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Rawak is a ruin after a Buddhist temple which today lies in the desert as can be seen on the picture. The Taklamakan is a desert with moving sand and the sand has moved southwards so the conditions around Rawak was different when it was built some 1500 years ago. It originally had a dome, but that has collapsed. Aurel Stein found it around 1910 and then it had Buddha statues in each corner, but when he came back the statues were gone. The locals had taken them and smashed them to see if it was gold inside. Stein was very angry!
It was a strange experience to visit Rawak. One thing was to see real sand dunes and see the gentle curves and the shimmering light. I can understand people getting facinated by the desert, but it tells you it is very unwellcoming and heartless. I felt absolutely no desire to explore it.
Mazar Tagh is a ruin after a fortress 180 km north of Hotan and that is almost in the middle of the Taklamakan. It is situated on a mountain ridge overlooking the Hotan river. It has been a trade route along the river for a long time so the fortress had a strategic location. The oldest part was built 200-300AD but the Tibetans expanded it when they conquered the area around 790AD. The Tibetan rule didn’t last long so around 850AD. After that time it has been left alone untill Aurel Stein came in 1908. He excavated the site and found several hundred Tibetan documents written on paper and wood. They are now in British Museum.
In order to get there we had to use four-wheel drive cars and it was at times difficult to see where to drive. I could not take pictures as I had to hold on with both hands. The ruins have a dramatic location.
We had to go to the “backside” to get up to the ruins.
Actually I found the location more impressiv than the ruin themselves.
I was surprised when I came on the north side of the ridge. The landscape was very colourful with green, red and white parts of the ground. At first I thought the green was grass, but when I came closer I saw that was not the case.
As I have a background in chemistry I recognized the colours of different copper compounds. The green is the same as on old copper roofs. The linear pattern you can see is the result from the erosion of the mountain. The same lines can be seen on the mountain (top picture).
This was a very rewarding day. The travel to Mazar Tagh through the terrain on “roads”, it is actually an insult to real roads to use the termroads without ” ” was an adventure in itself. Then to see the dramatic mountain ridge with the ruins was spectacular. And then the surprise to see a landscape with chemicals. Added up, this was a day I will remember.