Our trip to the Bayinbuluke Grasslands is a big looping road-trip that starts and finishes in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province.
We had a lot of fun on this one – camping below snow mountains on the grasslands, chatting with nomads, visiting waterfalls, forests, geothermal regions, as well as helping to cook the ubiquitous lamb skewers!
We also made time to visit the Bayinbuluke Wetlands Park, which is a key spot on the migratory journey of many birds, including swans.
Huijie took a lot of photos, and had a lot of trouble narrowing down the selection – here we have 100 or so of her favourites from the trip.
After arriving at the airport we met our jeep team. Jeeps are our favourite way to travel on these long trips.
In Kuqa, we took a look at the second-largest mosque in Xinjiang, the Kuqa Grand Mosque.
Inside the mosque.
Front gate of the mosque.
In Kuqa we visited the tomb of the last king of Kuqa. He passed away in 2014, without a successor.
We stopped off at the Kuqa market to pick up supplies for the trip through the grasslands. In the photo our jeep team drivers are picking out some fresh lamb.
This vendor was selling a local form of icecream – we had to try some.
Looks pretty good.
Another shot of the market in Kuqa.
Next on the itinerary was a visit to the ruins of Subashi, a Buddhist temple that was home to around 10,000 monks at its peak in the ninth century.
Wide view of Subashi.
Remains of a large building.
Different angle on the previous building.
We hiked over to the opposite side of the temple ruins.
On our way to the grasslands we stopped for a look at this Han Dynasty-era (206 BC-220 AD beacon tower.
Views of cliffs.
More of the mountains near Subashi and Aksu.
An area known as the Dakziliya Grand Canyon.
We parked up at the entrance to the canyon and walked up further.
Further into the canyon. Spot the person hiding in the shade?
Further into the canyon.
Interesting rounded shapes.
Red colours in the hills.
More of the red colours in the cliffs.
Wide angle view of the cliffs.
Mountains, train tracks, and a mostly-abandoned village.
The hills in this area featured interesting shapes and colours.
A little pavilion with views of the highway and mountains.
Vertical features in the hills.
A waterfall flows down between switchbacks on the road over the Tianshan Mountains.
Looking down a valley.
We passed a lake, high up in the mountains.
Horses on the meadows by the lake.
Really nice scenery here.
Views of the snow mountains.
A river coming down from the mountains.
The yurt of a nomad family.
After arriving at the Bayinbuluke Grasslands we found a good spot to set up camp and cook dinner.
All set up and ready.
Time to make skewers.
Prepping the skewers.
Almost ready to start cooking.
A little gang of dogs, attracted by the BBQ.
This little girl came to find her dogs.
A second course of kebabs.
We woke up to a beautiful day on the grasslands.
Getting ready for a pre-breakfast hike.
Ready to set out.
We hiked off, aiming to get some better views of the mountains.
And there they are.
We were all pretty hungry after two hours of walking.
Rock melons – so common in Xinjiang.
Views of the Bayinbuluke Wetlands Park.
Great views from up on the ridge.
We hiked on along the ridge.
We spotted a bird down in the water.
The hike continued down the ridge.
Wild flowers by the river.
Good spot to take a rest.
Views of the river running through the grasslands.
Mountains and hills in the distance.
Cliffs around the grasslands.
We hiked back through the grasslands.
We saw a crane.
More birds in the water.
We took a local taxi.
Here’s the beginning of a forest hike.
We hiked up in to the woods.
Heading down towards a small settlement.
We brought some horses along with us.
A valley full of flowers.
We stopped beside the river for a rest.
Out of the grasslands, and back in town – here’s what was for lunch.
We hiked up through the forest.
And then we hiked back down1
Later on the trip, we stopped to look at the scenery by a large canyon.
Cliffs and an old river valley.
We walked to the edge of the cliffs.
An eagle flew over.
Another angle on the canyon.
Admiring the views.
Yanjing with the Beijing Hikers flag.
Lunch is served!
Looks like beans are on the menu today.
Picnic by the canyon.
We went for a walk after lunch.
More colors in the cliffs below a high plateau.
Closer shot of the cliffs.
On the way back to Urumqi we stopped to visit a geothermal area.