China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & eclipse)

Postby Tony Crocker Sat Aug 09, 2008 3:44 am

As on the last desert eclipse trip in March 2006 http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2009 we got to visit some sand dunes. The Singing Sand Dunes outside Dunhuang are taller but much less expansive than those at Siwa in Egypt. They are also very commercialized for the entertainment of Chinese tourists.

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First up is a camel ride
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In early evening you can get good pics of camel silhouettes.
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Unfortunately from my perspective they offered sled rather than sandboards to ride the dunes.
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Andrew is starting his ride here
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I've never been in a sled like this before. I did not know that the only way to steer was to drag a hand in the sand rather than lean on an edge (no sidecut #-o ). I was not alarmed by my speed until it was too late, so I rocketed into the bushes in the foreground of this pic.
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Sledding only from the area about halfway up. I ran down from the top later.
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The bushes were thorny, so I emerged with a sandy hand dripping blood. Fortunately the lawn next to them had sprinklers going for me to wash it.

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View from the top of the dune.
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Running down a dune barefoot can give a sensation similar to skiing powder when the sand is very soft, as I recall from Death Valley. This was a bit firmer, so more caution was in order, especially after my sled misadventure.

Most of the trip was in China's remote Xinjiang province, starting with its capital Urumqi. We took a daytrip to Heavenly Lake at 6,100 feet and visited a Tao temple there.

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Heavenly Lake and Tian Shan mountains.
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Highest peak in distance is 17,800 feet.

It is impressive that the Chinese have put English signs in nearly all of their hotels and tourist attractions.
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But they do have some issues with syntax.

On to the eclipse site, August 1 in a remote area 30km from the small town of Yiwu near the Mongolian border at 3,600 feet. The Chinese built a small solar museum here and dedicated it in the morning before we arrived.
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in our group was professional Canadian photographer David Makepeace
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Here's his website: http://www.eclipseguy.com/pages/newframeset.htm. He'll have his own pics up before too long, but first used used one of mine for something quick, now has a more panoramic pic from another member of our group. As you can see, David's as addicted to eclipses as some of us on FTO are to skiing.

Our group's site with small tents.
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It was very hot when we arrived 1:30PM, so I spent most of the time before 5PM at the solar center visiting with eclipse chasers from all over the world. It's now within 30 minutes of totality, so Andrew is wearing an eyepatch to dark adapt his eye.

The eclipse was about 1.5 hours before sunset. There were low clouds which were expected to dissipate with evening (and eclipse) cooling but they did not. This is not the view you want to see 15 minutes before totality.
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With less than 10 minutes to go we were still in the shade, but some people were illuminated on a slight rise about half a mile away. So some of us started running and became eclipse chasers in the most literal sense. The cloud moved a bit and the sun dropped below it for our entire viewing area with just seconds to go before second contact/first diamond ring.

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Mid-totality landscape view. David did some digital work to make this pic slightly sharper than my original.
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This eclipse was not nearly as dark as Egypt in 2006. The small cloud is visible just above the sun, with Mercury barely visible as a slight smudge just above it. Venus is clearly visible at upper left. Note the sky is darkest near the sun with sunset colors on the horizon.

I went for a short walk the next morning in Yiwu, which is about 5,200 feet. The mountains in the distance are the easternmost of the Tian Shan.
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The highest peak Tomort is 16,000 feet and has only been climbed once in 2005 due to remote location. This entire region of China gets only 1-3 inches of rain per year at desert elevations up to 3,000 feet, so I'm surprised to see those glaciers. There is no analogous climate zone in North America. Our deserts are lower latitude and the Tian Shan are higher than anything we have at comparable latitude of 43 degrees.

Tourism highlight of the trip was a VIP tour of the terra cotta warriors. Instead of just viewing the pits from above, we were allowed to get close to some of the warriors in process of restoration.
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This close!
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Andrew and I join the formation
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The tour started and ended in Shanghai. The last morning I took a quick subway ride to the Pudong Tower, which is somewhat analogous to Toronto's CN Tower.
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Just the lower observation ball visible here above Olympic decorations.
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Shanghai is Mecca for skyscraper architects. Two of the more interesting designs are close to Pudong Tower.
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I'm shooting level here from the second observation deck at 850 feet. So those buildings are close to 100 stories tall.

Kudos to admin for the "place inline" feature on pictures. No more reverse ordering or limitation on number of pics. Great improvement IMHO. Now we only need to get the html archive fixed and we'll all be happy campers. :wink:
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Re: China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & big mountains)

Postby Admin Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:03 am

Great pics! Andrew's going to have quite the passport before age 25.
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Re: China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & big mountains)

Postby rfarren Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:46 am

Looks like quite the trip!
You should submit that picture of the funny sign to engrish.com.
=D> =D> =D>
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Re: China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & big mountains)

Postby Tony Crocker Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:28 am

I submitted 3 signs to engrish.com. We'll see.

Andrew's countries visited (21): Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Fiji, Aruba, Curacao/St. Maarten, Peru, China.

Adam's countries visited (17): Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Holland, Belgium, Peru, Chile. But Adam has 82 ski areas.
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Re: China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & big mountains)

Postby skibum4ever Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:24 pm

Tony, that's quite an impressive lists of countries for your sons. How many countries are on your passport? Maybe you could adopt us??? :P

Seriously, great pictures and obviously quite an adventure. Thanks for sharing. :!:
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Re: China, 7/28-8/06/2008 (no ski but sledding & big mountains)

Postby Tony Crocker Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:49 pm

Before 1997 I had traveled only to Canada, Mexico, England, New Zealand and Tahiti. So my list is a modest addition to a combination of theirs.

Combination of Adam/Andrew: 28 countries
Subtract 3 that Adam has visited but I have not: Poland, Belgium, Holland
Add 9 that I have visited but neither of them has: England, Tahiti, France, Switzerland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia.
Total 34. I exclude countries where people have only changed planes.

This is not a big deal like the 139 ski areas. My friend Richard Weinstein is reputedly over 100 countries.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
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