the mountains ! Besides the cold, what impressed us most was the lack of noise. The only thing to be heard was our own breathing ! We had not been in such a quiet area for months.


At the bottom of the glacier (left) and on the way down (right)


A very cold evening and the splendid view next morning


For those with good eyes, on the second square of the map (top left), the words Lop Nur can be seen, famous location due to the nuclear testing in the area (and Chinese rocket launching area ?).


Dunhuang, another famous oasis along the Silk Route. Dunhuang is home to the Mogao Buddhist caves where "foreign devils" (= westerners) raced to at the beginning of this century to plunder caves.


Dunhuang Hotel Dunhuang Devil Town Mogao caves Turpan Oasis Hotel


Xinjiang Province (Capital Urumqi, Pop. 17 million, area 1,600,000 sq km)
On our way to Turpan along the Wuxi Corridor, a high altitude plateau plateau used by the Silk Road caravans, we enter China's Xinjiang Province, our last Province in China. Xinjiang Province is China's largest and most Western Province. To give you an idea of the size of this Province, it is 4 times the size of Japan and has borders with 8 other countries : Mongolia, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India ! Is this really China ?  As we enter the Province, we are welcomed by an interesting mix of Chinese and Arabic languages (and our first tollgate for a long time !)


Local people are clearly not Asian anymore : their hair is mostly brown (not black) and blue eyes and freckles are not commonly found on Han Chinese ! Their food is also spicy Muslim food. By traveling the slow way, we are discovering where the Eastern bowl of noodles starts to resemble Italian pasta ! Xianjiang Province is also where we have rediscovered bread. Local people bake de-li-cious bagel look-alikes as well as larged naans in small street side ovens.


Some "real" Chinese noodles as we leave Dunhuang


Our first lunch stop in Xinjiang Province : Muslim people and Italian pasta !


Delicious naan (covered with a few onions) and salty bagels


Along the road : mud bricks put together in the shape of small houses to dry in the hot and moistureless desert climate.


Gaochang city ruins

Gaochang city was founded in the 7th century and became the capital of the Uyghur when they moved to Xiniiang Province from Mongolia. It became a major hub on the silk road as business expanded during the Tang dynasty. Some remains of this large city are still in quite good condition (the outer city walls were 12 meters thick). For an unknown reason, the city was deserted over time and remains as it was. 


The old Gaochang city walls and donkey carts waiting for tourists




This is less funny. As we were looking around for a automobile repair shop on a Sunday to have the oil of our car changed, a long convoy of police cars and military trucks with screaming sirens drove along. On each one of the 4 trucks we saw, 8 to 10 men facing down, each held by two soldiers are most likely to get bullit in the neck in the following hours. This is part of China's latest "hit hard" campaign : swift justice to deter others from leaving the right path. This Sunday parade so that all could see them, made us think of people going to the guillotine during the French revolution or of the scene in the film "Papillon" where convicts walk through the city as they leave for French Guyanne.


We have not left the "right path" !

Xi'an to Xiahe Back to Trip page Turpan to Hotan