I wanted the GPS-track that I had lost a couple of days ago (the best of all melons), so we took a cab and got it back.
It’s a bit silly, I know that, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of my long red line showing a gap of 25km.
We rode back to Anxi and came past the people selling melons by the highway:
And I learned something I didn’t know: as of 2007, Anxi is not called Anxi anymore, because the name Anxi (安西 = “peaceful west”) bears a strong resemblance to another Chinese expression: anxi (安息 = “rest in peace”). Word has it that this was a decision by the central government in Beijing. Now the place formerly known as is called Guazhou (瓜州 = “melon prefecture”), which I think is a much better name indeed.
We went south from Guazhou/Anxi and crossed through the mountains. There were large green open spaces that looked very pretty:
Our cabbie pointed out some old city ruins called Tashi Old City 踏实古城, so we decided to make a stop there:
Then we continued on our way to our original destination:
The Yulin Grottoes 榆林窟:
This is a fairly large cave complex that features Buddhist statues and murals from as early as 400AD, much like Mati Temple (buddhist caves):
There were hardly any tourists there, so the caves that had been waiting here for more than a thousand years still had a very peaceful and quiet feel to them.
They were sleeping in a river canyon that was very beautiful…
…and overwhelmingly green:
We were not allowed to take our cameras inside, so I can only show you some outside shots of this amazingly interesting place:
These caves are considered sister grottoes with the world-famous Mogao Grottoes 莫高窟 of Dunhuang, but in my personal opinion the visiting experience here in 榆林窟 can be much more rewarding.
It’s just more intimate when the busloads of tourists are not around:
We had to hurry back though.
We positioned ourselves on the roof of our hotel, then we got out our eclipse-staring equipment:
Ancient Chinese belief has it that a solar eclipse is in fact due to a mythical phenomenon called “sky dog eating the sun 天狗吃太阳”.
Well here’s the dog taking a first bite at 18h23min:
We kept staring:
The dog’s chunk had gotten bigger by 18h50min:
…and there was nothing to do but stare…
…while the dog was slowly munching his way through all that white – 19h10min:
We got pretty excited:
But at 19h14min…
…we had to realize that there wasn’t going to be a total eclipse here in Dunhuang.
The heavenly dog had sure been eating, but in the end he had failed to swallow the sun.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve seen better!