Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 7 - Donkey Attack

Ah, our final day in Turpan and it was another full one. We will once again inundate you all with far too many photos, so get ready for it...

First up was a trip to the Astana Graves, this is where they had pulled some of the mummies out that we saw back in Urumqi back on day 2 of our trip. They don't allow photos when you climb down inside of the actual tombs or of the mummies that are still there. It it makes you feel any better we lost a bet and had to buy Mohemmed his lunch when we couldn't tell the man and woman mummies apart. We must have still sleepy because once he pointed out the mummified penis we realized that this should have been an easy one to guess.

On our way there we also stopped by a local families grape drying hut. These raisin makers dot the countryside and it was nice to step into the cool interior and look at the rows of hanging grapes slowly turning into raisins.

I guess it confused me as I only think of raisins as black, but here they dry both the red and the green grapes. We would see stacks of multi-colored raisins when we toured the markets later in the day...

Raisin huts in front of the Flaming Mountains as seen from the Astana Graves.

Once we finished looking at the dead we headed over to Gaochang, another set of ancient city ruins. Different from Jiaohe in that here they built upwards instead of digging down into the ground, but still just amazing in the size of it all. It had a certain Flintstones feel to it, only made with clay instead of slabs of rock.
Some of the paint is still on the wall behind where Buddha statues once sat.
This is quite a complex, and although it is still early it's hot outside. The small donkey cart you see in the photo holds up to eight people comfortably, so most had 10 on them. We walked all the way out to the old temple in the center but bartered with a driver to only pay 10 RMB for him to take us back. That meant the we ended up with a slow donkey, and apparently a donkey with enemies.... When we were almost back another donkey cart with maybe 6 people on it started to pass us, when the donkeys were head to head the overtaking one decided to start a fight and ram us - this is the side of the cart that I was on. I wasn't right for the rest of the day after that, I'm blaming the banged up toes from getting the brunt of the other cart and some poor older lady, the heat, the rush of adrenaline from seeing a cart coming right at you, but after that I felt flush with heat and my stomach was in knots. Donkey fights, they'll get you every time.
Local home - notice the bed on the roof. They sleep there in the summer.

From there we drove up through the Flaming Mountains to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. There was a story about the Flaming Mountains being created when the Monkey King broke out of a stove prison or something - I wasn't really listening, and I blame the donkey.
The Thousand Buddha caves had mostly been destroyed or taken away by Germans, Americans, some British and other archeologists - so some of the items were lost when Berlin was bombed in WWII, but the museum in London still has some items to display. Almost anything that remained was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but what was still around was impressive. Once can only imagine what it looked like back in the early 1900's when in it's full glory. Again we couldn't take photos so all you get it a picture of the outside.

And then we went to our final sight for the day, the Emin Minaret and Mosque. At this point of the day the sun was on the wrong side of the mosque, so even though we had a picture perfect clear day it was hard to capture that perfect picture of the minaret.
We went inside to the nice and cool central room which also had rooms outside of it that helped the acoustics and could be used for people to relay the messages out during the high holidays. Up until 1989 you could climb up the minaret but it started to crack and they stopped letting guests into it, if you look closely you can see some iron hoops around the lower sections of the minaret helping to hold it together.
I want to say that the story surrounding it was that as people traveled along the silk road they usually stopped here and were always impressed by this minaret and wanted to have copies of it made. The son that had build it in memory of his father wanted to make sure that it was the only one in this style and he had the architect killed so that this one would remain unique.

And that was our day in Turpan, we had a 21:00 overnight train ride to Jiayuguan so after a few hours hanging out in the local markets off to the train station we went. This shocked us when we got there, as it was mobbed with people and an incredibly long line.
Yes, the line goes all the way up the street, and these people all have lots of luggage with them. This was taken from inside the station, Mohemmed pulled the "Laowai tourist" card and walked us straight up to the front of the line, it was nice as we would not have handled this easily on our own. This is a major station for migrant workers coming in to pick cotton, but if they arrive too late then the jobs are gone and they turn around and head home - that is the group we were at the station with.

Mohemmed also had to wait with us as we didn't have actual tickets. In order to secure two beds in the same room (upper bunks this time), they needed to book the tickets from Kashgar. So we had to meet a man at the station who had traveled all day on the train on two tickets and then exchange with him once the train pulled into the station. Made it somewhat fun, but it was sad that we didn't get to enjoy a full cabin to ourselves. The lower bunks had an older couple and their granddaughter, seeing as I was still feeling slightly off - the donkey - once we climbed up into our upper bunks we quickly drifted off to sleep.

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