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Kazakh expedition team approaches Kashgar 14 августа 2014, 22:45

The expedition Following Shoqan Walikhanov’s Caravan Route continued its journey to Kashgaria.
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Local resident of Korla © Vladimir Prokopenko Local resident of Korla © Vladimir Prokopenko

The expedition Following Shoqan Walikhanov’s Caravan Route, dedicated to the 180th anniversary of the birth of the father of Kazakh historiography and ethnography Shoqan Walikhanov, continued its journey to Kashgaria.

After visiting Turpan, the team arrived in Karashahar. Albeit unable to stay here for a long time, they managed to talk to the locals and learn something of their life in this town, Tengrinews reports.

After resting here for some time, the team from Kazakhstan was on its way to the highest mountain freshwater lake in China - Bosten Lake.

The ancients called this lake West Sea or Fish Sea. Research leader of the expedition Smaylzhan Iminov explained that the latter name was given to the lake because of the great number of different fish species inhabiting it.

He also pointed out that the nature surrounding the lake was pretty unusual. It seems as if one was on the shore of a sea or an ocean. The surroundings felt especially enigmatic when the lake is topped by mist.

“There is often a fog on the water. And now we cannot see a clear sky above it," Iminov said.

According to regional ethnographer and biologist from Gumilyov Eurasian National University Zhaskhayir Karagoyshin, the fauna in the area is quite rich: cyprinoid fishes, catfish and perch can be found in the lake, while several types of swallows, cormorant, great egret, gray heron, white-winged tern, river gull and muskrat fly over and around the lake.

It was hard for the Kazakh expedition to part with the place, so they set out later and reached their next stop only deep in the night. After descending from the mountains, the expedition participants arrived in the geographic center of Xinjiang - a major city of Korla, where they spent the night.

Here, the team from Kazakhstan visited a very old mosque in the city center. According to the locals, it was built by people from Kashgaria.

Overcoming nearly 100 kilometers from the city of Korla, the expedition members moved to the northern part of Taklimakan Desert to the site of an ancient village on the shore of Lop Nor lake. Shoqan Walikhanov wrote about this land: “Tarim River pours its waters into lake Lop Nor, which in Mongolian means “Starry Lake”. The area around the lake abounds in turbid water springs, that shoot upwards like fountains, and, according to the Chinese, make the lake resemble a starry sky.” Walikhanov, however, not being able to reach the site himself relied on the information provided by merchants who visited the place. 

The Tarim River is a very unusual river, it migrates all the time and shifts the location of Lop Nor with it. Geographers discovered the lake in unexpected new locations more than once throughout the history. “These places were often described by famous travelers in their works. And all of them pointed to different locations of the lake on world maps. Fo example, Russian explorer and scientist Nikolay Przhevalsky discovered the lake in a place different from where geographers mapped it. Upon his return to Russia a dispute arose on whether he even found the lake in question. But Przhevalsky succeeded in proving that he found what he was looking for by observing the lake together with the river change their location,” Iminov said.

Thereafter, the members of the expedition went deep into the Taklamakan Desert and visited relict turanga forests. The 300-year-old turanga has well adapted to the local climate. These trees have very thick-skinned leaves and bark that can preserve precious moisture in the harsh desert conditions.

Local inhabitants use turanga to build boats because of the wood's durability. Many believe that turanga nectar has medicinal properties and helps against heart ailments. Therefore, the locals come here to collect the nectar in the fall, when turanga leaves fall down.

"Shoqan Walikhanov did not pass through this place. It was his dream. When he was in Kashgar, his mind often dwelt on the cities and places that we have visited in the course of our expedition. We are sort of fulfilling his dream. In a matter of days we will reach Kashgar, where we will start walking in his footsteps,” leader of the expedition Ordenbek Mazbayev said.

The team was planning to arrive in Kashgar on 30-31 July.


Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Dinara Urazova

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