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Day 47 Yadan

July 30, 2011

July 12, 2011 (Tuesday)

Forty-seventh day in China, second day in Dunhuang: 汉长城 Han Great Wall, 玉门关 Yumenguan, 雅丹 Yadan

We ate lunch at the hostel and hopped on the 2pm bus for Yadan, a “Geopark” out in the desert on the Xinjiang-Gansu border. The bus left Dunhuang via a lonely road shooting straight into the rocky desert. Dark mountains rose in the distance. The mountain range straight ahead looked like a 臥佛 sleeping Buddha. A huge mirage, like a giant lake, arose on our left, and a small sand-twister hit the bus. We stopped at a site of Buddhist cave art, but no guides were present to unlock the caves, so we drove on to the 汉长城 Han Great Wall. In Gansu lie the furthest reaches of the Great Wall, lost in the desert. The 2000 year old wall was reduced to a few meters of earth and straw facing a stretch of green on one side. On the other, “the lone and level sands stretched far away”. We rode on to 玉门关 Yumenguan, or the “Jade Gate Pass”, through which Joy’s father told us they used to bring in jade from Xinjiang on the Silk Road. The fortress was a lone crumbling tower.

At the peak of the day’s heat we reached Yadan, billed as a “natural sculpture garden”. The vast Geopark held many many large stones abraded into fantastic shapes. One looked like the Sphinx, another like a peacock on a pedestal. A bus drove us to several of the closer sights, then we chartered a jeep with a couple from Sichuan to take us further south. A thousand rock shapes arrayed on the sand like battleships at sea. Another group recalled city streets. Our shadows strethched many times longer than our height. The jeep shot out over a lumpy path through the sand to take us up a steep hill. We climbed a huge striated rock with other travelers and watched the sun go down. Two nights in a row we watched the sun go down in a strange place on Earth. Yadan looks like the surface of the moon.

Due to the time difference between Beijing and Dunhuang, the sun sets out west around 9:30pm.

We rode the jeep back in the dark and caught our bus back to the hostel. Made it home by 2am.


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