"As every person has his/her own uniqueness, so does every place, I believe. It's just a matter of interest. Everyone, every place, is unique. But not every uniqueness matches everyone's interest." ~ my email to Central Asia Traveler on June 11th 2012.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012 47 °C
Turpan, August 16th 2012
Quoting from "Insight Guides: Silk Road":
The Oasis is set in Turpan Basin, at 155 meters (509ft) below sea level the second-lowest depression in the world (after the Dead Sea), and experiences great variations in temperature, ranging from 400C (1040F) in summer to well below zero (320F in winter. Officially, it's the hottest place in China, once known as Huozhou or "Region of Fire", and the Huoyan Shan or "Flaming Mountains" to the northeast have long been infamous as a furnace-like wasteland. The lowest point in the depression is Aydingkol Hu (Moonlight Lake), a bleak, salt-encrusted pan where temperatures in midsummer can reach as high as 600C (1400F.
"Turpan Pendi" is another name for "Turpan Basin". Before I started this Silk Road adventure, every time I went into a sauna, I always had Turpan Pendi in mind. Is it this hot. Yesterday when I walked the streets of downtown Turpan, I prepared myself for the worst. On the contrary, it turned out to be less hot here. The blowing wind was soothing instead.
There was a Western tourist guy with a guide riding on a motorcycle. He was already done and about to move to his next destination. He spoke twice better Mandarin than me. Shame on me. My driver warned him not to take pictures of kids in Tuyuq Village and told him my story.
The mosque (It is, isn't it?) looked well preserved. But who goes to pray in this mosque that seems to be in the middle of nowhere?
I couldn't believe my eyes. Why? Because Josh Summer's Turpan Guide said:
Although it may sound enticing during the hot summer to visit this “lake”, don‟t be fooled into thinking you‟ll get in a good swim. Instead of water you‟ll find kilometers of thick salt beds making this a “look-only” destination. The location is a bit out of the way and not near any major ruins, so unless you have time to kill you can probably mark this lake off your list of places to visit.
Why put "lake" between quotation marks? Isn't this big enough to be called a lake? I understand that most of the other parts is dry, and is "instead of water". But, this is, a lake. About "thinking you'll get in a good swim", I just laughed. For an Indonesian, thinking that any lake is "swimmable" is worse than stupid. If you still love life, you'd better not just jump into any lake, or else you would never come to surface. Not swallowed by an alligator, but dragged down by a current, for example.
Can you see that tiny brown spots in the middle. They were another surprise for me. Ducks! Many! Their voices filled the empty air. There are more behind the bushes, and in the lake. Yes, lake.
Birds (with an 'S') joint in the ducks' chorus.
There was a time when this bird flew from the bushes near me. It's size is twice a duck. It wasn't flying fast either. But I was transfixed and thus too late to frame it in my camera. I thought Josh said there was nothing here. I searched and waited for another one to come close, but none did.
Well, Josh wasn't completely mistaken either. I did find "kilometers of thick salt beds".
My driver told me to follow this path. But, he didn't come along.
"This way?" I asked.
"Yes, that way."
I wondered where this path was leading to as the end of it sank into the horizon before my eyes. But behind me I saw another tourist tracing the path also. Then there must be something, I thought.
Once again like Josh had said, "kilometers of thick salt beds".
I had also read somewhere in the internet that Ayding Lake had been a vast lake. But due to climate and geographical changes, the lake dried up. This cracked land can't confirm more.
At last I saw "something" in sight. Hmmm, maybe that's what my driver meant. I turned my head back, that tourist just now was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, he gave up. I have no idea how long this path runs. But you can guess how long it could be if you stand at the starting point and see the end sinks into the horizon like endless. Very long. Even weirder it is, when this monument came to sight and I thought I was close to final destination, it seemed I was walking on a treadmill. Later on, a Chinese friend I met in Korla said, "It's funny in the desert when you see something that seems close but when you try to approach it, you seem never reaching it."
I could not but shudder at the thought of the Silk Road travelers centuries ago. Riding on camels for days and nights through the desert while the destination is merely the horizon line... how could they survive? Even in their dream, a path like the one I'm walking on now did not exist.
Finally, I met my destination. For the first time in life, I'm standing on (or in?) world's lowest point inland. I'm minus 154.31 meters below sea level.
Indeed, this (is) a “look-only” destination. However, isn't other destination also an "look-only destination" -- if you don't carry any value in it? It's not the destination actually. It's how you look at it. For me, who has the least interest in Buddhism and am not into mural art, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha's Cave or the well-knowned Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, might be a "look-only destination", even though they lie on the Silk Road. While I adore pandas to their butts, for those who aren't into moving creatures, might find panda a "look-only destination" and say "unless you have time to kill you can probably mark this off your list of places to visit in Chengdu." Furthermore, why would one risk his or her life and climb the Himalayas? What would you do up there but "look-only"?
I walked the long, long path back, feeling contented.
If you happened to know what this is, please leave a comment here.