Gansu Province, Part 1

We’ve had two very action-packed days in Gansu, a province with a stranger shape than West Virginia that stretches northwest from Xi’an to the Mongolian border. It’s strange geographical shape traces the valley between the Qilian mountain which rise up to the Tibetan Plateau and the Yellow River on the other side. This valley is called the Hexi (heu-shee) Corridor, and out of topographical necessity it basically absorbed the caravans of the Silk Road leaving Xi’an. In any case, anywhere we go we’re treated to the most glorious and breath-taking mountain scenery that keeps our cameras clicking out the train or van window. (Becca: “It just looks like it’s fake!”)

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On Sunday we left Xining aboard the high-speed train (really, America, you really need to catch up!) and traveled 200 miles in 1h35 (by car it would’ve been 7h45!) to a place called Zhangye. In the small city of Zhangye, we saw China’s largest indoor, reclining, wooden Buddha before heading to its major site after lunch: the Zhangye Danxia National Geopark. This geopark is reminiscent of an American National Park out west with its pitching sedimentary rock forms. The visit included 4 stops on a shuttle van, and since we really took our sweet time at the first two, we took in the last two pretty quickly. But on those first two, we were treated to a good amount of physical activity, climbing each wooden staircase for a better view. The only downside were the gusting winds which chilled our hands. We were relieved to pile back into our van around 5:30 to travel another 100 miles onwards to Jiayuguan.

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In Jiayuguan–synonymous with the western terminus of the Great Wall–we spent a whole day exploring the expansive site. In the morning, we spent a good three hours visiting the original fortress with its customs house, pavillion and many turreted watchtowers. In fact, we caught an acrobatics show going on in the main courtyard on par with the ones in Shanghai and Beijing–contortionsits, fire eaters, etc. Here’s a picture of Ada inside the barrel of a recumbant barrel-spinner:

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One of the original entrances into China

After a breezy visit through the museum (very few signs in English, and plus, we have a full day scheduled at the Beijing end of the Wall) we had lunch and headed to the most ‘interactive’ part of the Wall–the one we could climb! Our guide recommended an hour, and I think we easily took two, mainly to hike in the mountains beyond the Wall’s very last watchtower after its windy course of over 4,000 miles (6,350 km). We were able to leave our own ‘CHEX 2015’ mark at the site, but we wonder how permanent it will be… (see cover photo)

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