24-Jun-2005 -- 49N – 87E Xinjiang (新疆), China
Visit Date: June 24, 2005
This is an unsuccessful attempt for one of the more special confluence point in Xinjiang.
We made one serious attempt by land and got within 21 km. later, on the same day, we took a boat to check out potential routes for the future and got within 15.7 km from this point.
Xinjiang has a total of 181 confluence points, the most in China. This particular point is the most northern and only point on the 49th parallel. What makes it special is the fact that this point is located within 6 km from Kazakhstan, within 5 km from Russia, and about 50 km from Mongolia – a true crossing point of four countries, so to speak.
We were visiting the famous Lake Kanas, sort of a mini-holiday after a conference in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. We stayed at the southern end of Lake Kanas which put us about 26 km away from this confluence point.
According to the map loaded on Ray’s GPS, there was a road going within 2-3 km from this confluence point. The evening before, we learned that if you want to drive near the frontier area, only local vehicles with a special permit can go. One of the local gift shop owners agreed to arrange a local jeep for this line hunting trip. He also indicated that the road going north alone Lake Kanas was open and would bring us to a village right next to the border of Kazakhstan – this pretty much sounded like the road on the GPS.
We departed at 8.30 am with great anticipation for a good hunt. The younger brother of the gift shop owner was the driver. For the first 7 km, the route followed the road on the GPS, but after that when we reached a beautiful open valley full of wild flowers, the GPS indicated that we started heading east instead of north.
After a few minutes, when we were certain that we were not heading in the right direction we confronted the driver. It turned out that the road to the north which would bring us close to our objective was no longer passable by car, due to severe flash floods a few years back. Nowadays, the area we wish to go could be reached by horse, and it was a 4-5 days trip.
When we realized that our attempt by jeep was futile, we did continue onward to the Ha Ba village by the China-Kazakhstan border. The scenery alone this route was spectacular. There were vast grassland with thousands of cattle and sheep grazing. Along the way, we saw many Kazak nomads moving their yurts to new locations.
The closest we were able to get to this point from the road we traveled was 19 km. Even though the closure of the road toward the Russian border was a disappointment, the trip was fantastic – alpine environment at its best.
Upon returning to the village near the southern end of Lake Kanas at noon, we learned that other members of our party had arranged a boat trip to the northern end of Kanas, and they were waiting for us. Under normal conditions, the tourist boat only allows to go half way of the 25 km long lake.
The speedboat took 30 minutes to reach the northern end of Lake Kanas, and this brought us 5 km closer to the confluence point than our attempt by land in the morning. However, we did not detect any viable trail head at the northern lake shore.
Even though this was an incomplete visit, it is a point certainly worth returning with enough time and the proper gear to do the 5 day horse pack trip. We are certain it will be a truly special trip.
Both Lu Fan and Zhao Pengfei were first-time hunters, and they vow to do a successful hunt with the Y-B group before summer is over.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 4– the best we can tell, it will be a 4-5 day trip by foot or by horse (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 5– Alpine lakes, meadows, hills and valleys – post card material everywhere (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 5– Kazak nomads are the predominant group of the area with a century old life style well preserved (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)