In the northwest of China you will find a wild part of the world surrounded by Tibet, Qinghai and Gansu provinces and no less than eight bordering countries – Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and Mongolia. Intrepid’s Tina Gerets loves her Silk Road adventures through this extraordinary region…
“When I think about ‘wild frontiers’ the first place that comes to mind is the barren landscape of China’s remote Xinjiang province. The name literally means ‘new frontier’. Home to one sixth of China’s total landmass and a third of the country’s natural resources, Xinjiang is like nothing you expect China to be.
There are many different nationalities living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, many religions worshipped and many languages spoken. With about eight million Uyghur residents that is the most common language you will hear, and don’t be surprised if you meet people who can’t understand Mandarin.
As diverse as the people living there, so varied is the region itself. Its capital, Urumqi, was for a long time in the hands of the Soviets. Today it remains a popular business destination for neighbouring Russians. The western oasis town of Kashgar is home to the beautiful Idkah Mosque, markets that seem to go on forever and sell everything. My favourite place to spend the morning is Mal bazaar – the animal market, where donkeys, camels, goats, cows, horses, bulls etc. are traded. A view of a more traditional way of living you will not get.
I’ve led several Intrepid trips in Xinjiang, following the famous Silk Road. To me, nothing is wilder, and more beautiful, than this remote, vast area. The people are among the most welcoming and friendliest in the world. The landscape is stunning, from the heights of the alpine lake of Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake) and the world’s second biggest sand desert, the Taklamakan, to the snow-capped peaks of the Pamir mountain range. You can even spot K2 on a clear day!”