Xingjiang: Nomads of the Silk Road
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Xingjiang is certainly China's wild west, a land beyond the Heavenly Gates, the ˜Outer China" and an area synonymous to the Chinese with barbarians and foreign devils! After all, this region spawned the likes of Attila, Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan and was the source of the treasured Heavenly Horse for which wars were waged and tribute paid. In the 4th century, Buddhism traveled from India and Inner Asia up the Silk Road to Xingjiang and across the arid Taklamakan Desert into China. The remarkable Marco Polo came later in the 13th century from the city state of Venice searching for the fabled Cathay where he spent 17 years in the royal court Xanadu before returning home with tales of untold wealth.
On our Lost Frontiers 2003 summer program, you will attend a traditional Mongolian Naadam festival, camp among in Kazak yurts out on the vast open steppes and visit Tuwa mountain villages near Siberia. (experienced horsemen (For those with experience, you) may want to ride spirited Mongolian horses while others pick delicious mushrooms for dinner. We will wind up our journey with a visit to Kashgars famous Sunday Market and with a drive up to the Black Lake and Mts. Muztaga and Konggur. Throughout, you will meet the incredibly hospitable people who have lived on this harsh land since before written history.
Travel Itinerary for Xingjiang, China.
Arrive in Beijing late in the afternoon and transfer to airport hotel near. Hotel.
Morning connection to Urumqi, Xingjiangs capital. The afternoon is free. Following dinner, we will walk Urumqis colorful night. Ramada Hotel.
Today you will take a two-hour flight from Urumqi to the northern city of Altai that is the staging area for our travels. Altai does have a small museum of interest and there is some Neolithic rock art not far away from town. Golden Bridge Hotel.
Departing early, we have a mornings to Burquin located on the Kuitan River. There is time for an afternoon visit to some wonderfully colored hills north of the town and a stop along the river for a walk. Hotel.
Drive north towards Kanas Lake. All around are the grasslands that are inhabited by Kazak nomads who travel here with their sheep, camels and horses seeking summer pastures. Along the way, we will choose an appropriate site where we will camp among Kazak nomads. Camping.
Morning visit with our Kazak hosts followed by travel to Kanas Lake where we will stop for a picnic lunch. There is a lovely 3-mile hike into Siberian forests to rock art. We will return from the lake area in the late afternoon and drive through the valleys to a Tuwa log village where we will overnight in a small hostel.
The Tuwa are the original inhabitants of the Altai area and are very hospitable, to the point where one may be invited to a night of drinking vodka or rum, to a lamb roasts or to a fashion show. Leaving the Tuwa, we cross through a number of valleys filled with wild flowers and evergreen and birch forests until we regain the main road to Burguin where we overnight. Hotel.
3-hour drive to the boomtown of Karamai. Along the way, you will visit the Ghost Hills that are made up from soft rock formations. The rest of the day is free. Hotel.
A long days drive to Seyram Lake that is high up on the hills above the Illy Valley where we camp again among the Kazaks of the Middle Horde. The lake is extremely blue and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Camping.
We next reach the city of Uygur city of Yining with a visit on the way to the 14th century tomb of Telig Timur and later to the handsome 18th century Shaanxi Huy Mosque that is a wonderful example of Chinese Islamic architecture. Following lunch, we depart for Narat to a wild conifer forests with a Kazak family at their yurtsite. Camp.
A half-day drive to the high grasslands just north of the Heavenly Mountains and the town of Bayin Bulak where we will stop for lunch before proceeding out on to the southern grasslands where we will camp with nomads. With luck, we may even take part in a Naadam festival. Camping.
This is wide open country with rolling grasslands that rise to the high snow capped Tien Shan Mountains that we must also cross. Crossing the pass we will picnic on the shores of a turquoise blue lake known as the Dragon Lake. By afternoon we will reach the Kizil Caves that were inhabited by Hinayana Buddhists in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Camping.
Following visits to the Kizil Caves, we continue to the Uygur city of Kuqa that was once the largest of the 36 kingdoms of the western region of China and an important center for Buddhism. Transfer to hotel and then lunch at a Uygur market. Hotel.
The day is spent in and around Kuqa. The old town is a maze of narrow winding streets fronted by walled compounds. Inside the compounds are houses, gardens and a life that is not easily seen. With luck, we will be able to visit a couple of Uygur homes. Hotel.
Continuing south along the Silk Road, we arrive at the oasis of Aksu formerly known as Baluka. Hotel.
Arriving in Kashgar, we will stay at the Semin Hotel. Kashgar is almost legendary as the first bazaar travelers along the Silk Road encountered after crossing the formidable Parmirs and Karakoram Mountains from Pakistan. We will visit the bustling night market that takes place in front of the central Aidkah Mosque and stroll through the narrow streets filled with vendors. Hotel.
The famous Kashgar Sunday Market is world renown bringing in people from as far 100 km on donkey carts. Later in the afternoon, we will visit the very peaceful Abkak Hoja. Hotel.
Our final drive is into the Parmir Mountains to Kalakule (Black) Lake that lies under the high Pamir peaks of Kungur and Muztaga. This road is the Karakoram Highway that continues south into Pakistan and was a major obstacle for caravans on the Silk Road. There are opportunities for some good long walks to Kyrgyz villages and for visits to their houses. Hotel/yurts.
There is time in the morning to visit other Kyrgyz yurts and camps before a late morning return to Kashgar. The rest of the day is free with a late evening flight to Urumqi. Ramada Hotel.
Morning in Urumqi with a visit to the local museum. Following lunch, we will transfer to the airport for an afternoon flight to Beijing.
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