The city if Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang Province.
It is a busy hub of mixed ethnicities that you will rarely see anywhere else.
The people here have been intermarried for many hundreds of years, and now the gene pool is filled with unique looking people, with ancestry that can be traced back to Russia, Kazakstan, Pakistan, Uiygur, Turky, Han Chinese, Hui, Mongolia, Kirghiz, Uzbekistan, Manchuria and Tajikistan.
Today we visited the Southern Pastures outside of Urumqi.
These green Nanshan Pasture, lay at the foot of the Tianshan Mountain range.
When we left the city it was a hot, stuffy and sunny day.
The elevation around the Nanshan Pasture is about 1, 600 meters, but as we cycled up into the mountains, it turned comfortably cooler and the elevation reached 2100 meters.
We cycled up a very steep and beautiful path, that meandered gently between spruce and pine trees, a rocky river, wild flowers, green grassland dotted with brown sheep and horses.
The Kazakh people move their herds into this region in the summers.
They truly move into “Greener Pastures”.
They live here in modest homes, or in yurts which are scattered sparsely on the meadows.
Our cycle took us up a quiet road that was surrounded with a dense wooded area.
We spotted some yurts, and saw some young people cooking food.
We stopped to investigate.
We were invited to their yurts, and were engulfed by their warmth and hospitality.
Almost immediately, I was offered a large salad made of cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and coriander with a delicious lemon sauce.
Chop sticks were put in my hands and a beautiful young girl next to me, broke pieces of fresh bread into my salad.
I took bites of the yummy bread and the refreshing salad, when another girl sat next to me.
She linked her arm with mine, peeled shelled almonds, and put them directly in my mouth.
The girls rotated sitting next to me and having their picture taken with me or with Jules.
The group of young girls and boys, were actually students learning nursing, on a summer holiday trip.
They spent the night in these yurts, and now they were cooking their food outdoors, in the traditional way, on wood fire.
At the end of the climb, we reached a wonderful waterfall, with snow still melting on the top.
Our cycle down this green mountain, was effortless.
We stopped at a group of yurts, which are managed by Kazakh herdsman families.
I was warmly welcomed by the lady, as I stopped to photograph her yurt.
We were invited to taste the local milk tea and she served us with chunks of fresh bread and a bowl of yellow butter.
It was delicious, and the yurt, which can be rented as an accommodation, was beautifully decorated with colorful hand woven rugs.
It is customary to pay in return for this hospitality.
After all….. We are not really parched travelers on our way, hungry for food and drink… We are tourists.
This region gets many tourists, and the locals make only a meager living, and they supplement their herding income by offering the tourists a taste of the Kazakh life.