The main thing which interested me to visit Jiayuguan was an image I saw on google of an ancient guard tower on the edge of a fort surrounded by an arid, empty desert landscape, to even fly to this part of china was a spur of the moment decision and I didn't really know what I might find. The next morning after recovering from a flight and train ride I asked my hotel about visiting some of these ancient attractions and they were able to pair me with a driver for 180 rmb to take me to the three most popular ones on the west of town; The Overhanging Great Wall (Xuán Bì Cháng Xhéng), The Great Walls First Abutment(Cháng Chéng Dìyī Dūn), and The First Pass of the Great Wall (Jiāyù Guān).

After a car ride followed by a short golf cart ride, I was at the museum for the First Abutment. Inside there isn't too much to see except a couple old photos of the wall, and a group of belligerent tourists taking pictures of one another laying on the glass floor of a balcony looking over the Taolai River. This balcony would have a nice view, but with the commotion created by this glass floor, it is impossible to get a photo or even think for that matter; I did find an alternative viewing platform however inside the hallway leading to the mens bathroom. After I popped through the green plastic strips hanging from the door top, there was a wide and empty balcony from which the view was quite the same.

View from the bathroom
Glass bottomed balcony

Next to the museum is the actual First Fire Tower for the Great Wall, which these days just looks like a deformed piece of limestone. There were some pictures in the museum from a hundred years ago which help put into perspective what it once was shaped like, so as you stand there you can imagine a bit... I found the fact that it's not replaced with a restoration actually a nice change compared to the norm here in China.

First Fire Tower
Beginning of the Great Wall
If you walk a little bit further past the fire tower there is a pathway which goes down into the canyon of the Taolai Rivcr to some sort of reproduction of an old Ming Dynasty barrack. Here I saw some old buildings, some cannons and a hanging wooden bridge going across the canyon; but all I could think about while I was there was that I was on the planet Tatooine from Starwars.

Tatooine village

Tatooine huts
After escaping Tatooine, it was another 15 minute ride or so before reaching the Overhanging Great Wall. This attraction is pretty straightforward, basically you get on the wall and you walk until you reach the top. Compared to other sections of the great wall I've walked, this was much slimmer and more yellow in comparison; there also isn't too much milage. It took me about fifteen minutes to reach the top of the hill and then from there the only option is to turn around and head back down the dirt path on the side. The view from the top gives a you a nice perspective into the surrounding desert; if only they hadn't built a power plant two miles away it would be a perfect view.

Looking back down toward the power pant
Top of the wall

Just a five minute ride south from the Overhanging Wall I was dropped off at The First Pass. This attraction is overbuilt as a tourist attraction, with a fake lake, bike and scooter rental, and pathways lined with souvenir shops; all surrounding an entirely rebuilt version of the actual fort. After getting through all the ticket gates and into the fort there are some stairs near the entrance that take you up to the top of the fort wall. Only after climbing up here did I get the feeling that there was something to see here. Looking south from up here you can trace the path of the Great Wall all the way to the First Fire Tower with not too much else around besides desert and an occasional passing cargo train. I was able to kind of appreciate from this vantage point, how this was once literally the edge of the Chinese world, with absolutely nothing to the west except desert hills and nomads; although now there is a small camel rental shop and a race track for off road vehicles just outside the edge of the fort...

View of Great Wall going toward the First Fire Tower

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi! I am Nerissa, a Filipino living in Italy.
We just started a website dedicated to the lives of all those living in a country other than the one where they were born. Thru PeopleAbroad.org we intend to increase connections, awareness, and understanding among people.
We would like to ask you to contribute as an author to the website by writing even one single post with photos and/or videos about the region of the world you live in. Your post can be externally linked to your personal websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter account, and/or anything else you like, in order to promote your own activity.
If possible, we would also like you to write your story (bio - where you live and how you decided to live your life abroad) – example: https://www.peopleabroad.org/nerissa-filipino-living-in-italy/.
To become an author, it is not necessary to live in a different country from where you were born, but simply to know a bit of the world by having lived, studied, or traveled abroad.
Please, sign up to our website at https://www.peopleabroad.org/register/ and send all your files with things you would like to share (your story or your posts) by email to people(at)peopleabroad(dot)org. In case of big files, send them by WETRANSFER.
Since this website is still under construction, we do not have yet made it available to search engines for indexation. So, to access it, just type www.PeopleAbroad.org.
We are just starting and that is why your help is essential. We would love to see you onboard!
All the best,