We woke up that morning, had breakfast in Hami and were on our way to Turpan. Our goal was to travel ~427 km to Tuyugou Valley to visit the Mazar Village otherwise known as Tuyuq (吐峪溝) at the edge of Turpan, then to the Ancient City of Gaochang (高昌故城), before ending the night in Turpan (吐鲁番).
What's interesting about the Tuyugou Valley is that it sat within the Turpan Depression that is known to be the second or third lowest point on Earth and houses many historic sites easily going back 3000 years. The Mazar Village is one of these historical sites. It is said that there is a holy cave at the Mazar Village that is documented in the Koran.
Legend has it that two missionaries entered XinJiang in hopes of spreading the Islamic faith. However, they were soon hunted by the miliary. The two missionaries came upon a pair of shepherds and their dog. After some conversation with the missionaries, the shepherds decided to help them escape. After several days, maybe even weeks, they were running short on supplies and the shepherds wanted their dog to leave and run to freedom. However, the loyal dog would not stop following. The shepherds got desperate and crippled the dog to leave him behind, but still he would follow. In the end, they hid in a cave with the dog as their guardian; and that was how the holy cave came to be.
The view from up top; we had to climb a steep sandy hill at the edge of the village to get to this photographic point. The descent was rather interesting as the dry sand made it ridiculously slippery even though I was in my sneakers. Annie's descent was most memorable as she was in her sandals, screaming, giggling, and sliding.
Kel crept out to the edge for his photos; I wouldn't dare as I could foresee myself slipping and rolling down every which way.
The other side of the village where the pond is; you can see the Buddha Grottoes in the mountains. However, they are no longer open to the public due to damage done over the years. Another memorable thing about the village is that there's a murky creek that runs through it to this pond; like the water was actually brown. And the villagers actually use this as their drinking water. Our guide told us that the locals would have to let the water sit in their bucket overnight for the sediments to settle before using it.
Did I mention the village is saturated with mulberry trees? We've never had mulberries before; I for one have only read about them in books. Our guide told us to try them and at first we were skeptical, but once we had our first, there was no stopping us! (Or me and Annie that is..) The guide couldn't help but laugh as we ate our way through the village.
We saw a man butcher a goat in his front yard; and by butcher I mean literally empty the goat's intestines as his pet cat watched. On the right is the house the locals has preserved as it is believed the missionaries, shepherds and the dog has stayed there before.
Next, we headed to the Ancient City of Gaochang (高昌故城). This ancient city dates back to 100 BC and used to be an important trading post along the Silk Road. The city was said to have been burnt down in the 14th century.
We had to pay admission to get a mule driven wagon to take us in. There wasn't a whole lot to see, as it was no more spectacular than any of the other ancient ruins we've seen on this trip. If anything, this one was even less maintained. The negative experience we had with this particular site was that the locals there tried to scam us and make us pay double. When we got to the main part, they informed us that what we previously paid was a one way trip and that we needed to pay again to get driven back out. Annie argued with them for a bit and then we just ignored them and walked into the site. They were still there waiting for us afterwards to drive us back out, but nonetheless it left a bad taste in our mouth.
We returned to Turpan that night for our last dinner in Xinjiang. We celebrated our trip with good food, cold beers, in good company.
Day 19:We woke up in Turpan and had breakfast before driving back to Urumqi, where we were to depart XinJiang in the afternoon. Throughout the drive, we were recalling all that we've seen and experienced in the last three weeks, saying farewell to the camels as we passed by; the mountain; the goats.
After having lunch in Urumqi, Siubo said we still had a little time before our flight and asked if there was anything we wanted to do. For some reason, Starbucks came to mind. There was supposedly one in Urumqi, or so Siubo has heard of. We had tried looking for the location of it online during our trip, as a friend had asked if we can bring back one of their mugs from the World collection, but had no luck. Nonetheless, we figured if there was one, it'd be pretty cool to bring one back for ourselves that said "Urumqi" or even "XinJiang" on it. Siubo called around and located a "Starbucks Cafe and Restaurant". It didn't sound right, but since we had time, we decided to take a detour. Or rather, Siubo insisted on checking it out. (Did I mention he was a wonderful driver? :) Alas, when we got there, it turned out to be a restaurant that used the Starbucks name and since Starbucks never had a location in XinJiang, it wasn't an issue. And that was our last adventure before Siubo dropped us off at the airport.
Our 19 day road trip through Xinjiang (and a part of Gansu) covered an approximate distance of 6973 km. That's more than 1000 km above the distance needed to travel across Canada from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia! Below, I've put together a map of the route we took during our trip and yes, it was quite an adventure! So much so, that we've decided to go back next year (which is really this year, since I started this post in October and it's now regrettably January)! Cannot wait for part 2!
|A-Urumqi; B-Yuli; C-Korla; D-Kuqa; E-Kezi'erxiang; F-Aksu; G-Kashgar; H-Taxkorgan; I-Khūnjerāb Pass; J-Kashgar; |
K-Hotan; L-Minfeng; M-Korla; N-Turpan; O-Dunhuang; P-Jiayuguan; Q-Hami; R-Balikun; S-Turpan; T-Urumqi