An exploration to the northwest part of China II

Written by Nov 5, 2011 04:39
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Day 4 Echoing-Sand Mountain, Crescent Lake and Yadan Demon’s Cities

When the wind blows, the sands shift and make the sound. Hence, the mountain formed by sands is called Echoing-Sand Mountain. I listened carefully when I got there but I didn’t hear a sound. It was a sunny day and no wind blew.


The Crescent Lake is the Nature’s masterpiece. It has existed for hundreds of years. Surrounded by sands, it never runs dry. But the future of the Crescent Lake isn’t bright. The origin of the Crescent Lake is a river called Dang River. Since 1990s, the Dang River has been gradually drying up. Currently, the Dang River can not supply water to the Crescent Lake. To save the Crescent Lake, the local government has done their best to maintain the water level of the lake. Hopefully, the Crescent Lake will not disappear in the future.

Having much fun and taking a lot pictures at the Crescent Lake, we went to the Yadan Demon’s Cities.

Don’t be scared by the name of this place. There are no demons in the Yadan Demon’s Cities. The cities are just composed of Yadan landforms. When the wind blows, the weird sounds is produced. It seems that thousands of demons cry together. Hence, its name Yadan Demon’s Cities.

When we arrived there, all travelers were divided into groups to get on the tourist buses and then start their short journey in the cities. There is a tour guide on the bus who gives you a through introduction. The bus stops at certain locations for a while, letting the tourists appreciate the landform and take pictures. Then it will bring you to next spot. Don’t worry if you lose to get on the bus because you can take the next bus to get back. But you need to be very careful and never miss the last bus. It is no good staying alone at the Gobi dessert.

If you are lucky, you will see the mirage in the Yadan Demon’s Cities. We were unlucky because it was sunny that day. On our way back to Dunhuang, we were lucky to see the Yumen Pass. It was built during the Han Dynasty to avoid the Huns’ invasion. Today, it just stands alone in the Gobi dessert as a tourist spot.

Again, we got back to Dunhuang in the evening. I just threw my bag at my room and got downstairs to feed my stomach. I was hungry. I ate some grilled meat and drank a cup of water made from the apricot skin. Very good! Then I got back and fell asleep.

Day 5 Mogao Cave

This morning, we all got up early because we were going to the Mogao Cave today. I was a bit tired and took a nap on the bus. When I was awake, I just found that we arrived at the Mogao Cave. Getting off the bus, I couldn’t help trembling. Someone aske g and I didn’t tell her that I trembled because I felt very cold. d me “Are you ok?” I said “Yes, I am just too excited.” Actually, it was very cold in the morning.

The tour guide at the Mogao Cave told us not to bring cameras inside because it is dark and the murals would be damaged if we took photos with the flash open. So I just handed my DSLR over to the staff and let them keep it for a while. But some travelers still brought their cameras inside. They forgot what the tour guide said and took photos with the flash on. The tour guide was very angry and required them to turn off their cameras. She said that the mural life would be shortened at least 7 years every time the tourist took photos with the flash on.

I was surprised but angry at the same time. Our ancestors have passed the cultural relics down to us. We should have done our best to protect the murals. But we didn’t. We just used our cameras to damage the murals. How pathetic! I really hoped that those tourists could be kicked out when they were found to take pictures inside the caves.

By the way, the Mogao Cave has to establish a new rule, that is, anyone who is found out to bring his/her camera into the caves will be fined at least 1000 yuan. At the same time, the camera will be confiscated.

At 13:30, our bus was setting off. Our next destination was Heishui Cheng (Black Water City) located in the Inner Mongolia. I was expecting to get to Heishui Cheng because we were going to camp tonight. Eventually, we got there at 00:30.

I was excited because it was the first time that I had camped outside. But I encountered a problem. I didn’t have any experience of camping and didn’t know how to pitch my tent. The leader was kind. He came to me and helped me pitch my tent. Then he came to other travelers and helped them to pitch their tents.

My tent was pitched up but I didn’t sleep immediately because I had a secret mission to do. I asked some other travelers who were interested in photography to take pictures of the star track. We left our camp area and chose to stay at an open ground. Then I set up my tripod, fixed my camera on it, equipped my shutter release and turned my camera to BULB mode. Everything was ready. All I needed to do was sit there and wait for 1 hour. At that moment, we just chatted with each other and waited to see the star track.

In fact, it was the first time that I had taken a picture of the star track. I didn’t have high-end equipment and didn’t take some nice photos of the star track. But I enjoyed the process of shooting the picture.

Day 6 The Ruins of Heishui Cheng, Withered Euphrates Poplar Forest, Juyan Sea and Ceke Entry Port

At 3:00 am, I woke up and felt very cold. I almost became frozen. I told myself that I had come back to my tent because I didn’t want to catch a cold and missed the rest journey. I woke up again by the noise at 05:30. Opening my tent, I saw other travelers packing up their tents. One of them told me that they almost woke up because of the coldness.

I packed up my tent quickly and then checked my camera. The sun was rising and I wanted to take some pictures of the sunrise at the Heishui Cheng.

The legend says that Heishui Cheng was a small city during the Western Xia Dynasty. In the middle of the 14th century, the city disappeared in the sands. However, you can still see the ruins of the city including bricks, damaged potteries and other relics.

The sunrise was beautiful and I was very happy because I took nice pictures of the sunrise. But my good mood was gone when someone told me that we were fined about 2000 RMB. SOMEONE just peed at the entrance gate of the scenic area. The staff noticed and required us to pay 20 RMB for the “damage”. We have almost 100 travelers together. In all, we were fined nearly 2000 RMB. Till now, I still didn’t know who peed at the gate.

After appreciating the sunrise at the Heishui Cheng, we were heading to the next place-the Forest of Withered Euphrates Poplar. At the beginning of 1990s, people who lived at the upstream of the Black River didn’t use the river water carefully. The water table at the lower reaches of the Black River became low, leading to the death of 2000 mu of Euphrates Poplar. Hence, the Forest of Withered Euphrates Poplar is formed.

I took some photos of the withered Euphrates Poplar and had a rest there. Then we went to the Ceke Entry Port. Passing the port, you will reach the Mongolia. I just stood there for a second and shot some photos. It was a bit boring. I was just expecting that we could get to Ejina Qi immediately.

On the way to Eijina Qi, we visited Juyan Sea. Frankly, I was disappointed. We just had around 30 minutes and couldn’t go to the deep area. There we just saw some birds and reeds. The sea was small. Maybe, it should be called pond.

We arrived at Ejina Qi Euphrates Poplar Scenic Area when the sun was setting. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to shoot the sunset. So I got off the bus a bit early with some photography enthusiasts. I just realized that I left my tripod on the bus and the sun was almost disappearing. So I just snapped several photos and walked to the camp area with other travelers. When we got there, they were already beginning to set up their tents. We all had the experience of waking up in late night because of coldness. Thus, we decided to set up one tent and sleep inside together to keep warm.

Since we had the experience of setting up the tent, we pitched the tent quickly and went to the town to have supper. After discussion, we decided to eat some dishes because we were sick of the noodles. We almost ate noodles every day during this trip. However, we finally gave up and went to eat fast food because the dishes were sold too expensively. A dish of tofu cost 32 RMB.

When we got back to the camp, they already fell into sleep. I didn’t want to sleep so early so I chatted with my new friend. Finally, we all fell into sleep. But I felt cold and got up early in the morning. It was still cold when four people slept together.

Day 7 Ejina Qi

After packing up our tent, we began our dreaming journey in the scenic area. The whole scenic area including 8 parts, and each part’s name ends with Daoqiao. As you can see, there are eight Daoqiao in all.

Definitely, we can not viewing all the 8 Daoqiao. So we focused our attention to visit Yidao Qiao, Erdao Qiao, Sidao Qiao, Badao Qiao. No doubt, I took a lot of pictures. The scenery was amazing. I couldn’t help pressing the shutter to shoot photos.

3 hours later, we got on the bus to the Ejina Qi Town. There we had lunch together and then took our way back to Xian.

Farewell to Ejinaqi! Farewell to Heishuicheng, Mogao Cave, Minsha Mountain, Crescent Lake …..

My exploration to the northwest part of China ended but I will never forget the people and the trip.

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