April 18, 2009

Dunhuang, China

I started my journey towards the old Silk Road not by camel, but by train, which was like watching a fast-forwarded landscape metaphor of my decision to strip away the excesses of my life; as we rolled North, green fields filled with farms and villages gradually gave way to dry, rocky mountains which led straight into colorless, cracked fields of nothingness. The train journey from Chengdu to Dunhuang via Lanzhou held the same boundless beauty as the Ural and Siberian plains and the steppes of Mongolia.
Even though I arrived at a newly built station, the exoticness of the Silk Road hit me as soon as I stepped off the train in Dunhuang. With the desert stretching off endlessly in every direction, the ancient scents of freshly woven silk, hammered gold, heavy musk and steamed bread mixed with the sound of camels bells and a myriad of languages seemed to hang, mirage-like, in the heat of early morning.
Formerly an important town along the route, where the trail divided into Northern and Southern directions, Dunhunag also boasts the Mogao Caves, which after most of the non-stationary items were plundered by the Brits, it still offers some of the oldest and well-preserved Buddhist art in China.
With the Kumtag desert dunes towering above the flat city, Ryan from Canada and I were inspired to emulate the old trader’s and trek out into the sandy mountains and camp out under the stars. So we rented a tent and two sleeping bags from a guesthouse, hopped the surrounding fence and gladly cheated the Chinese out of a few tourist dollars, used our feet as furry hooves and the setting sun as a compass. Sleeping in the middle of the desert, drifting off to the soft sounds of swirling sand and waking up to a majestic sunrise placed my spirit back a thousand years earlier where I felt like I was walking in tandem with the ghosts of the Ancient Silk Road.

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online