Train timetables and general anarchy surrounding sourcing train tickets at the May Day holiday dictated that I was best advised to reach the most westerly part of this stretch and trundle back East to Beijing for last-minute celebrations and commiserations. Hardly the logical A to B progression from East to West – but hey – this is edge of the seat stuff, non?
Despite a forbidding dream, and a track record that had seen me miss three flights in the past two months, I made it with plenty of time to slurp down some salty Ajisen Ramen at Beijing Capital airport (Chinese airline breakfasts = hilarious) and touch down four hours later in the baking sun at Jiayuguan. Not really much to it, when viewed from above, huh?
But once you’re actually there… well, there’s not an awful lot there either. Sandwiched between the Black Mountains to the north and the snowcapped Qilian mountains to the south, an imposing fort squeezes in the narrowest section of the Hexi corridor, its thick walls and distinctively Chinese rooves contrasting strongly with the emptiness of the desert.