The Gobi Desert
10.08.2011 - 13.08.2011
Hey hey it's me again! So after the little reprieve I've so graciously given you there is a little catchig up to do, ie. All of north west china (well actually it wasn't a reprieve just unreliable Internet and a general sense of it can wait till a little later when I'm bored on a bus or something along those lines). So long story short, there is going to be a influx of posts over the next day or so.
So onto the main event!! I believe I last left you all in Chengdu after the hanging coffins of Loubian correct? Well a couple of days later (after absolving my insane inklings for IKEA) I was yet again in one of those magnificent hard seats from Chengdu to Lanzhou. Oh how I love those seats, I don't know if I should worry, I'm beginning to find the comfortable of all things... Anyway. Lanzhou nice and early somehow managed to sleep the whole way there (by some way of minor mirrical I thinks) dumped my bag in storage and meandered around the city for a bit whilst I waited for my 8pm train to Dunhuang. Weather was absolutely spectacular I must say, desert weather.
Now here in china there is a popular dish called Lanzhou Mian (Lanzhou style noodles). Now being in Lanzhou and the home of these noodles I deemed it absolutely necessary to try out these noodles in their home town. And diasapointed I was not!! YUM! to make Lanzhou noodles:
-fresh beef stock (none of this powdered rubbish)
-thinly sliced roast beef
-diced garlic, spring onions, corriander, salt and pepper
-freshly sliced red chilli
Ok so you can try those for yourselves if your so curious. train was mildly interesting intact it was virtually empty. So despite the fact that I had a hard seat ticket there was enough room for everyone in the carriage to spread out over six seats and sleep relatively comfy. oh and there was this absolutely adorable little girl. Tiny thing but cheeky to boot with a wicked little laugh. She seemed to have a thing for my hair, for some reason unknown she found it hilarious. Any way. Got to Dunhuang and it was like YAY!!! Blue sky!!! (you have to understand that not seeing blue sky for almost a month and a half you really come to miss it!)
Checked into the hostel which was a mild nightmare to find, it was wedged in behind the Mosque and went for a meander in the afternoon sun.
Following day I got on the little green bus out to the Mogao Grottos. A massive complex of rooms carved out of the mountains in the Gobi desert and painted with Buddhist murals. It was a respite spot just outside Dunhuang where traders along the Silk road would stop to either thank the Gods for safe passage to China or pray for a safe passage to where it was that they were headed. now to get in here you MUST be in a tour group of some form and if you're a foreigner they try to charge you an extra 20yuan (total 180yuan) for an English tour guide. Now I thought that that was an absolute joke. One you don't need someone to tell you exactly what you can see, two I speak relatively good Chinese and three why on earth would I want to see what was dictated to me and move on when the leader got bored (usually after 2mins). So I bought my Chinese ticket (after a 5min debate in chinese with the woman in the ticket office, cow) and latched onto any group that was passing my way and moved onto whichever open cave was open that I fancied. Haha take that rules and regulations lol. So the caves were ok, after seeing 2 or 3 you kinda had the general gist of what the rest were like. Some of them were badly damaged by weather and salt, others by the naivety of 20th century European "explorers" (more like thieves) and others were really well preserved and dusty as all hell. Someone seriously needed to tell them about a feather duster or something of similar purpose.
Back to Dunhuang in the middle of a sandstorm and I spent the evening of Ramadan in the town in the night Market outside the Mosque with a Hui family who just pulled me down into a spare chair and insisted that I celebrate Ramadan with them. Was quite cool.
Following day I just meandered round the town wondering through various markets and reading my book down by the river whilst biding my time to the evening. Spend the night in the Gobi Desert anyone?? camel trekked about 10km into the desert. Stretched out to one side was flat nothingness as far as the eye could see and to the other side towering sand dunes that blocked out the sky. It was pretty cool and the sunset from the top of the highest dune was an amazing array of oranges, reds and pinks splashed across the cloudy sky. We spent the night watching Bollywood movies on one of the guys iPads as the massive full moon rise above. (it was quite a surreal moment I will say, being in the Gobi, in China watching Bollywood movies in the desert of all places lol!)
Now a few hours after crawling into my tent and falling asleep on the sand I was woken up. At first I was like right... Minds playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again. Someone or something moving around our little campsite in the dunes. Lying absolutely stock still in sand is a little difficult and somewhat painful. But to tell the honest truth I was absolutely bloody terrified, we had passed some other Trekkers on our way there and my sleepy brain assumed it was them, shifting around my end of the site, looking for something to steal or someone to torment.
My mind kept flicking to the small knife in my backpack at my feet whilst my eyes constantly flicked from the zipper of the tent o the skylight above my head, an internal battle of words flying around in my heightened sense of alert in my head. "don't move they might hear you!!" "but if I get the knife I can give em one hell of a surprise..." "Zoe you moron this is probably some figment of your imagination, you're having a 3 way argument in your head right now idiot *mentally raises eyebrows to emphasise the point of stupidity*" *plastic bag rustles outside and stool falls over* "yeh some figment...*moves to get knife*" "DON'T MOVE MORON!!what if they look in through the skylight and see you hmmm???"
And so raged the battle for a good hour or so, somehow managed to fall asleep in my utter, unnecessary fear. Got up the following morning at about 5am with a sever call of nature screaming in my head. (no loo, literally dig a small hole on the far side of the dune and all is hunky dory really. Good view), it was cold, my brain like Mandi's pumpkin soup after it's valiant battle over night and absolutely busting my mind flicked to the ground in the sporadic search for some form of human tracks in the direction I heard the noise during the night. Aside from my own boot tracks to the small stool there were one other set of tracks, so my mind wasn't playing tricks on my after all, someone was there in the night!! I thought to my self; funny looking boot tracks though, looks like someone was dragging a thick rope through the sand and wiggling it back and forth. That's when it dawned on me. Zoe you absolute idiot, you were scared of some crazed bandit coming to get you all in the night, it was just a noisy snake. MORON!! well you can essentially imagine the internal name calling that was happening then and the absolutely ridiculous size of the smile plastered on my face. Oops.