When we left Aksa we could see the beautiful mountain range of the Tianshan, Himmelsgebirge, with mountain peaks up to 7000 m. On the way to the Kizil Caves we took the old Silk Road and went through endless avenues with densely planted huge poplar trees on the sides which gave shade and some freshness. From Baicheng to Kuqa we were escorted by the police. They opened the way for us through the checkpoints and the city. As they drove only 40km/h even the drivers were enjoying the landscapes which got particularly beautiful after the caves. We drove through red earthen canyons. In the evening light the colours were spectacular.
The caves in Kizil are called the Thousand Buddha Caves. It’s the largest Buddhist cave-art in the province of Xinjiang. They date back to the 3rd - 8th Century. Ancient Kuqa was an ethnically diverse place, artisans were inspired by Aghan, Persian and Indian motifs and styles. Unique to Kizil is, that the pictures are framed in diamond shaped patterns. There is only little remaining, because locals stole the gold, that was used and scratched the eyes as Islam got installed. Then a lot of the paintings were taken to Germany in the early 20th Century by the archaeologist Albert Le Coq. It’s still very beautiful and worth a visit.
The road that we took to Kuqa was of stunning beauty worth a special comment. The narrow valley with eroded compacted earth, which looks like sediment reshaped through tectonic activity, is just amazing. Fortunately, the construction of the tunnel is still going on so that we could drive the old scenic route and experience a wonder of natural beauty.
In Kuqa, Philippe got quite a unique massage: the therapist was assisted by her two children who translated Chinese to English, leading to a most peculiar situation.