BICYCLE EXPEDITION "THE JADE GATE"
The expedition team will overpass more than three thousand kilometers in the territory of Kazakhstan and China, beginning their bike trip in the heart of the Kazakh steppes – Karaganda city – and aiming to get to the famous “Jade gate” in Gansu province of the P.R.C. They will follow one of the routes of the modern “Silk Road”, that are not so much different from those that existed centuries ago. The team will try to describe and capture the most interesting natural and historical sights, get acquainted with the culture of the peoples, inhabiting these areas, and, thus, contribute to the cultural exchange between the peoples of Kazakhstan and China, as well as tourism development between the two countries.
Estimated expedition start date: August, 15 -2015
Estimated expedition length: 45 days
Approximate distance, which the expedition will have to overpass: 3200 km.
Karaganda – Kyzylarai – Itmuryndy – Sayak – Aktogai – Usharal – Dostyk – Alashankou – Shihezi - Urumchi – Turpan - Hami - Yumenguan
The main objectives of the expedition are: cultural exchange and distribution of the information on China in Kazakhstan and on Kazakhstan in China. This project may attract the attention of the Chinese and Kazakh public organizations to the natural and historical sights of the regions of the both countries, which lie along one of the branches of the Silk Road and are relatively unpopular in terms of tourism. It will contribute to their further development.
Description of the route
In ancient times the steppes of Central Kazakhstan were connected with the central regions of China by means of the Silk Road routes. During the Han dynasty, all caravans, going from China to the West, had to necessarily pass “The Jade Gate” (Yumenguan) frontier-post, erected by Emperor Wudi in the II century B.C. as one of the fortifications of the Great wall of China. To the west of the “Gate” there were wide deserted expanses, leading to Central Asia, towards the areas which the Chinese called “Xihu” (i.e. western regions), and further towards India, Persia and Byzantium. This gate, situated on the western side of the Gansu Corridor, is remarkable from the historical point of view, it will become the final destination point of our expedition.
However, before getting to “The Jade Gate”, our expedition will pass the following spots, remarkable for their cultural and natural sights:
Kyzylarai Mountain Oasis. These lands were inhabited by humans during the Bronze Age, here are situated a lot of archaeological sights, dating back to the different periods of history of civilization. Kyzylarai is also considered one of the areas in which metallurgy originated. These two circumstances allow us to think that one of the Silk Road routes went through this oasis, whose main sights are the monumental Begazy sepulchers, as well as the ancient settlement, situated nearby.
Jadeite field of Itmuryndy. Jadeite is one of the two stones (another one is, as a matter of fact, nephrite), that are called “yu” (i.e. jade) and are highly rated by the Chinese. In the deserted Northern Balkhash lake area, at the foot of Itmuryndy mountain, is situated one of the biggest fields of this greenish mineral. Besides, some historians think, that the Chinese first saw the jadeite, quarried from this field (which began functioning in the year dot) with the help of the Silk Road.
Lake Balkhash is one of the largest lakes in the world (it has an area of about 18 000 square km.). It is unique in that the western end of the lake is fresh water, while the eastern end is salty (the two ends are divided by the narrow strait of Uzynaral). One of good places for secluded rest is Baigabyl peninsula, which lies in the salty part of the lake, peculiar due to its clean water of turquoise colour.
Sayak settlement. Even though situated in the middle of the lifeless desert, this area was populated already in the ancient times, mostly due to the rich copper ore beds. Sayak is considered one of the oldest centers of metallurgy in the territory of Kazakhstan. Numerous mines and instruments of labour, which had been found by the archaeologists in this region, go to prove that supposition. It is remarkable, that the natural resources of Sayak still haven’t been run out, on the contrary - they are mined up to the present day. One of the sights of this kind is the marble quarry of Sayak (385 m. deep).
Alakol lake. The name of this salty “colourful lake” (“ala” means “colourful” in Kazakh language) reflects its natural variety. Someone once said, that the Alakol is situated on the so-called “Silk Road” for migrant birds, which nest on its shores during their long migrations. These shores also used to witness the numerous travelers, following caravan tracks of the Silk Road. Already in those days people knew about the healing powers of the local water.
“The Dzungarian Gate” mountain pass. Famous for the constant strong winds blowing here, this mountain pass remembers both caravans, going along the Silk Road, and hordes of conquerors, passing it repeatedly. Here, between the Dzhungarian Alatau and the Barlyk mountain range, the Kazakh-Chinese border with the frontier points of Dostyk and Alashankou is situated. Here goes the Atasu-Alashankou oil pipe line – that is the infrastructure of the modern Silk Road.
Urumchi city. Founded in the 7th century A.D. (at that time it was called Luntai), this city was for a long time the main center of tax collection on the northern branch of the Silk Road. The city keeps up the traditions and nowadays “caravans” with goods still go through it. Urumchi is also considered the most distant city from the sea on the Globe (the nearest sea is more than 2500 km far away), as well as the centre of Asia (the respective monument is erected in the neighborhood of the city).
Turpan city. Thanks to the ancient technique of irrigation, which has been used here for almost 2000 years, people can survive in the extreme conditions of a droughty climate. Long time ago the system of underground conduits - karez, supplying water from the Tien-Shan mountains to the fields of the Turpan depression, was built here. Famous for its wonderful grapes, this blossoming oasis was one of the main points of the Silk Road. The ruins of Gaochang and Jiaohe cities, situated in the neighbourhood, serve as proof of this. Turpan is also considered the hottest place in China.
Hami city (also known as Kumul) – since the very day of its foundation, this fertile oasis kept changing hands. Rice, millet, beans, mulberry, grapes and other natural resources of the town were simply too precious to warring parties. However, it was the famously sweet Hami melons, that have made this town well-known far beyond Xinjiang. Not far from the town are situated the ruins of the watchtowers, which were built in ancient times in order to alert people to threat of enemies.
COVERAGE OF EXPEDITION
The expedition is going to be widely covered in the Kazakh and Chinese mass-media, as well as the mass media of the third countries (print and electronic media): both particularized and of general character. Moreover, a series of articles, telling about the expedition and the sights of the route, is going to be prepared and published. The capabilities of the Internet will be widely used, mostly in the Russian- and English-speaking sectors. The course of expedition will be highlighted on the website of Avalon Historico-Geographical Society – www.guide.kz.