Hannes is back on board, for a trip to the Crescent Moon Lake.
Dunhuang Travel Blog› entry 325 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Hannes (Sweden), Colin (Canada), Portia (USA)
The previous night I had received news from Hannes that he was already in Dunhuang, so we had arranged to meet today at 15.30. Our bus from Jiayuguan arrived at 14.30, which just gave us enough time to check into the excellent value Youhao Hotel (80RMB/$11 for an en-suite room with air con and tv), shower and walk to a large roundabout where we had arranged to meet.
Hannes had travelled with us on and off for nearly half a year, through Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and East Timor, so it was weird that our paths would now cross again in China.
Our first priority was to find somewhere to eat, so we began walking to the market, when all of a sudden the street began to fill with sand and vendors started to make a move for cover. We went into one restaurant, but their prices were rather optimistic for donkey meat and beer, so we went to a Western style eatery called Charlie Johngs.
I was pleased to be inside, watching the sand storm form a safe distance, as it blew in from the nearby dunes. I felt terribly sorry for the road cleaner outside, who was stuck brushing the same area of road, only for it to be instantaneously covered with sand, just seconds later.
We had arranged to meet Portia at 18.30, but the weather was not letting up and going to climb a sand dune during a sand storm seemed about as wise as re-publishing a cartoon of Mohammed... but lets not get political now! I sent an email explaining our predicament and we settled in for a long night in the cafe, accompanied by some Tsingtao's, Ludo and our imaginations.
It was great to chat about our previous time together and also our future plans, which literally changed as we sat there. I had always planned on visiting Mogao Caves whilst in Dunhuang, some famous Buddhist Grottoes, but i was gob smacked to read in a comments book within the cafe that they had jacked the prices up to an absurd 180RMB ($25).
Around midnight Hannes had itchy feet and wanted to be more active, so we recruited Colin, a Canadian who has lived in Beijing for the last 6 years and speaks fluent Chinese, to join us in heading to a pool hall. Julia and I managed to beat the guys 3-0, although the best thing about the night was getting to see the toilets.
As it had been a late night and we had done a lot of travelling over the last few days, we agreed to have a relaxing day on Thursday and slept in until midday. Charlie Johngs cafe was our meeting place at 13.30, from where we move on to have lunch at Johns Information Cafe, located just 50 metres down the road. I think the food was much better value here, although i really liked the staff at Charlie's.
18.30 at Charlie's was the arrangement to meet Portia, so went along for a juice at 18.00 and just to hang out and wait. At 19.00 there was still no sign, so we were left with little choice but to head to the sand dunes alone. By chance, we bumped into each other at John's cafe, just as we were about to catch a taxi.
As it turned out, Portia had opted to visit Crescent Moon Lake earlier in the day, so wouldn't actually be joining us after all. Thankfully Dunhuang is forced to run on Beijing time, so although it was 19.15 when we arrived, the sun was still shining brightly. I had read in the Lousy Planet that we could gain free admittance to the site, if we just walked around the steel fence that was in place. 25 minutes later we had not set foot on the dunes and the fence was still disappearing into the horizon.
The three of us discussed the option of jumping the fence, but after spotting a guy who was tailing us with a loud speaker and also seeing the 100-200RMB ($15-$30) fine signs, we decided that our only option was to head back to the ticket office and enter the boring expensive way!
Just like every other site in China is appearing to do, Crescent Moon Lake has hiked its prices up to ludicrous levels, charging 120RMB ($17) just to climb a sand dune! The decision was made to cough up the fee, although we weren't even sure we could get any decent views before the sun finally set.
The first section of the climb was steep, but at least the sand was fairly solid, so although tiring, it was scaled rather quickly. The sun was now right behind one dune and i was sure that there was no hope to make it to the top in time. To complicate matters I still didn't even know which dune we were supposed to be climbing!
Continuing along the ridge of the biggest dune visible, the sand began to sink beneath our feet, making it tough on the legs. To add to the challenge, the wind was blowing sand off the top of the dunes and we were inhaling enough to make our lungs resemble Miami Beach. Hannes and I soon had our shoes off as they were full of sand, whilst Julia had some striking orange boots to protect her feet from becoming too bogged down.
I reached the top first and had the fun of watching the other two struggling their hardest to join me. To be fair, i was totally knackered, but sitting up there with a glowing orange ball descending on the horizon, over a gorgeous yellow sand dune and glittering small ponds, whilst the clear blue sky turned shades of purple, red and orange, really had made the journey thoroughly worthwhile.
From the top, the views of the surrounding dunes were fantastic, with camel silhouettes on the horizon, adding to the ambiance. Hannes, Julia and I performed some jumping maneuverer's to try and get some fun photos, i think Hannes has some stunt man in him, whereas Julia and I looked deformed most of the time!
A little after 21.00 the sun finally set and we ran back down the dunes, which was great fun.
John's cafe was already closed when we arrived back into town at 21.30, so we went to Charlie's for Dinner. It was going to be an early start the next day, so drinking was off the menu and instead we went to the interesting night market to look around and buy some provisions for the following day. Stocked up, we walked Hannes back to his hotel and got to bed around midnight.