A fun, sandy day climbing dunes & riding camels out at the Mingsha Sand Dunes in town of Dunhuang, Gansu Province, Western China, at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Couldn’t trek because the early spring sandstorms blow your tent away! Sand’s now in everything. It’s a long way here, and the conditions challenged, but no one got hurt. So I can say it was worth it!
The kids thought it would be so cool to fly kites in a desert sandstorm. The kites broke immediately.
I climbed, and then ran down, 2 dune ‘mountains.’ The boys did it for hours.
GanSu is wedged between Mongolia (north), Xinjiang the Turkic province (West), old Tibetan Amdo now aka China’s Qinghai province (South). And of course China’s heartland to the East. The capital (Lanzhou) is a massive new Chinese super-metropolis of 4 million+ plunked down on the (horrid brown) Yellow River and sprawling with skyscrapers in every direction, seemingly in the middle of desert nowhere…Danhuang, a 15-hour trainride from there, feels really removed. Dunhuang is an oasis town, a respite on the old Silk Road. (NY Times art critic Holland Carter won a 2008 cultural criticism Pulitzer for his coverage of Dunhuang’s unique Buddha cave paintings (Mogao), plundered by the museums of Paris, London & Harvard, now being destroyed by –mostly nationalistic Chinese — visitors’ exhalations … humans’ output of moisture & carbon monoxide.)
The desolation here reminds me of the Kara Kum desert in Turkmenistan, which I crossed in a train exactly 20 years ago, also this season. But I saw no water. There’s still a tiny “crescent” oasis at Mingsha that never dries up. Here it is through the blowing grit:
It must have been a relief to come upon that 1,000 years ago, after crossing the sand. Hard to believe a place this far from (what we consider) “anything” was once the busiest route in the world.