not in kanas anymore!

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October 6th 2007
Published: October 6th 2007
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doin the "naughty washerwoman"doin the "naughty washerwoman"doin the "naughty washerwoman"

doing the dance on top of a rock formation at "the ghost town of the world". what can i say, it kept me warm.
lake kanas. land of ice and snow (yay, i threw a snowball! an important milestone in any australian's life). beautiful mountains and pine groves. yurts, camels, goats, sheep, horses. kazakh people selling furs by the icy blue river.

we signed up for the last kanas tour of the year the day before. it must have been fated, i told kt (who was concerned because we didn't have many warm clothes. we did a quick shop that afternoon).
so we got on the tour bus early in the morning. ten hours to buer'jin, which is a sleepy little tourist town near lake kanas national park. it doesn't really seem to have much point to it aside from the slightly crappy hotels and markets. just another town. i wish i wasn't so blase about it, but it's hard not to be when i only spent a few hours there.

before we got to buer'jin, we stopped at the "ghost town of the world", which turned out to be some huge wind-carved rock formations in the desert. it reminded me of the sort of landscape you see back home (ie. the pinnacles or something like that), but the dirt is the wrong
yurts n mountainsyurts n mountainsyurts n mountains

the yurts at lake kanas, with impressive icy mountains in the background
colour. there were the usual disgruntled camels and a miserable donkey, as well as a goat pulling a cart-thing that you could ride in. a goat! weird. it was quite beautiful out there, though, and gave us a good chance to stretch our legs.

kt and i settled into the hotel room (nice thick blankets, we noted), and then i tried in vain to order some sushi (which is pronounced sue-shir, and is chinese for vegetarian) food. first i got noodles with meat, and then noodles with the infamous tomato and egg (well, they tried). i gagged a few noodles down, because i felt so awful for wasting all that food, but i just couldn't do it. just the smell was too overpowering. i really hate eggs. i was trying so hard to compromise my veganism because i didn't want to be so wasteful, and i also didn't want to have a low (and i was hungry because it was so fucking cold), but i couldn't do it. went back up to the hotel room and retched for a while, but luckily managed to keep some noodles down.

after trying and failing to get the hot water
kt n me at lake kanaskt n me at lake kanaskt n me at lake kanas

after we had our little snack-picnic, we decided to do the cheesy posing for a photo thing.
to work, we had an early night, snuggled down in the cosy blankets, with the alarm clock set to 7:45 beijing time. this far north, that meant the sun wasn't even close to being up when we were. we pulled on clothes quickly (one singlet, one long sleeved t-shirt, two jackets, gloves, and on the bottom, one pair of thermals/leggings, one pair of legwarmers, long pants, two pairs of socks, shoes. beanie on top, made from child's long sleeved t-shirt that we found in the shopping centre bargain bin. it makes me look like a "naughty washerwoman" according to kt), and loaded ourselves with the packs, and got ready to go to lake kanas.

another long-ish busride (but not 10 hours this time), and we were there. there was snow on the ground as we approached, i was excited to note. not really enough for a snowball, just enough to make slush when the sun came out in full force a few hours later. we got stamped at the gate with some kind of invisible stamp (they shone our arms under a uv light the next day and could see it apparently, so i reckon it was some kind
washing in a mountain lakewashing in a mountain lakewashing in a mountain lake

freezing cold but worth it!
of radioactive shit. dodgy), and then had to take yet another bus to get to the actual lake. after hiring some ridiculous army jacket things that made you feel like you were wearing a doona (kt was cold, and i was being cautious, not having any real idea of how cold i might get), we boarded the next bus and after another hour, got to the lake at last.

it was worth the wait. we quickly ditched the tour (which was all in chinese and was irritating as we'd been shouted at for the past two days either with a slightly distorted mic turned up too loud, or through a megaphone when we were outside. bloody chinese and their volume issues. everything is so loud!) and went for a relaxing walk through the woodlands. we discovered, with the help of the handy signposts, that the woodlands we were walking through were boreal forest in cool temperate zone, known as "taiga" (which is a russian word, but i can't remember what it's derived from. actually, i'm doing pretty well to remember all of this). so this part of the taiga is called the siberian taiga. which is a bit different
half moon bendhalf moon bendhalf moon bend

one part of the lake - actually, i think this was where it became a river, maybe.
from a siberian tiger, but probably just as cruel in the winter. and i don't think you get siberian tigers in the siberian taiga.....
anyway, enough of that.

we ventured towards the shore of the lake, and made a little picnic of busride snacks and nang on a large stone, surrounded by lots of river stones. the lake is a beautiful deep turquoise colour, and on the other side you could see ice-capped mountains (part of me wanted to climb them in search of my elusive snowball). i decided, in a fit of madness, that i couldn't possibly see another mountain lake without washing my face in it. despite kt telling me that my nose would fall off or something, i made her get the camera out to capture the ridiculous moment. after scrambling as far towards the edge of the lake as i could without getting my shoes wet, i leaned down (very clumsy in all my layers) and splashed some icy water on my face. it was invigorating. afterwards, i did a brief bit of the "naughty washerwoman" dance, which generally is more like the "demented washerwoman" (as anyone who's ever seen my dancing can attest to).
my first snowballmy first snowballmy first snowball

size doesn't matter!

a little background is needed on this dance - it orginated from the silly beanie, which sparked the idea for a gypsy tune. the dance was invented before the gypsy tune, but the gypsy tune was invented the following evening with frozen fingers in the dormitory at lake kanas village. it's a ridiculous sort of hunched-over dance where your feet twist around each other ungracefully and your hands and arms make a wringing motion like you're wringing out clothes. it's quite ridiculous but a lot of fun, and is guaranteed to make you laugh.

eventually, after all the face-washing and dancing madness, we had to head back to catch the bus to kanas village, where we would stay the night. cold and tired, we huddled into our doona-jackets and waited for the rest of the tour group to get back, then hopped on the bus and away to kanas village.
the dormitories there were pretty basic, with the least private toilets i've ever seen - three toilets in one room with no doors or walls between them. there was one door to the room, which you had to put a stool against in order to keep it closed. the blankets on the beds were also sadly lacking both in thickness (brrr) and length (poor kt's feet practically sticking out the end. yet another reason why it sometimes sucks to be 6'1). but we perservered, and as i said before, out of hardship, the chords to "the naughty washerwoman" were born. as yet it is without a melody.

dinner was nearly another fiasco, but we're prepared now, to some degree - kt and i both wrote out "could you prepare a meal without eggs, meat or fish?" in chinese characters, so we just show that to the waitresses. initally, they said it couldn't be done, which made me a bit sad, and i was preparing for a delicious meal of mifan (plain rice), until our friend leon showed up, and with his multilingual talents managed to speak to the waitstaff and organise a yummy plate of vegetables for me, with tomato, eggplant, potato, capsicum, onion, and garlic, which was a welcome addition to the mifan.

the next day was another quick trip to the lake, and then back to buer'jin, where, armed with the phrasebook, we were ready to tackle any eating establishment. after cruising the markets and getting some mutton pastries for kt, some nang for breakfast the next morning, and lots of snacks for the long busride back to urumqi, we made a quick visit to the sweet potato man (ahhh, the sweet potato men! in every town in china, always they are there to serve me yummy hot sweet potatoes. wish i carried a bit of salt with me though), and then it was off to find dinner. we ended up down a weird little street with lots of ground- and first-floor apartment type things which turned out to actually all be restaurants. there were at least thirty of them, all numbered, and with the obligatory barbecue with meat-and-fat kebabs roasting away out the front of many of them. we picked one at random and showed them the phrasebook. joy of joys, we actually got tofu! i haven't eaten tofu since we left hk, so i pigged out on the oily stuff. there was a plate of greens as well, and the usual mifan, which was very welcome after lots of bread and wheaty noodles. it was so tasty and such a welcome surprise that we were both happy and very full for hours afterwards. i love that feeling of a belly full of good food. yum. i felt much more enamoured of buer'jin after that, as well as the fact that this time, our hotel had hot water, so we both had a blissful hot shower. so nice to take off all those layers of clothing and wash off all the skank of the last few days!

and today, we're back in urumqi! the busride was pretty uneventful, really, just boring cos my ipod had a sad and wasn't working. i was worried about it for days, but plugged it in to the wall at the hostel when we got back, and it magically came back to life! must've left it on when it was in my bag, and the battery had completely run down. i'm so glad about that, i was getting worried that the damned thing had carked it.

so, the itinerary has changed a little - we're not going to kashghar. we just don't have time, and there's other places to see. gansu province sounds amazing, so we're headed to dunhuang tomorrow if we can make it, hopefully we'll get a late bus to some place that starts with an l (can't remember the name right now), and then a bus from there to dunhuang on the 8th, which is kt's birthday! hopefully we'll spend most of it enjoying dunhuang rather than on a bus. we're thinking of trying to extend our visas, because i've discovered a passion for icy mountains, and have been pointing out lots of entries in the lonely planet about areas of northern sichuan with mountainous regions (kt looks at me disparagingly and shivers. "i like mountains too", she says, "but i like them better in summer!". "but glacial mountains! doesn't that sound amazing?" i say, with my little eyes lighting up.....) - china's just so big!

hopefully kt's gonna send me a stack of photos. i particularly want to post the one of me with my little snowball in my hand that i scraped together yesterday out of bits of snow on top of rocks and stuff. it was tiny and pathetic, but i couldn't, just couldn't see snow and not make and throw a snowball. kt let me throw it at her, understanding what an important moment in my life it was. ahhh. i've seen snow!


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