Saved the pictures of this hiking trip in a folder on my PC named 'mountains, February 23rd'...
It seems surreal, it is by now the end of April and only now temperatures have become spring-like. I can't even remember that day, I do know it was the first 'warm' day of the year. The forecast spoke of 13 degrees.
I decided to go for a walk heading in the directions of the mountains, which basically, are right north of Kunqu district in the west of Baotou. Alhough being the most developed and 'richest' part of the city, only a 20 minute walk north of it one can see a major change already. Dirty streets, people staring at me (who knows, no foreigner might actually have ever walked these narrow streets...), kids using the curb as a toilet and garbage everywhere. Then, at the edge of town, building stopped and I saw what looked like a huge excavation site which at the same time could also have been a large waste disposal dump site...
Had to walk through a vast flat piece of land that was so dusty and dry and littered with rubbish, nothing grew here. At the far end,
right at the foot of the mountains the G61, the main highway coming from Hohhot in the east and going to Bayannur in the west rests on high pillars, perhaps protecting it from the sandstorms that torment the city, mainly in spring.
Decided to walk on as it was such a beautiful day, so continued along a newly built asphalt road lined with young trees. On the left of it, carved into the hillside ran the 'coal train'. It's a track that carries no passenger trains as far as I know, but only the coal and other rare earth from up north; the Bayan Obo mine. As rumours go, a large field of new gold has been found not far from the border of Mongolia proper, and plans are there for the rails to be extended to that place so excavation can start a.s.a.p.
Looking to the right, the land and it's surrounding hills just seemed dry and barren.
A land very much used (or abused, whatever way you look at it), excavated, developed or just simply left to desertification...
I climbed my way up from the newly laid asphalt road lined with trees, across the train tracks
and up the hill on the corner where the valley took a left turn. An empty coal train having just left the city passed under my feet. Got a bit of a scare when behind a rock I suddenly saw the remains of what seemed like a peacefully died dog. Back down I followed the road passing lots of humvee's and other large SUV's. Must be a lot of money up there in that mountain range I thought to myself...
The valley made another turn to the right where some buildings started to appear. On the other side of a small body of water, I saw what looked like cottages. A large, faded sign said so much I guessed (in Chinese of course). Although a large gate had been put up over the road which looked like an entrance gate, I didn't have to pay anything (season, I reckon) so walked on. Between the trees I soon made out the Kundulun 'International' Ski Resort on the mountain side on the right. Yes, well.... Leaving out the second and last word of the name, I guess that's exactly what it was... It looked quite funny actually, that white slope on a
Hard at work
North of Kunqu
brown mountain, surrounded by even more brown and barren mountains and hilltops.
Continued along the road, climbing up slightly, passing more and more buildings, until eventually the road turned into a dam, or actually, the dam had the road on its back. To the right I could see right into the valley with lots of cottages and houses for the workers (I guess). Like many other places in China that receive visitors (for whatever reason), a small 'amusement' park was built right under the dam.
To the left, the beautiful light blue, still frozen Kundulun reservoir.
The same coal train I mentioned earlier, circles its way around the northern edge around the reservoir heading north. Of course the mountains here too were still brown, and on the other side of the water I could even make out proper sand dune on one of the slopes. Looking at pictures online however, I imagine the surroundings being wonderfully green in summer, and the water crystal clear and blue...
Let's find out later this year.....
I rested for a bit, and then explored the surrounding of the lake for a while, searching for the best vista to make my panoramic picture.
It was the I stumbled upon a little cave with inside a small religious figure. Quite cool actually to find that on the edge of the lake inside the hills. I had to lit one of the incense sticks which were lying around... just for the feeling of it.
Moving back down I caught my eyes on the first 'wild life' I've seen since moving here; A pheasant noisily made its way into the bush to hide from me when I came a little too close for its liking. I saw rabbits, a large eagle circling the sky, being pestered by ravens and a whole bunch of white ducks grooming themselves in a small pond. What a lovely change it was from the city!!
I walked back, feeling my legs getting tired after more than 10 kilometres and 4 hours of walking, so when I saw a taxi coming from behind just before entering the dusty waste land between the road and the city, I gladly hopped in and finished my way home stretching my legs and pondering a lovely, first spring-like day of the year 2010...
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