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Published: August 10th 2014
We arrived in the brand new Dunhuang Railway station in the early hrs of the morning, and we're delighted to see a pickup board with our name on from the Dunhuang International Youth Hostel -our 2nd YH on our trip. A short drive into Dunhuang city - one of the nicest little Chinese desert city that we've been in. This place is hot and drip - apparently they get annual
rainfall of 39 m !! That's a bout one good overnight rain in Auckland. Two main attractions in Dunhuang are the sand dunes, and the Magao Caves, so it was off the view the Sand Dunes from the roof top bar of the Silk Road Hotel . 6kms south of the city - where the Gobi desert meets city, are stunning Sand Dunes that reach at their highest peak 1715m. We could have climbed them for 'fun' but at pushing 40C, we decided that sipping a cold beer and looking at them from a reasonable distance would suffice. After watching the sunset over the Dunes, we headed back into town to try our luck at the Night Food Market - a raucous cacophony of screaming kebab sellers was great fun, we
even tried our latest specialty - Donkey meat with Yellow noodles ?!!! Yum yum tasted just like roast beef. We did however resist trying Camel Hump meat with Garlic !!!!
Next morning it was off to the MaGAO Caves - no cameras allowed, so I'm afraid there are no photos attached. These caves are recognised now as the greater repository of Buddhist art in the world ! At their peak, they included 15 monasteries, housed over 1400 monks, artists, calligraphy drawers, etc. The first cave was built in 366AD, and was subsequently added to over the new two centuries up to the 1500's. There are 492 caves in total, of which only about 30 are open to the public, including an enormous 35m standing Buddha, and the largest reclaiming Buddha in the world. The art, the frescoes, and the statues, and carvings are simply staggering, and I rate this place now as the best Religious site I have ever seen in the world. Cave 17 in infamous - known as the Library Cave, it was only rediscovered in 1900 and contained tens of thousands of rare manuscripts and paintings. This cave was raided by a procession of British, French,
Japanese, Russia, and American explorers between 1907 and 1924, who collectively pilfered aver 45000 items that are now scattered in museums all over the world esp. London and Paris. The Chinese are pretty knarked about this. Asks I said no photos, so had to buy a book to record the visit.
That now completed, it was off to the railway station for the next trip to Turpan - the hottest place in China where temps regularly get over 45, and last week apparently touched 51. !! But this proved not a simple task when we discovered that for this trip, our train left from a station that was 180kms - yes that is KM's - from Dunhuang - so into the bus we thought - the bus company had other ideas, and allocated a grotty minivan for the trip, and then proceeded to squeeze 16 passenger into this tiny vehicle. A million degrees hot, and no AC ! When we got the desert breeze blast thru the open window of the van, it was like being in a thermowave oven ,, And off we went literally across the GOBI desert on a road that had a 145km stretch that
was absolutely dead straight !! I thought Devon St in NP was the longest straightest rd at 6 Kim's, but this one clearly was superior. Made passing a lot easier, as you could see for 100kms ahead if anything was coming !! Nothing but sand and scrub, and the odd camel -we also went alongside a massive Wind farm where 1000's of turbines we're slowly turning in the desert breeze. Solar power is apparently a key reason why this region of China has the highest income per capita in all of China.
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