Jul 20 2009

Driving sarf

With only four days to go before my flight leaves Kunming over 800km away and knowing that the first part of this mammoth journey south is back across the awesome pass, six hours to the main road at Shangri La, I decide that the best plan is to leave Deqin and devote the right amount of time to this place on another visit. This trip has all been about making connections and throughout I have been blessed with extraordinary help from so many people. None less than Lily in Shangri La. As far as bus tickets are concerned I have missed the bus, but one call to Lily and an hour later she has found a reliable driver to deliver me safely back to Shangri La on the first leg of the homeward trip. He will come and find me at the hotel and we will head off across the mountains directly.

When he arrives, Dave already strikes me as a very jolly and helpful person (sorry to call him Dave but in the few hours we know each other he only says his Chinese name once when I ask and I promptly forget it – and anyway I’d have little or no idea how to spell it). Dave seems to be a minor celebrity as we head out of town, stopping to pick up a couple of bottles of ice tea for the journey and for Dave to gobble down three dumplings and we’re off. We are in a relatively smart and seemingly well maintained Passat – all is good. I put on my seatbelt. We head out of town up the dust-under-random-construction road and the sun and the mountains and the sheer bigness of it all combine into the drive of a lifetime. (On leaving Deqin 20 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

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Jul 18 2009

A bus ride to the edge

P1040134Somehow bus stations do not inspire confidence in the trip ahead. The only way to make certain you are on the right bus, if you don’t speak Chinese, is repeatedly to show your ticket to the person who checks them, then make them point at the exact bus and get straight on it. I knew the trip to Deqin was going to be epic, not just because of the altitiude but also because this is the road where a few (buses) fall off each year during rainy season. It’s July 18 and it is rainy season. Luckily today is dry and the bus heads out of Xiange Lila (Zhong Dian) at the start of this six hour ride to the beginning of the Tibetan plain and the town of Deqin. (On the bus from Shangri La to Deqin 18 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.P1040100

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Jul 17 2009

Build it and they will come

Zhong Dian until 2003, now Shangri La. If you had visited here in 1997 you would have missed the Old City. Because it wasn’t there. This town at 3200m is the result of massive investment to attract tourists to the area and it works. There is traditional dancing in the square every evening from 7pm – you can join in if you like, it goes on for two hours or more. P1040095To be fair the Old Town has been lovingly (re)created and it is extremely picturesque. There’s a great Yak Cheese shop, the young yak cheese is rubbish but the old yak cheese is great. And there is an interesting take on the Long March in one of the museums at the foot of town. It’ll also come as no surprise by now that you can head up the nearby snow mountain on – yes – a cable car. Among other things I was also advised to see the monastery at dusk, but unfortunately today it was raining so that will have to wait for next time. It would be very easy here to get sucked into the backpacker (lonely planet) trail and again meet everyone you just met at TLG, so best advice is find something obscure or ask people who have already been, before you come yourself. But after five days trekking around and generally doing fit stuff, this will be a good halfway house before heading onwards and upwards to the final Chinese frontier with Tibet; Deqin the most N Westerly town in Yunnan and my final destination on this trip. Right now – I think I’ll just be a tourist for a day or two – now where’s that reproduction yak’s head keyring shop again? (Zhong Dian 17 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.P1040054

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Jul 17 2009

Hang onto your seats – or to Shangri La in minibus

P1030967Once the middle rapid excursion is over it is time to head out of the gorge and make tracks towards Shangri La, the next destination on the road north through Yunnan. There is a wondeful Chinese woman and her french boyfriend, she has everyone organised to share a minibus, the idea is great, we all save a bit of money and we share. Then an Israeli guy gets involved and has ideas about how this plan could get better. You know the kind of thing, one person who previously had everything taped and another person comes along and just needs to fill the airwaves and create confusion because his/her idea simply must be better than the original (perfect) plan. Whatever – it means an extra hour of waiting around. Finally we’re off though – out of the gorge and soon on the road to Shangri La. An awesome trip for views. (On the road to Shangri La 15 July)

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce

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Jul 12 2009

It’s better on the edge

P1030625Whilst the crowds and souvenirs of Lijiang may be suffocating, it isn’t hard to find a breath of fresh air and some great views on a walk out of town – through the public park and out of the back gate – onwards and upwards right away from town. Random areas of the hill are quarried and dogs bark when you pass houses. An old woman is tending her vegetables by a stream. Back down the track in the outskirts of the new town is a reservoir, people were swimming. It is the best view from a free public swimming pool I have ever seen. I eat fried potato on a stick and head back to the hordes past meticulously clean cafes in scruffy roadside buildings. Planning is underway to avoid the classic bus to Tiger Leaping Gorge and trek there instead; around the back of the awesome Jade Dragon Mountain (above)(5596m) The Chinese say it’s 13 peaks hold up the sky. This little trip needs preparation and – ideally – maps… hmmmm. Fear not, later I am to meet Lily, she knows the moutains, she runs an Eco tourist bureau and she will be able to help. (Lijiang 10 July)P1030628

Rough Edge Adventure Logistics mountain navigation & training & worldwide trekking. Heol Senni, Brecon, Wales.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce