From Yuli (尉犁), we headed towards Korla (庫爾勒) about 54 kilometres away, which is also in the Bayingol region of XinJiang. On the way, we stopped at the Luoburen Underground Canyon (罗布人地下大峽谷). However before we got there, we passed through our first Caves of Thousand Buddhas (千佛洞). This site was a really small one, and there wasn't actually a thousand, but we learnt as we went along our trip that there were many "Caves of Thousand Buddhas" in different regions as Buddhism is one of the main religions in XinJiang.
These ones were actually really poorly kept as you can see and rather small. We didn't understood the point of these at the time, but would later on after seeing and experiencing how they preserve the bigger sites.
The map posted outside the entrance of the Luoburen Underground Canyon indicated that the length of the canyon is 4.9 kilometres long and 10-30 metres deep with many paths coming off of it.
Siu Bo warned us that there could be mosquitos, but somehow we still forgot to apply and bring bug spray with us. (Flora was the only one who packed bug spray on this trip.) He showed us the way down and pointed out various things at the bottom. We spent about 5 minutes in the canyon before we realized just how many mosquitos there were! We quickly went back up to the car and sprayed ourselves of repellent before heading back down again. I swear that's got to be the longest hike I have ever made with that many mosquitos! It didn't help either that we were the only people in the canyon!
Below is one of the more (if not most) interesting forks we took. It was named "Heavenly Valley" (通天谷), or at least that's what Google Translate gave me. The sign indicated that this was one of the forks where it was possible to climb out of the canyon and if you do, you'd be blessed and be able to accomplish anything!
Left: Where we encountered our first obstacle. Flora tested the waters (as she was a regular rock climber) and led the way!
Right: I was the second to climb up, looking back down at Annie and Kel.
What we found at the top.
Left: The path after the first climb.
Right: The path ends at another climb.
Flora evaluated this one and told us it was possible for us to get up without any equipment, but too slippery to guarantee a safe trip back down so we decided it was better to play it safe since this was still our third day into the trip. I'm still baffled as to how Annie did the first climb and the hike itself as she was wearing these white loafers the whole way. You might wonder why we needed to get back down. Well, if you remember the picture of the map at the top, we had to get to the end of the canyon, as Siu Bo was waiting for us there. So really, we had to walk the whole 4.9 kilometres, there's no turning back!
Left: Kel walking up the canyon's exit. We weren't the ones to pile the rocks into an arrow.
Right: Our lizard friend bidding us farewell.
After leaving the underground canyon, we headed to Korla (庫爾勒) for lunch, or should I say lamb feast? Nom nom nom! It was one of the most delicious meals we had in XinJiang! Their lamb skewers where the best ever! Later on in the trip we came upon these other skewers which was comparable. I think we ended up rating those first place, but these came in a close second!
Don't they look yummy? Hmm.. looks like a few are missing...
Oh, oh! Flora's excited waving one! And Kel's already started on his!
Next up, leg of lamb! Look at the huge stack!
LoL the leg is so big Flora needed chopsticks to assist (aside from her hands). Look at Kel go!
We had lamb rack afterwards, too! (As well as another order of skewers!) But they were so good, we devoured them before we took any pictures. We all agreed that an ice cold beer would have made this the perfect meal. However, we came to realize that cold drinks were a luxury and not available everywhere. The restaurant had warm, room temperature beer.. eww.. We went next door to the convenience store and got cold pop and green tea instead. That ended up to be our norm at most meals.
After dinner, we headed to the Kizilgaha Beacon Tower (克孜爾朵哈烽火台) in Kuqa (庫車) about 290 kilometres. Siu Bo informed us that there were admission fees if we were to go through the regular route and really, it was just a fire beacon tower and nothing else, so he took us through a back door by driving off road through a dry river bed instead. He said we could still take pictures from below, but if we still want to go up the proper route, we could do that afterwards. It was quite an adventure driving through the river bed as there were random craters everywhere! The view from the bottom was pretty breathtaking! In the end, we didn't end up going through the main road as we had more fun taking pictures from where we were.
The Kizilgaha Beacon Tower
Two of our many attempts!
Left: Gotta love Siu Bo's car! In case you were wondering how Flora got there, she's actually climbed up Siu Bo's spare tire!
Right: Kel and Flora likes to climb things.. they found a hole at the side of the river wall.
Our last attraction of the day was the Grand Kuqa Mosque (庫車大寺).