In July we made a seven day road trip along a lesser-travelled section of the Silk Road, heading west to Kashgar and passing through obscure yet interesting cities and towns like Korla, Kuqa,and Aksu.
The Silk Road has several branches in Xinjiang, and the branch we followed counts as the southern one.
All up, we covered almost 1,500km on the trip – a long one! On the way we enjoyed picnics at scenic spots, we did some hiking in hills and valleys, we visited China’s second-largest mosque, and we spent a night camping, almost getting washed out in an unexpected rainstorm! Another unexpected happening was the loss of our camera, so the photos we have below are all from the camera on Huijie’s phone.
We flew to Korla’s tiny airport via Urumqi
Near Korla is an ancient pass on the Silk Road called Tiemenguan – the Iron Gate Pass. It was a military checkpoint from the Tang Dynasty (618– 907). The leader of our jeep team, Mr. Li, is a Korla native, and he helped us find this obscure spot.
The Iron Gate controls access to this narrow pass through the mountains, one of the many forks on the Silk Road.
On the way to Kuqa we stopped for a hike in the eroded valleys of this sandstone landform.
This old house in Kuqa city is more than 100 years old, a relic of older times. Kuqa was one of the Four Garrisons of Anxi, active during the Tang Dynasty. Later, during the eighth century, Kucha became the center of the Uyghur Kingdom. We enjoyed Kuqa a lot, not least because it’s a lot like Kashgar’s Old City used to be.
On the way to Aksu, we stopped to look at the remains of Subashi, an ancient city in the desert. Subashi was notable for its huge Buddhist temple. The use of the temple peaked between the sixth and eighth centuries, at which time it was home to more than 10,000.
Chivalry lives on at Beijing Hikers.
Eroded sandstone hills.
This cliff is poetically named the “Small Potala Palace”. It looks a little like the “Big” Potala Palace in Lhasa, if you use your imagination a little.
More interesting land forms seen while on the road.
This narrow gully took us into the Valley of the Red Stone Forest.
One of our numerous picnics along the way.
Another view of Valley of the Red Stone Forest.
Clouds over the Valley of the Red Stone Forest.
Driver “Da Tou” cooking up some lamb skewers for us.
We camped here over night - a very nice view from the campsite.
This beautiful rainbow over the Valley of the Stone Forest was a reward for enduring a storm that blew up quickly.
The Silk Road adventurers under the rainbow.
Another shot of the crags and outcrops near the campsite.
Dinner time – a feast!
More skewers to eat.
We did more hiking, this time through what’s called the “City of the Devils” landform.
Ridge walking in the “City of the Devils” landform.
We walked below a fantastically-shaped rock tower.
Coloured hills and rocks
We decided that we’d call this area “Mars”.
The colours were extra vivid after rain.
Our last stop on the trip was Kashgar. Here’s a view of the edge of the Old City.
Walking through the Old City of Kashgar we saw a lot of interesting sights. Here, a potter at work.
In the Old City we saw these old friends sharing lunch.
Yoghurt for sale.
A butcher displays a selection of lamb and mutton cuts. Looks like he had some rabbits as well!
Shoeing a horse.
Dried goods for sale – some recognisable, some not!
Eggs? No? They’re silkworm cocoons.
Kashgar’s famous livestock market.
We took a stroll through the grounds of the livestock market.