The “Pearl of the Silk Road” as passerby’s called it years back. A glistening star of blue water amidst a green and white expanse.
In Kazakh, Sayram means blessing and in Mongolian, it means “Lake on the Ridge.” To us, the name brings back memories of one of God’s finest creations. The lake lies 6,800 feet in elevation, deep in the Tianshan Mountains and set beautifully within snow-clad mountains and rolling meadows. Horses roam free on the highlands, yurts dot the lakeshore, and Golden eagles fly overhead. Our journey to the lake was of stark beauty and simplicity - wandering the ridges above, riding Kazakh shepherds horses, enjoying a nomads home cooked meal, and staying in a yurt overnight on the lakeshore. Sayram Lake holds modern tourist amenities, contrary to what our experience entailed. However, as a wanderer, going off path can lead to the greatest discoveries, where you have to expect the unexpected.
Like many majestic locations around the world, Sayram Lake has a legend - a tragic one at that. A Kazakh girl of immense beauty was in love with a young Kazakh boy. However, an evil spirit also desired the girl greatly and captured her cruely. She managed to escape, but the enemy pursued her to her death when she was forced to jump into an abyss. When her lover heard this, he also jumped into the abyss to reunite with her in death. Their overflowing tears flooding what is now Sayram Lake. The story surely falls in line with a Tolkien tragedy (Beren and Luthien, if haven’t read it); as well as the Middle Earth-esque landscape around the lake. It is a wonder and amazement what one could find in a far off land where legends roam as free as the eagles above.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Sayram Lake lies on a remote western edge of China. We reached Illi by a long bus from Kuitun, then took a 2 hour taxi from Illi to the shores of the lake.
Walking along the western ridges high above the lake, seeing different vantage points and even riding on horseback with several Kazakh shepherds.
We ended up helping a nomad cook a hearty meal together for dinner and stayed the night in his yurt. It is a treasure to think back how this simple man treated us with such kindness.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
It may be time to toss those well-worn woolen coats and blankets as the snow mountains will finally be behind you. Where you are entering now, Turpan, is an exceedingly dry and hot outpost, yet ever close to China.