National holiday, my birthday, great friends, the Gobi desert… when it’s all said and done, it’s still awesome.
National Holiday is celebrated on my day of birth here in China but not for just one day… no, no Me and China get a whompin’ week of vacay which means its time to travel. I’ve had my eyes on the desert for a while – ever since some of my good friends here in Guizhou told me about their oasis adventure just last year. A little geography perspective should be put into this post before I go any further…
leg 1: Xingyi – Chongqing (11 hour bus)
leg 2: Chongqing-Lanzhou (22 hour train)
leg 3: Lanzhou-Dunhuang (16 hour train)
My goals for this long trek:
Ride a camel, dune surf, see the stars, survive 1 long distance bus and 2 long trains, and most of all don’t let the crowds of National Holiday get me down.
The traveling wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, and most of the trains were actually fun. I was on a train on my birthday and my wonderful friends really made it special, with a cake made with REAL American ingredients, wine, party hats, games, and tons of presents and toys. It was probably the most entertaining train ride I’ve ever experienced (shout out to Arielle and Ciara, love you girls). After all the fun and wine, we all decided it was time to try and sleep. It was quite a battle to get some shut-eye on this train as there were people everywhere and hardly any room. We even resorted to laying out some of the sleeping pads and sleeping under the seats. It actually worked for a little bit! Waking up to the sun rising on the Gobi has got to be one of the coolest things. This train was in the middle of the desert… I mean smack dab in the middle. Nothin’ to my left, nothin’ to my right… pretty cool. When we arrived in Dunhuang, we were surprised at how nice the train station, and the air quality was.
Our hostel we did the camel trek through was Charlie Jhongs’, and it was great. The people were wonderful and the atmosphere was so laid back:
As we were about to begin our trek, we decided we would name our camels, or give them English names if they already had Chinese ones. Mine was Derick, and he was a trip. Now, I’ll give it to our camels, they were comfy to ride, pretty well groomed and mostly well behaved… but dang, camels are dumb. Our guide, Lao Li was super kind and had the ease of a fellow who had been doing this for years… which he had. We were in good hands, and on good humps.
The scenery on this trip was incredible, and made all of the traveling worth it. We played on the dunes for the rest of the day and hiked up a rather large dune to catch the sunset. I decided I wanted to bring the sand sled and see if I couldn’t sled down the biggin’… totally worth hauling it up. Nothing like slidin’ After our play day, we settled down, had a beer and some nice “convenient noodles” for dinner under the stars. As we gazed up at the stars, the moon started to rise right over the dunes, and was quite a site. The temperature dropped but our stoke didn’t. All of us were laughing and enjoying the vastness of the Gobi.
Waking up with the sun and Lao Li, we had to get on the path back to the oasis of Dunhuang. It was slightly cloudy and a little rain, but it was cool to see the desert in that state. The sun was peaking through a very clear cloud and spirits were high. We decided we wanted to do one of the touristy things in town and go see the Mogao Cu (the Mogao Caves), which have huge historical significance and contain all kinds of scripts from all different religions and beliefs. Most of these caves were used as a place of prayer for Buddhists. All of the walls had beautiful carvings and even the 3rd largest Buddah in China.
Now if someone asks me if I’ve been to the Gobi I can say…”pshhhha! Been there, dune that”
But I wont, because it sounds mean.