Since I wanted to see sunrise and escape the legendary heat of Turpan, I decided to wake up early - very early. The driver I contacted about visiting several places around the lowest city of China, jokingly proposed to leave at 5am, to which I agreed. Since I was still living on local Xinjiang time, that actually meant leaving at 3am. It was a short night, and very dark when we left. But sure enough, the sky started to get a tad brighter while we were on the way. The temperature outside was perfect, and it was hard to imagine that within hours the sun would be so powerful to turn this friendly environment into a living oven.
When we arrived at the lake, it was still quite dark. While I knew that the lake was not really a lake anymore, I expected to see at least some water. But no: what had once been a 40km long lake, has disappeared completely in a generation time. All I saw was a salt-encrusted terrain which once was the floor of Aydinkul lake without the slightest hint of water. Surprisingly, the sky was full of birds. But before visiting the "lakeside", I sat down on a pile of rocks to watch the sun rise over the Flaming Mountains. There were a few minuscule clouds in the sky, which was otherwise perfectly serene. The sky was walking all shades from dark blue to light blue, then dark red to orange, which eventually turned always brighter. Even though I knew what was coming, I did feel anticipation and excitement as the sun took its time to appear from behind the mountain range. Then, suddenly, it was there, and rose with great speed in the sky. It had an immediate effect: I could feel the temperature starting to rise instantly.
It was time to walk towards Aydingkul lake, or what had once been the third lowest lake in the world. It was strange to walk on a wooden boardwalk which supposedly was build to allow to walk over the water, while now you might as well walk directly on the earth. Especiallly poignant were the signs "No swimming" and "Deep water". Instead of being funny and out of place, they were silent reminders of the effect of global warming, or so, at least, the driver suggested. Centrally located on the lakeside is a square like area with stones marking the altitude of other main cities in China. Strangely, I did not find any marker with the indication of the altitude of this lake: 154 metres below sea level. When I entered the watchtower at the other side of the lakeside promenade, I directly felt how the walls had preserved the heat of the day before. From the top, the view over the lake must surely have been great. Now, overlooking the entire plain, it is bizarre to think that the dry, whitish earth below you was once covered by a lake. It was only when I came back to the pile of rocks where I had seen sunrise that I realized there were stones indicating the altitudes of great lakes in the world, and some high mountains like Everest. Instead of being disappointed by the lack of a lake, seeing the spot where a lake vanished in the last few decades left a big impression on me.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ayding lake (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ayding lake. Read more about this site.