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Journey from the West, 2014/10

In Brief: Photos from our seven-day ‘Journey from the West’ along the Silk Road from Urumqi to Jiayuguan.

Hiking team photo - Journey from the West, 2014/10

The trip team in the desert between Turpan and Hami.

Our ‘Journey from the West’ trip is a seven-day adventure along the strand of the Silk Road between Urumqi and Jiayuguan. We do it as a road trip, travelling in jeeps and stopping off to explore all the amazing sights along the way – the ruined city of Jiaohe near Turpan, the Flaming Mountains, the Mogao Grottoes and Crescent Lake at Dunhuang, the fortress at Jiayuguan, and more!

We started the trip by flying to Urumqi, and after a quick look at the Grand Bazaar we headed on to Turpan. At Turpan we enjoyed a meal in a lovely courtyard in Grape Valley, went underground to see the ancient ‘karez’ irrigation system, and explored the ruins of Jiaohe, a city abandoned after conquest by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century.

Our next stop was the Flaming Mountains. According to the legendary version of the Journey from the West, this is where the Monkey King fought the Cow Devil King. We didn’t see either of them on this trip. But we did see the Bezeklik Grottoes, a site hidden up in a canyon where Buddhists carved out caves and decorated them with statues and murals.

Our next stop on the Silk Road was Hami, a really long drive from Turpan. Instead of trying to do it all at once we spent a night camping in the desert. Our campsite is a nice secret spot, where we can wake up and go for a nice walk in the desert before heading on.

One of the highlights of the trip is Dunhuang, an oasis town on the edge of the desert. Near Dunhuang is the Mogao Grottoes and Crescent Lake, both of which we visited.

We finished the trip at Jiayuguan, visiting the Jiayuguan Fortress and the Beacon Tower and Canyon.

See all the photos below!

Dinner at a Uyghur family courtyard in Grape Valley - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Dinner at a Uyghur family courtyard in Grape Valley.

Ruins of Jiaohe Ancient City - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Ruins of Jiaohe Ancient City

The walls of a large building - Journey from the West, 2014/10

The walls of a large building.

Jiaohe Ancient City ruins - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Jiaohe Ancient City ruins

Taking some photos of the river that surrounds the ruins - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Taking some photos of the river that surrounds the ruins.

This part of the ruins is in good condition, and was formerly a temple - Journey from the West, 2014/10

This part of the ruins is in good condition, and was formerly a temple.

A wider view of a different section of the ruined city - Journey from the West, 2014/10

A wider view of a different section of the ruined city.

This pagoda was the centerpiece of a temple - Journey from the West, 2014/10

This pagoda was the centerpiece of a temple.

Satomi learning some folk dance techniques from a local elder at the Bezeklik Grottoes - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Satomi learning some folk dance techniques from a local elder at the Bezeklik Grottoes.

The Flaming Mountains, named for their fiery red colour, and fiery summer heat - Journey from the West, 2014/10

The Flaming Mountains, named for their fiery red colour, and fiery summer heat.

Sunset at our campsite - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Sunset at our campsite.

Our campsite was in the middle of a rocky desert - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Our campsite was in the middle of a rocky desert.

This is a big jump after a long day! - Journey from the West, 2014/10

This is a big jump after a long day!

Breakfast at the campsite, before heading off on a short hike - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Breakfast at the campsite, before heading off on a short hike.

Near the campsite was a nice area to explore on foot - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Near the campsite was a nice area to explore on foot.

Red hills near the campsite - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Red hills near the campsite.

Look what we found: an ancient coin with mysterious symbols! The calligraphy on the back says it was made in the Yuan Dynasty (1260—1368) - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Look what we found: an ancient coin with mysterious symbols! The calligraphy on the back says it was made in the Yuan Dynasty (1260—1368).

Meanwhile, other hikers conquered one of the hills - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Meanwhile, other hikers conquered one of the hills.

Hiking team photo - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Hiking team photo.

We took in a muqab performance in Hami. When there's a wedding or celebration, the muqab can go for days. We saw the shorter version - Journey from the West, 2014/10

We took in a muqab performance in Hami. When there's a wedding or celebration, the muqab can go for days. We saw the shorter version.

A lively and colourful performance - Journey from the West, 2014/10

A lively and colourful performance.

Flowering shrubs in the desert - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Flowering shrubs in the desert.

Another type of colourful flower - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Another type of colourful flower.

Hard to see how it grows in the desert – it’s so dry and rocky! - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Hard to see how it grows in the desert – it’s so dry and rocky!

Another hike in the desert on the way to Dunhuang - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Another hike in the desert on the way to Dunhuang.

Really pleasant weather for a short walk - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Really pleasant weather for a short walk.

Yellow flowers - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Yellow flowers.

Very unusual rocks - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Very unusual rocks.

The remains of some Han Dynasty Great Wall, built from rammed earth more than 2000 years ago - Journey from the West, 2014/10

The remains of some Han Dynasty Great Wall, built from rammed earth more than 2000 years ago.

Hikers exploring the remains of a fortress - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Hikers exploring the remains of a fortress.

Our hotel in Dunhuang had a patio on the roof – the perfect spot to see the sun rise over the dunes before breakfast - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Our hotel in Dunhuang had a patio on the roof – the perfect spot to see the sun rise over the dunes before breakfast.

Crescent Lake and its temple. And its tourists! We escaped the crowds by hiking up into the sand dunes - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Crescent Lake and its temple. And its tourists! We escaped the crowds by hiking up into the sand dunes.

Hiking along a ridgeline - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Hiking along a ridgeline.

We hiked up to the high point to see the excellent views and then ran all the way back down. Fun! - Journey from the West, 2014/10

We hiked up to the high point to see the excellent views and then ran all the way back down. Fun!

Another watch tower from the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Another watch tower from the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).

On the way to Jiayuguan we stopped for a walk at a huge reservoir - Journey from the West, 2014/10

On the way to Jiayuguan we stopped for a walk at a huge reservoir.

Near the reservoir were two towers - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Near the reservoir were two towers.

It's amazing to see so much water in the middle of the desert - Journey from the West, 2014/10

It's amazing to see so much water in the middle of the desert.

Locals say there’s a village under all the water, flooded when the reservoir was built - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Locals say there’s a village under all the water, flooded when the reservoir was built.

Another of the towers - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Another of the towers.

At the Jiayuguan Fortress we could just see the snowy Qilian Mountains in the background - Journey from the West, 2014/10

At the Jiayuguan Fortress we could just see the snowy Qilian Mountains in the background.

A performance at the fortress - Journey from the West, 2014/10

A performance at the fortress.

The Jiayuguan Fortress marks the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall - Journey from the West, 2014/10

The Jiayuguan Fortress marks the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.

Near Jiayuguan City there’s a deep river canyon, topped by more Great Wall - Journey from the West, 2014/10

Near Jiayuguan City there’s a deep river canyon, topped by more Great Wall.

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