Dear Families and Friends,
Its a lovely rainy day at the Dunhuang Oasis.
We have just returned from the ultimate pearl of the Silk road-the Mogao Buddhist caves complex. An absolute galaxy of cultural blends right on the main branch of the ancient trade route.
It has been a busy three weeks in which we have zigzagged our way across mountains, grasslands and deserts, visited time old mosques and monasteries, wandered picturesque markets and lived with Tibetan nomads.
During our days with the nomads in the vast Sangke Grassland we learned much about their old ways, new challenges, and hopes for the future.
Our dear friend and host Gonpo did a superb job at taking care of all our needs, and we hope that his plan of developing a sustainable tourism network within the nomadic communities will bear fruit. We also hope that our mutual brainstorming, with students involved, will help him to achieve his goals.
From Dunhuang, we will proceed tonight to the fabled Silk road town of Kashgar, located between the margins of the great Taklamakan Desert and the majestic Tian Shan range, this dusty ancient town is the westernmost city in modern China and its gateway to the rest of Central Asia and the world beyond. During our stay in Kashgar we plan to venture into its narrow alleys and bustling bazaars learning about the depths of its history and confronting the current challenges and sorrows of this magnificent region.
From Kashgar we will head out to the timeless oasis of Turpan, the second lowest spot on earth, famous for its vast vineyards, crumbling ruins of the past, and unique desert architecture. Our visit to this sun drenched valley will be a perfect contrast to our excursion to the Hemu region the north, a Siberian outpost in the border regions of China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. In Hemu we will have a chance to hike through forests, meet the local Tuvan Buddhist herders and reflect on our long journey before heading back to Urumqi, the provincial capital, and then home.
Best wishes from the Silk Road, and an “Ak yol”* to all!
– Silk Road Instructor Team
*A white road” – symbolizing fortunate travel.