The glittering white peaks of the Tian Shan, topped up by recent snowfall, have increasingly become a dominant presence. They are quite startling in their beauty, and make me catch my breath in surprise whenever I forget they are there and turn to see them in an unguarded moment. We must have taken dozens of photos but they can never capture the real experience.
French and Cable echoed my sentiments when they commented about the scenery around Santai, ' The whole scene, apart from the nature of the crops, might have been an English rural landscape, and it warmed our hearts as we thought of the pleasures of soon wandering in English country lanes and fields' But as well as the crops, the backdrop of the Tian Shan quickly makes one realise how far from home one really is.
Unfortunately for the environment, the stunning Xinjiang scenery also hides enormous mineral reserves. These are now beginning to be exploited on a massive scale, increasingly creating ugly scars on the landscape which are almost impossible to avoid.