An early start this morning as we needed to drive for 5 hours through the grasslands of central China.
It was quite an amazing journey over two mountain ranges and across a vast empty plateau. I have to say that I am extremely impressed with Chinese engineering. The road was a four lane highway for the first two hours with long tunnels through the mountains, crash barriers and a central reservation (unlike the road trip in Nepal). I felt so safe. Even when we left the main road there were no steep precipices, hairpin bends or stomach lurching drops. No, this was an extremely pleasant ride through beautiful scenery and I did not have to shut my eyes or clutch the seat once!
We were high though. For much of the journey we were above the tree line and at one point we reached the dizzy height if 3817m, which is approx three times the height of Ben Nevis.
As you can imagine the air up here is pure but very thin. The temperature was only 20 degrees but it is easy to burn so we all had to be careful.
Along the route we saw this temple which is the former site of the Tibetan sky burials.
The corpse is left on a platform for the eagles to eat. Apparently if the birds eat you all in one go then you were a good person and will go to heaven. If they don’t then you are destined for one of the hells. Given the roads and the growth in tourism the site for sky burials has been moved as it needs to be in a more remote location.
The terrain is very rugged and reminded me of parts of the Lake District but on a much larger scale. The main farming is sheep and Yaks which grazed freely over the steep slopes.
We did get to see this white Yak close up. These are called ‘pretty girls’
In July the region hold horse fairs and we saw lots of these hardy looking animals as their owners showed them off.
Actually we are extremely lucky to be visiting now as the whole region has summer for only 30 days a year. The rest of the time it is cold and last year it even snowed in June!
In between the mountains was a vast plateau which stretched for miles and miles. It wasn’t windy for us but it is obviously a natural wind farm and we passed hundreds of turbines. I have never seen so many all in one place.
The Mongolian and Tibetan tribes who live here are semi nomadic as the government provided winter housing for them but they live in yurts for the rest of the year. We saw several pretty tent structures nestled in the hillsides
All over the landscape are dotted the colorful prayer tents
The flags have different prayer meanings.
White = peace
Yellow = good harvest
Green = good marriage/fertility
Red = long life
Blue = health
I think it is wonderful to stand near the top of the world amongst so much prayer.
The main crops grown at this altitude are wheat and Canola, from where we get the oil. The canola fields were in flower and provided a stunning photo stop.
Great for a group shot. The air was heady with the perfume from the flowers and the fields almost vibrated as the bees worked hard. We had to be careful when going amongst the flowers.
Lunch was a massive bowl of lamb noodles soup which the locals eat for both lunch and breakfast. For the evening meal they have lamb noodles without the soup!!! Not a lot of variety but it was tasty.
Then it was on to Chaka which in Tibetan mean Salt Lake. It is incredible that this country 2000km away has such an influence here. It would take 32 hours to get there by high speed train!
This salt lake was formed when all the present continents of the earth broke up from the giant Pangea continent approximately 200 million years ago.
It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with some amazing reflections.
The lake covers 40 square miles and it has been used to produce salt for over 3000 years and is still going.
During the 30 days of summer this is a popular spot for photography and girls pose in red dresses on the salty crust.
There are gigantic salt sculptures
And peaceful walkways
This was not a place that was on my bucket list because I didn’t know that it existed but I am so glad that we have visited as it is one of the unsung wonders of the world.
Thanks to the group for sharing their photos with me.
One thought on “The Silk Road: Day 2 The Grasslands”
another amazing experience for you and Kevin. I am so glad you are able to travel again and with good company by all accounts x keep enjoying and keep blogging
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