12th October – Datong

16 Oct

The posts for China are now being posted by Ben as we cannot do them ourselves from here. Thanks Ben!

Diesel price is around 7 Yuan here which is around 70p / ltr.

Had a quiet night in the desert and Spring slept OK in the tent. Marjool gave her a hot water bottle ….. she’s got to have someone to spoil (and lets face it, it will not be me)!
We headed south towards Datong firstly on the national routes. Our first stop was in a little village where the houses were all made of mud and straw bricks cut from the ground. Some of the houses were now being abandoned as the young move to the cities. All around the village were pits dug in the clay with covers on. They were about 3 meters down and then went off horizontally for about 2 meters. We found out that the villages store vegetables in them for the winter … just like the Russians.



There was a lovely old couple that we met who explained how life was in the village. They were tiny and very sweet! It was useful to have the guide (which is compulsory for self drive in China anyway) as we can get more detail about local life.




We carried on down the freeway towards Datong stopping at frequent intervals to pay tolls. Local roads tend to be jammed up and so to cover the distances we are using the freeway. Not our preference but the costs would be too high in terms of the daily guide costs if we went the slow way. Shame.



We arrived at the Huahong Grottoes (Yungang) and worked our way through all the new visitor centre complete with brand new temples, stone bridges and artificial lake. The entry fee was 150 Yuan each (about 15 pounds) and parking an extra 15 Yuan. This must put the price beyond many locals. However the Chinese tourists seem very wealthy and generally drive big luxury European or Japanese cars and have the latest Canon cameras. There is a lot money around.

The grottoes date back to 453 and are basically lots of man made caves that have thousands of Buddhas carved into the rock, ranging in size from a few cm to 17m high. Many of them are still painted but others have lost their decoratin and are now bare rock. There are 53 grottoes in total and a series of temple buildings built up against the rock face.





The largest Buddha is right at the end of the rock face.



After leaving the grottes we headed into the hills and found a bit of farmland to camp on. It was actually a terrace and so made a nice flat camp spot. We cooked dinner outside and listened to Chinese music.


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