The Silk Road
Urumqi to Hami
windfarm provided an interesting break in our travel from
Urumqi to Turfan. About 500 wind-powered generators provide clean
renewable energy. A satellite view of this facility can be found on
Google Earth at 43º34' N 87º 50' W. The
number of generators seems to have increased since the satellite
pictures were taken.
The windmills seem to stretch forever fading into
the haze in the distance.
is famous for grapes. The main road in the city has a structure
supporting grape vines which, in the fruiting season, have thousands of
bunches of grapes hanging from them.
Turpan is the
ancient city of Gaochang. The site is quite large and the area of most
interest is a long way from the entrance. Donkey carts take visitors
around the area. It's a fast and bumpy ride.
The old city was established in the first century B.C. and was an important trading centre on the silk road. It was destroyed and abandoned during wars in the 14th century A.D. The buildings were made of mud bricks.
We were welcomed at our Turpan hotel by a group of local dancers and musicians.
Also near Turpan is the Imin minaret built in 1777. It is named after Imin Hoja who was the head of the Turpan prefecture. The brickwork is magnificent.
The Turpan region has the lowest rainfall in China. Despite this it has been a thriving centre for grape growing for a thousand years. Turpan has been described as a green island in a sea of sand. The reason for this remarkable achievement is the karez, which is a system of underground tunnels which bring water from the foot of the mountains. The system was constructed by digging vertical shafts and then tunnelling to link the shafts. The shafts nearest the mountains are deep enough to tap into groundwater which flows by gravity through the tunnels to the area to be irrigated. One estimate puts the total length of tunnels in the Turpan karez system at 5,000 km. all of which were dug with simple hand tools. Lines of shafts can be seen at 42.83N 89.27E using Google Earth. A new museum tells the story of the construction and operation of this irrigation system.
Flaming Mountain, near Turpan, gets its name from the red sandstone at the top. This is the hottest place in China.
A broader view.
A giant thermometer shows that, while this might be the hottest place in China, on the day we visited it was quite cool.
We also met our first Chinese camel. We would see a lot more later.
The area is also an important source of oil.
From Turpan we travelled about 400 km.to Hami. The countryside was dry and treeless, mainly flat but with some hills.
There was considerable variation in the colour of the rocks.
In the distance is the snow-covered Tianshan mountain range was in view for much of the time.
Hami has been an important place for 2,000 years. It was situated at the junction of two important trade routes. Hami, today is a thriving modern city. It is famous for melons. The Hami melon is a type of cantaloup. Other melons are also grown in the region. The statue in the background shows a woman holding a melon.
Wide streets and colourful buildings are features of many modern Chinese cities.
Wide walkways also serve as parking areas.