FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Across the desert by bus

Posted in China by folkestonejack on November 16, 2012

Our 380km drive to Dunhuang began at 10.40am with little time to spare if we were to be sure of climbing on board the 6.58pm sleeper train (K9668) to Lanzhou. The crazy thing about this was that the station at Hami was just a couple of hours away but we were unable to secure any tickets from their limited allocation, forcing us into the long drive. After dropping off our local guide ‘Moonflower’ and saying our farewells we hit the road in earnest.

A brief stop at the boundary between Xinjiang and Gansu Province

A brief stop at the boundary between Xinjiang and Gansu Province

The drive through the Gobi desert was far from dull with an ever changing landscape around us. In places the desert was utterly barren but in other locations there were black sand dunes, swooping hills and even the occasional patch of vegetation. Amongst this were occasional signs of civilisation ranging from yurt-like structures through to newly constructed high apartment blocks (inevitably, in place of part demolished hutongs). After we headed off the motorway the scenery became more varied, the desert giving way to salt marshes and the occasional herd of camels.

As we approached Dunhuang on the Silk Road we passed some remnants of the Han Dynasty Great Wall which looked almost like natural rocks in the way that they had weathered away. Finally, countryside gave way to urban development and before too long we were driving through the centre of town. We arrived at 5.23pm so had sufficient time to stop at a local restaurant specialising in spicy food (sadly not the curiously named ‘Greedy cat halogen private pig restaurant’ that we saw from the bus!). Our dining room had a window onto the street which became something of a zoo cage with captive westerners on display…

The vast station at Dunhuang

The impresssive exterior of the station at Dunhuang…

The hangar like space of Dunhuang station

…and the vast hangar like space inside

Finally, time ran out and we got back in the bus for the drive out of town to the railway station. We didn’t have any time to sit around, making our way straight through the security screen and ticket check. The station looked vast on the outside but it was hard to imagine why such immense size was necessary – on the platform side the vast hanger like space contained just one train! Once on board we could finally relax in our compartment and settle down for the overnight journey to Lanzhou.

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