Some people believe heaven lies in the physical space way out above the skies of the earth. They're literalists. Some people believe heaven lies in our hearts. They're spiritualists. Other's believe heaven lies in TJ Maxx. They're idiots.
But I believe that heaven is no further than Kanasi National Reserve-- that is, the little nub of China that squeezes up into the heart of Central Asia and doesn't for a moment look back: 60 km from Russia, 30 km from Kazakstan, and 20 km from Mongolia.
The esteemable Sekine Nobuatsu and I took an overnight bus from Urumuqi (the capital of Xinjiang Province in West China) to this fabulous mountainous mash of snow-capped peaks, lush grasslands, sparkling blue rivers, remote lakes, endless forests, and camels. We spent five wonderful days hiking, riding horses across green meadows, camping on beaches, and generally running amok in the glorious wild.
Part of what was so great was the diversity—not only of the landscape, but of the local people that have lived there since long before the Chinese arrived. So it was that we stayed with a Mongolian family in their “guest yurt”; took tea with a family of Kazak shepherds and partook of their unique brew of liquor made from the milk of camels; and were treated to a traditional musical performance by a young man of the Tuwa nation, a tiny minority group of about 2000 people that originally descended from the Mongols.
We also got to eat boiled sheep head and a Tuwa specialty called “Miscellaneous Guts and Noodles” which—I have to say—sounds disgusting and tastes more delicious than one can imagine.
So there you have it.
Check in again soon for the next installment of my trip to Xinjiang, which included our spooky spooky desert night in the MAGIC CITY OF GHOSTS.