Kyrgyzstan, China · 46 Days · 13 Moments · June 2017

8 August 2017

From Kunming, we took a train to the Shilin Stone Forest. Buying the train tickets was the first adventure of the day, but after an hour and a half of playing Chinese Chess against each other and the train staff, we got there. As everywhere in China, there were too many tourists, but as always, it was worth it. The stones are stunning to look at. We managed to fight our way to a viewpoint pavillon and then walked in between the stones until it was time to go back.

27 July 2017

We took a cable car up to Huanglong National Park and spent the day hiking in between the travestines. Most of them had colourful names, like the Beauty Competing Pond or the Body Washing Cave (we unfortunately had to cancel the beauty competition because we couldn't decide on who to use as a judge). Despite the guidebook saying that this was the least visited national park in the area, we were, as always, surrounded by thousands of Chinese tourists. We were lucky to get some pondering pictures before a Chinese woman used the empty spot to have a picture taken of her lying in front of the travestines. All in all, it was worth braving the crowds. The sights were stunning.

26 July 2017

The small town of Lamusi is located on the border between Gansu and Sichuan. We stopped to visit the Tibetan monastery with its gold-covered roofs and its colourful interiors, and we got to spin a few more prayer wheels along the way.

25 July 2017

The Labrang Monastery is the largest Tibetan monastey outside Tibet. It is, unfortunately, very touristy but still worth a visit. We spent the day walking the pilgrimage path around the monastery complex and spinning 1.700 prayer wheels before returning to our colourful hotel and our very traditional bed.

24 July 2017

We took a boat to the Bingling Si caves that have been carved into huge limestone formations next to a river. The art in the caves was pretty and the sitting Buddha was huge, but the highlight of the caves were without doubt the two small temples we saw. We climbed stairs to get to the first one, where the temple keeper told us he had been living there for decades. The waterfall cave was located a bit farther away from the rest of the complex, but the temple constructed on the cliff face was by far the most stunning. It spread out into several levels and small rooms decorated with statues of deitis, and the waterfall at its very back, a wet rock from which a single drop of water fell into a basin.

21 July 2017

We bushcamped at the Overhanging Great Wall, just a meter away from the wall. After climbing more than 500 steps to the top of it, we saw the tiny Buddhist pagodas in the mountains. A thin line looked like a path winding up to it and somehow, we thought it would be a good idea to try and get there. We made it more than halfway when we realised we were probably going to die in the mountains. The rocks crumbled under our hands and feet and fell down the cliffs as we turned around and slowly climbed back. The next day, we found the easy path and actually made it to the Buddhist hut and its prayer flags.
The fort of Jiayuguan was our first glimpse of the Great Wall. We climbed on top of the walls, tried our luck at archery with Tom, saw a Chinese opera and finally sat down in the courtyard to watch a kung fu and acrobatics performance. It was amazing! In fact, it was so good that we spent so long watching them, we couldn't make it back to the truck in time.

20 July 2017

The Crescent Lake was one of the most fun places in China. We rode on camels, explored the pagoda next to the lake, climbed a sand dune and ran down on the steep side. Then, for sunset, we flew across the dunes in a glider.
The Mogao Caves are an amazing collection of art. We got a local guide who showed us around and unlocked individual caves for us. Inside, there were frescoes with scenes of Buddhas life painted on all walls, and statues of Buddha and his disciples.

16 July 2017

Turpan is the hottest place in China and one of the hottest in the world. We braved the heat and visited the ancient city of Jar, once an important stop on the Silk Road. On our way back, we stopped at the Karez Irrigation Museum to find out how people had been able to grow crops in these dry lands hundreds of years ago. The huge system of underground tunnels was quite impressive! Our last stop for the day was a lake in the Turpan Depression. It is the second lowest point on Earth. The lowest one is the Dead Sea, which means that this one was the lowest landlocked point on Earth. It was extremely hot and we had to walk quite a distance to get there but it was still worth it.

14 July 2017

In between Aksu and Kuqa, we stopped at the Wentsu Canyon. The multi-coloured rock makes this a very special place. As we drove farther into the Canyon, the landscape started to change and the rock formations got more and more bizarre and interesting at the same time. We went for a short hike before driving on to Kuqa.

5 July 2017

Kashgar! We unvoluntarily spent a whole week in this city, waiting for our truck to be released from customs. We visited the old town probably more times than we could count and by the end of the week, we knew all restaurants near our hotel. The noodle bar was quite good! We went on two day trips. The first one took us to the Sunday Bazaar, only to find out that the biggest livestock market in Central Asia had been cancelled on that particular day. The second day trip was more interesting, taking us to Shipton's Arch, the tallest rock arch in the world.

23 June 2017