With a free day ahead and the thought of a 13 hour truck drive to Turpan tomorrow, Keith and I decided exercise was required and thought it would be good to take a walk in the sand dunes.
Dunhuang is effectively a fertile oasis in the Gobi desert and has a long history of travellers passing through on their journey west. In its usual inimitable style, China has decided to make virtue of this by providing visitors with the opportunity to walk, camel ride, hang glide, sand buggy or helicopter ride over the amazing sand dunes at the southern end of the town, for a fee.
Taking the number 3 bus from outside our hotel, we travelled the 5 kilometres for 1 Yuen each (10p). On reaching the Singing Sand Mountains as it is called (I think the choir was out during our visit), we paid our fee to get into what is going to be, I think, the sandy equivalent of Centre Parks. We had read that sand overshoes were available for hire and in no time we were fully equipped in what every right minded sand walker is wearing this year – bright orange canvas over boots! Stylish or what!!
If you have not tried it, believe me, walking on sand is hard work. Walking on sand up a steep incline in the sun is a Lawrence of Arabia experience without the music. However, the commitment was rewarded and after about an hour’s walking uphill, we had scaled not only the first dune peak but had decided to tackle the next one. It was an amazing view back over Dunhuang. We watched the camel trains gracefully gliding along the lower sand ridges carrying colourful ‘bescarved’ and hatted Chinese ladies, while hang gliders buzzed overhead. Having scaled the second peak, our attempt to climb the next came to an abrupt halt when we got to the end of a ridge and found a sheer sand drop between us and it. Our descent, although less taxing, was equally precarious as the sand slipped away beneath our feet. Eventually we reached ‘terra firma’ but it took a bit of time to find our land legs.
After a drink to refuel and, looking back to where we had been, congratulate ourselves on our achievement, we decided to walk back to the hotel. This was much to the concern of every No. 3 bus driver who felt obliged to sound his horn as he passed to draw our attention to the opportunity to take the weight off our feet and travel by bus. It is a very frequent bus service…….. By the time we got back my nerves were in tatters!
We had heard of a roof top restaurant overlooking the dunes from which to watch the sunset. A small party was formed to try it out and the long suffering Jason was invited along. The rooftop terrace did exactly as it said and also served a mean gin and tonic. Although food is Keith’s domain, suffice it to say that we had a great evening and excellent meal but were rather surprised when the ‘egg rolls’ we ordered for starters turned out to be a sweet sponge cake reminiscent of a Swiss Roll. Mmmmm – no wonder the waitress looked a little bemused when we asked for it!
After watching the floor show that was supplied on one of the other terraces. – the restaurant was part of a rather nice hotel called the Silk Road Duhuang Hotel – once it was dark, we took a very jolly taxi back. It was universally agreed a good time had been had by all.