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12th of June, 2006.
From Baotou's 东河区Donghe District, I took the bus to 呼和浩特市Huhehaote City (30Y), or simply 呼市Hu City for short. A smooth hour and half ride, reaching there an hour after noon. The long-distance bus station was pleasant and not too over-crowded. I checked the board for clues to 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren Grassland. But found nothing. So I bought a city map, then asked the owner for direction. “Get a ticket (19Y) to 召河Zhaohe", a quick reply for the thousandth time.

At 2:20 pm my bus rode out toward Zhaohe, the administrative town of Xilamuren Grassland. Buses are my vehicle of choice; they are much more comfortable than trains, unless you have a hard bed. Most of my buses were full, but nearly empty today -- just two men and five women. Maybe because we were heading into oblivion. Having more women than men in a bus is a rare sight. I like it. Moreover, the two men did not smoke (they would be smoking already if they do), and the only woman that I ever witnessed smoking in China was a student, cooling out outside Beijing's National Art Gallery with two smokeless guys. I was delighted.

Along the road the wind picked up. The horizon grayed a bit and a slight rain began to blotch the window glasses. Soon the landscape lighted up. Miles upon miles just low rolling hills, then the road cutted into rocky mountains and winded through its slopes. Everyone appeared to be bored, sitting and cracking sunflower seeds. The madam who collected money for the tickets was making herself comfortable in the back, preparing for a good nap. A stocky Mongolian woman in her early forties: she was built like a wrestler; her skin reflected nothing, with a toughness as that of an alligator; and she wore jeans and jackets like cowboys do. She was one of a kind. She lay down on a row of seats, and without further ado, slipped and lighted a cagarette in her mouth and smoked agressively. She was one of a kind. I pulled open the window and sticked my head out; the wind was refreshing and the landscape sublime. As we were nearing 武川县Wuchuan County, the terrain changed from rocky mountain ranges to low rolling hills to flat grazing fields beside dirt roads. Some black horses and bright white gers appeared in the distant. Strips of greens and maroons stretched for no end. I was taken by surprise. I had my Pentax ME on me then, which I used to frame a few images out the window. As I am writing this almost four years later, I like to fill in short poem that I missed at the time:

红蓝褐绿又黑白, 大地风云莫飞鹰。 千秋慢过三阵雨, 我看包头车轮泥。

Reds, greens, blues, browns, and blacks. And perfect whites. Another thousand miles, another hour, A few drizzles. Ten hundred autumns now. The great khan's roar down a whisper with the wind. In the ill sky – not a hungry hawk flies; On the dusty saddles – the clouds settle in. Stones and steels and pills and all that matters, I come to see Baotou on muddy wheels.

While I was taking pictures, I moved around wildly from one seat to the next, and from one side to the other, openning windows to photograph the landscape. The Mongolian woman lay watching me oddly like a lazy tigeress, but soon slept and started snoring. Later, she woke up and slipped a piece of bubble gum in her mouth and chewed nonchalantly. I had not consciously noticed someone chewing bubble gum for decades, probably. She was one of a kind.

After Wuchuan, the colorful scenes gradually disappeared, replaced with neverending flat green fields. The bus finally made a stop at Wuchuan's bus station. Everyone had half an hour of bathroom and food time. Afterwards, dirt roads appeared a few times, for which the bus stopped to let go and pick up passengers. At 17:00, we reached the narrow dirt road to Zhaohe town. After a 15 minute bumpy ride, the bus reached inside the small town of flat concrete houses.

    包头市至希拉穆仁草原的路线Road Map of Baotou City to Xilamuren Grassland

  1. 包头市Baotou City
  2. 东河区Donghe District
  3. 呼和浩特市Huhehaote City
  4. 武川Wuchuan
  5. 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren Grassland
  6. 固阳Guyang
  7. 秦长城Qin Wall
  8. 乌克忽洞Wukehudong
  9. 百灵庙镇Bailingmiao Town
  10. 白云鄂博矿区Baiyunebokuang District
  11. 达拉特旗Dalateqi
  12. 响沙湾Xiangshawan Desert

呼市至希拉穆仁图片From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland Pictures

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    The earthy reds and greens make the landscape a bit eerie. The cuts into the earth makes it a bit painful.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    The green band is grass. Rows of grass go on and on, for a long distance.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    Trees do not appear often. When they do, they are just a few strands in a bald land.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    The most obvious element in the landscape is the clouds that swarm the sky. Puffy clouds contrast well with the smooth undulating earth.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    I cannot tell where this dirt road leads to. It will touch the clouds before it reach its destination.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    Clouds are what gave the landscape some dimension. The ephemeral play of lights and shadows created motions in an otherwise martian landscape.

  • Picture of 呼市至希拉穆仁 From Huhehaote City to Xilamuren Grassland

    Grass flushed by golden sunlight. The black strip that wedged between heaven and earth was the casted shadow of the strip of clouds just above it. I believe that was so, judging by the image. This was 2006, I don't remember.

image of Jiayuguan fort

嘉峪关Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass) - the lone fort at the edges of the desolate and bare Gobi desert. It is at once both a timeless symbol of human's uncompromising reach and an otherworldly mirage.