Korla, China (Silk Route Scouting Report)
I have arrived in Korla the western-most city I planned to visit on the scouting mission. Korla is the oil capital of the quickly developing oil fields in the Takla Makan desert and this is quickly visible on arrival to the city. Shinny high-rises, wide boulevards, western style boutiques and energy – energy that comes when optimism and expectation sets in – that there is more money “in them sandy dunes.”
So what other wonders have I seen since leaving Lanzhau? Well, there was the replica of the famous Flying Horse of Wuwei and the tomb where he was found, the giant reclining Budha and his disciples in Zhangye, the last fortress of the Great Wall in Jianguan, with “the wall” leading in and out of the fortress, an impressive structure by any means of measurement, and not the least the Mogao Grottos caves in Dunhaung perhaps the crowning glory of the trip. And of course the awesome cliffs that you see when you travel through the Hexi corridor, the edge of the world famed Gobi desert and the quiet peaceful vine trellises covered boulevards of Turpan the lowest depression in China – 80 meters below sea level.
Tomorrow I will check out the road west, on the edge of the Takla Makan (means “those who go in do not come out”) desert which leads all the way to Kashgar and then to the border, though I do not plan to go too far. This part of the journey will remain un-scouted, so that all participants in the Silk Route Bicycle Caravan including myself will experience the adventure of the unknown and the unexpected – and unexpected will be without a doubt in abundance.