In order to be ready for the "China Olympics" total solar eclipse on Friday August 1st, 2008, a scouting trip in China and Mongolia was mandatory during the summer 2006. A recce in the Altai Republic, a Russian Federation autonomous region well known for its Altai Mountains and belonging to UNESCO World Heritage, has already taken place in August 2004. This new scouting trip in the Chinese Gobi along the "Silk Road" in the Xinjiang Uighur province and Western Mongolia had for main goal to get the best weather on all the eclipse path. The Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area was established in 1976 and was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1990 as one of the largest biosphere reserves in the world (5.3 million hectares).
Turpan, also known as Turfan or Tulupan in Chinese, is a remote desert city in Western China, one of the lowest places on earth, where rain never falls and summers are scorching hot. Turpan was once an important staging post on the Silk Road and its large oasis produces most of the best grapes in China. You can see the ancient Karez system of irrigation whereby the melted snow from the surrounding mountains is brought down to the town in underground channels, all dug by hand and stretching around some 3,000 kilometers. Some of Turpan’s major attractions also include the Jiaohe ancient city belonging to UNESCO’s World Heritage, the Gaochang ancient city, the Astana tombs and the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves.
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