Spring and desert storms loom over Jiayguan. One tends to wonder whether Jiayuguan is always on the point to be sucked in by the desert, become sand or sand mountain. Sky and earth mix along the road where wind fuses together sun rays and sand . It is known however that in the secret of the desert ensrhouded in barredness unseen flowers bloom , magic takes place under the sun , no witnessed but the casual wayfarer. Like those roses in Atacama that are born in those rare nights once a year where an already forgotten rain falls softly the grounds. Seeing them, the exact moment where the first sun rays broke the petals open is stroke of luck or destiny.
Jiayuguan was once a fort and a village sheltered below the fort. At the time Chinese garrisons used to watch the people in and out. Beyond the fort the Hexi corridors dissolves into Central Asia and into a labyrinth of tiny roads trodden by merchants paying in silk, grain, and money, by artists , monks, migrants displaced from dryness or raiding tribes. Although, in our imagination the silk road is this f fabled highway of delights , luxurious goods, arts , in reality these roads crawling over Central Asia steppes, over mountain passes to India ,were just as little as ants trail over sand. Very changeable and subjects to the mood of rain , of climate that could dry up oasis in no time and make towns and community shift or disappear in the desert.
Jiayuguan was the last pass on the Hexi corridor, the Great Wall would continue to Yumen Gate but here stood the last pass, according to the official history. Checkpoints, then travellers, then inns , all this movement of people back and forth sedimented into a village that until first decades of the 1900 was stillhanging onto the Pass walls. Nowadays there is one clay and brick village, sprinkled with blooming cherry or apricot trees, standing a little further than the hanging walls (or suspended walls how the tourism indication says) , almost shy as if it did not want to be noticed by the incoming development, railtracks here and there, chimneys or high rises in the distance slowly growing around the unguarded walls . It has probably nothing to do wiht the original one bustling with adventured and refugees, it seems like a forgotten farming community.
The sandstorm calms down in the afternoon , we go to the market for skewers.
The town has a soft glow at night.
There is a legend that goes about the Jiayuguan fort, about a swallow couple that was building their house. Only one afternoon the male got lost out in a gust of the desert wind while the Pass doors were closing and desperate to get in back to his love , he hit again and again the doors until he fell dead. The legend says that at night the wind echoes with the cries of the swallow. Somehow chinese can come up with only sad stories of love. To unaccustomed ears, indeeed the gales of Jiayuguan can confuse and make you lose the way, when they sweep the Qilian mountains to the deserts. Yet i was to discover , that the whirlwinds would not lose me at all but led me into a way i thought a little before i could never find.