Our seven-day Silk Road trip in October 2013 took us through Xinjiang and part of Gansu Province, starting off at Urumqi and finishing at Jiayuguan.
We travelled in our convoy of big, comfortable jeeps, and overnighted in towns and cities that used to be important stops on the old Silk Road. We also spent a night camping in a stony desert!
There was plenty to look at along the way, with visits made to the big bazaar at Urumqi, the Flaming Mountains, Karez Wells, and ruined ancient city at Turpan, the Mogao Grottoes and Crescent Lake at Dunhuang, and the Jiayuguan Fortress.
While most of the main sights were of a historical nature, we did manage a bit of hiking, with a good short walk through the desert near the campsite, strolls around the places we stopped for picnics, a few detours to take a look at Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) rammed earth-style Great Wall in the desert, and a fun walk in the sand dunes near Crescent Lake.
Fresh figs for sale on the streets of Urumqi.
On the street, a busker with his dambura, which is a type of lute.
Kids on the way home from school, near Grape Valley in Turpan.
At Grape Valley we had a meal at a local family’s home, and arranged for a dance performance.
These youngsters were just starting to learn the dance moves.
A boardwalk leads through the ruins of a temple in the Jiaohe Ancient City.
Almost seven-hundred years later, these earthern structures are still standing.
The walls of a Buddhist temple at the Jiaohe ruins.
Our drivers discussing the preparation of dinner at our campsite.
Dinner at the campsite.
Sunrise at the campsite – you had to be up early to catch this moment!
We took a short hike in the desert, climbing up to the top of a small hill.
The hiking group atop a hill in the desert.
The second Hui Emperor on his throne – where did he get those hiking boots?!
In Hami, we watched a muqam performance, a tradition of the Hui ethnic group.
We stopped between Hami and Dunhuang for a look at a line of Han Dynasty Great Wall in the desert.
A picnic break for lunch at the ‘Black Rock’ mountains, after a short hike.
Our jeeps lined up nicely.
Melons for sale at a roadside stall.
Towers of the Jiayuguan Fortress.
Back in the Ming Dynasty, a travel permit was required to head west from the Jiayuguan Fortress.
Based on the height measurement, one of these two qualifies for free entrance!
The hiking group at the Jiayuguan Fortress.
Camels and sand dunes at Crescent Lake, near Dunhuang.
We hiked into the sand dunes.
We all made it up to the highest dune.
More Han Dynasty Great Wall near Jiayuguan, this time a repaired section.