Sunday, July 13, 2008

lijiang/tiger leaping gorge

leaving emei began our close relationship with chinese buses. two
local buses got us to the emei train station several hours before our
scheduled night train. we decided to wait inside the more modern bus
station and played many hands of our new chinese card game (zheng
shang you). the train arrived almost 2 hours behind schedule. it had
originally left beijing more than a day ago. when we boarded we found
our bunks had just recently been vacated. we had no choice but to
sleep on the dirty,used, second-hand sheets. this train was
air-conditioned and it was freezing. 12 hours later we got to
panzhihua, a transport hub of sorts. from here we got an 8-hour bus to
lijiang. the ride was an experience, a summary follows: mountain roads
with more curves than you can count taking you up and down mountains
and into valleys, views of the hillsides planted with endless tobacco,
corn, and rice; every inch of land was being used for agriculture;
small villages with huge houses; 28 chinese people on our bus vomiting
in synchrony... proudly, daphna and i were the only ones who resisted.
daph said at one point, "the vomit is nauseating." well, we made it
safely to lijiang to our hostel "mama naxi". what a woman. we arrived
after dinner but she cooked us up a few dishes that were delicious:
broccoll, corn, and bok choy, all for 10 rmb.

the next morning in lijiang we started walking and mama, the owner of
the hostel, ran into us on the streets of the old city. she was headed
to the market for her daily shopping and we asked her if we could tag
along. the market was bustling. first she hit up the pork, then the
meat, tofu, veggies including tomatoes, rhubarb, peppers, and various
roots. then she got us a little tasting of kind of rice krispy cake
made with honey. we walked around the old city of lijiang amongst the
rest of the tourists. lijiang is the most visited city by tourists and
by the end of the day this was apparent as the chinese tour groups
swarmed around us. we strolled around the blak dragon pool park and
sat by the lake to plan our next few weeks. for some reason when we
entered the park the ticket office was vacant so we just walked in.
later that night we found out that the entrance fee was a whopping 80
rmb. lucky us. on our walk back we finally did some shopping. i bought
a t-shirt with naxi writing and daph bought a shall bargaining with
the shop owner. we made it back to the hostel in time for the 10 rmb
feast that mama cooks up every night. we met three brits, hamish,
will, and kim that were hiking tiger leaping gorge the next day. it
started pouring during dinner, but now, the team of five that we were,
decided to the gorge regardless, rain or shine.

we headed out the next morning and after a long 2 hour ride to the
gorge we started walking. our pace was nice and we stopped many times
along the trail for views, rest, pictures, and sheer awe at the peaks
oppositte us. the weater got better as the day went along and it was a
delightful hike and hands down the highlight of our trip. we stopped
for a nice lunch after a couple of hours and then continued on
following the ups and downs of the trail. the mountains across the
gorge kept getting closer and sharper and more impressive. after our
afternoon tea stop at the "tea horse" we picked up the pace a little
to arrive at the "halfway house" where we would stay the night.

arriving at the halfway house was remarkable. after a whole day of
walking along the gorge and getting closer and closer to snow
mountain, a peak that has never been climbed, we were in a place we
will always remember. there was about an hour left of sunlight and we
watched the shadows creep up along the mountain until only the red sky
of the reflection of the sun was visible above the mountains. the
pictures will not serve it justice but at least it will give some idea
of what i am trying to describe. we had a delicious dinner on the
balcony overlooking the gorge and for the first time had more than one
beer. we started playing a british inspired card game called
"shithead" and continued for several hours. the next morning we
continued our walk mostly downhill and caught a ride back to qiaotou.
here we split up with the englishmen and woman as we headed on to
shangri-la aka zhongdian. let's say we could of gotten on the wrong
bus, but we avoided disaster and arrived safely in shangri-la and
rested for the rest of the day.

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