Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark.


Today, we got to see a most and incredible,  surreal desert landscape that I will not soon forget!

When I first heard the term, *yardang*, as in the Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark, I thought the word was a Chinese word.  It sounded Chinese and maybe it referred to the specific region the geopark was located in.  I could not be more wrong!

The word, yardang, is actually Turkic in origin and as described in Wikipedia, it refers to unique geological formation that is:
"...a streamlined protuberance carved from bedrock or any consolidated or semiconsolidated material by the dual action of wind abrasion by dust and sand, and deflation which is the removal of loose material by wind turbulence.[1] Yardangs become elongated features typically three or more times longer than wide, and when viewed from above, resemble the hull of a boat. Facing the wind is a steep, blunt face that gradually gets lower and narrower toward the lee end.[2] Yardangs are formed by wind erosion, typically of an originally flat surface formed from areas of harder and softer material. The soft material is eroded and removed by the wind, and the harder material remains. The resulting pattern of yardangs is therefore a combination of the original rock distribution, and the fluid mechanics of the air flow and resulting pattern of erosion."
As you might expect, yardangs form in environments where water is scarce and the prevailing winds are strong, uni-directional, and carry an abrasive sediment load.


We left our hotel early this morning but given that Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark is located some 200 kilometers from Dunhuang city center, it took was about a 2 hour drive to get here.

For most of the drive, it was flat desert landscape.  It wasn't until we neared the Yumen Pass aka Jade Gate, that the landscape become rockier.  We would visit Yumen on our way back to Dunhuang.



We pulled into a small parking lot what had a few large tour buses already there.  Oh no!  Seeing them, I feared we would once again be mobbed by tourists.....most likely Chinese tourists.  Ugh...


As we got out of the van, I could feel the ferocious wind slapping at my face.  No fun being in a desert with wind kicking up sand in your face.  Luckily, I did have my scarf in my backpack so if need be, I could use it as a face mask of sorts.  For the moment, I decided to brave it.  Sallyanne the Trekker was not about to take any chances :-)


Cathy got our entry tickets and then we had to wait for the bus.  Everyone is shuttled around via bus similar to what we did at the Danxia Landform.  Except in this case, the bus would stop at certain spots, everyone would get off to take photos and then get back on the same bus.  The entire circuit would take about an hour.


As we waited for the bus, I took the opportunity to take a few photos.  This place looks so surreal. 


The haze added to the surreal look of the place.  The one thing that really struck me was that the rocks were not the same color as the gravel or sand that surrounded them.  You would think the sand would be the same color as it would have eroded off the rocks to begin with.  Very strange.


Large tour buses soon appeared and as if from nowhere, did dozens of tourists.....all Chinese.  Cathy waved us on to board a bus and so we did.



I managed to get a seat close to the front.  Unfortunately, the guide only spoke in Mandarin so I had no clue what we were seeing.  I decided to just focus on the amazing landscape we were in and would read up on Yardang after the visit.


Here are some of the photos I took.  We make several stops to take photos.





Our first stop was to see a formation named, the Sphinx.  Thankfully, there were signs in English.


I give you the Sphinx.  That would be the two rock formation on the right. The only Sphinx I've ever seen is the one in Cairo and this one doesn't look anything like it.  My imagination is not so good. :-(




She was posing for a photo.  I waited and waited for her to get out of the way. Finally, I couldn't wait any longer.


It took her so longer to take a photo that these two were literally the last two people back on the bus.  I hope it's a nice photo.


But luckily, I was quick enough on the shutter to take photo below as they were sauntering back towards the bus.  Don't rush ladies....there's only a full bus of tourists waiting for you!





The next stop was at a spot where the highlight was a formation called the Peacock.




I let the mob of people dart ahead of me while I took my time to get down to where I could get a closer view through my zoom lens.  I can see a peacock.




It was here that what I would describe as a battleship formation of rocks was evident - this is yardang.




Our last stop was at a place where we could see the best yardang.







I had no idea that we would be coming to this place - it was never mentioned on the itinerary.  So I had no expectations.  I left blown away by this very unearthly, unique landscape. It's the kind of special place that once you've been here, you will recognize it anytime you see a photo of it. So lucky to have been here!!