The images of China people know are of crowded metropolises, constant construction and factories. It’s too easy to forget that this massive country contains some vast regions of wilderness, from lush jungles to desolate sands, and they are stunningly beautiful.
I have been to Xinjiang, the western-most and largest province, where the people look like they should be in a Emir Kusturica film, not a Zhang Yimou one, and where, on an excursion to the Turpan basin, the second lowest point in the world (where a thermometer registered 50 degrees – but it was a bone-drying heat), I was awed by the expanse of nothing.
Here’s a trailer for biking film, Where the Trail Ends, (free-ride? All these sub-cultures) that is much like a skiing film: big mountains and people plummeting down slopes most people wouldn’t walk, even roped up. At first – along with just clicking on the video and not reading the title – with the faces, the Chinese-muslim hats, the Chinese and Arabic script on the sign, and the grilling of lamb skewers (oh, so so good with the Uighur flat bread and a freezing cold Wusu beer), I figured maybe south Xinjiang, around the Taklamakan desert (which I have plans to ride around, not through, one day). It’s the Gobi, so the other, northern border.
I would have stayed in a yurt because it’s one of the best words in the world, ‘yurt’ – impossible to not pop that ‘t’.
Originally posted March 3 2011.