Jul 20 2009

Driving safe

It takes about an hour for me to relax in the realisation that Dave is an awesomely good driver and knows the road extremely well. Indeed he doesn’t just know the road, he seems to know everyone on it too. His skill is appreciated as I take millions of pics and much video (to be edited & uploaded once home). The moving pictures, I am sure, will capture the drama of this magnificent journey best, but here is what a driver on this mountain road faces as he hurtles through settlements, villages, roadworks and farms:

Children, handcarts, grandmas, yaks, monks, donkeys, bikes, pigs, tractors, goats and laundry – all these can be on the road at any time. Hence Dave adopts the ‘hoot & go’ approach. You hoot and go. Simple. And it is hoot & go for overtaking too – although this takes a little longer as a passenger to feel comfortable about. In all we are in each other’s company for close on 5 hours and he is one of the most skilful drivers I have been driven by. He gets me back down to Shangri La safely, but fast, skilfully, but cautiously and I thank Dave for that.

This is one of those epic journeys that is impossible to bring to life here, but I have picked out some random best bits for now – there will be loads more to come, given bit of time. One breathtaking ride. (On the road from Deqin 20 July)

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


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.

China 09 DofE Gold Expedtion recce


Jul 19 2009

Marmite and washing

It is a beautiful sunny day. I wish I had loads more time, first to acclimatise to this place then to go exploring all around. I consider how many days I could possibly stay and it is clear there are not many. I am still at least 24 hours travelling time away from Kunming (that’s a lot of buses 🙂 On the other hand this is an incredible place. But again, I can always come back and it would be more fun with a few friends. But what about the views from the other mountains behind the town? Eventually I use marmite (that’s thinking man’s vegemite for any Ozzies reading) and reach a conclusion. (Deqin 19 July pm)

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 19 2009

Going downtown

Trying not be too hasty I head away from the hostel advised that the best way back to town is to flag down a truck on the road – right next to the mountain lodge and under heavy, dusty, noisy construction (adding to the delight). I don’t much fancy a dusty truck ride and instead find tracks and trails that lead me across the hill finally back to the road and into town. Again the views are rewarding and in every direction the scenery is amazing. In downtown Deqin I find hotel – a clean one 🙂 It is time to pause and think about what to do next… (getting back to Deqin 19 July)

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 19 2009

Dirty in Deqin

And so to the second Deqin Don’t. Don’t stay where I did. It was grubby, no dirty, really dirty. I have been staying all over Yunnan now for over a month and paying similar amounts to the rate at this mountain lodge. So far even if most places have been very basic, everywhere has been clean and tidy. This place seems to be stuck in the old school where the belief was that trekkers like to rough it come what may… The world has moved on and anyone will tell you, when it comes to your shower, food and bed for the night you’d prefer them all to be clean. Yuk. (A hostel I couldn’t wait to leave, Deqin 19 July)

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 19 2009

Dizzy in Deqin

Deqin (pron Durr Chin) is already at an altitude of 3350m I was staying in a mountain lodge higher up the road towards the Tibetan border (see next post). And so to the first Deqin Don’t. Don’t rush in. With the idea I would climb above the hostel to take in even more breathtaking views, the views took my breath and I had to take myself down again. With the little time available to me as this trip nears its end, I believed I could do more than I could and ended up feeling decidely dodgy. My best advice for this most awe inspiring of places is to plan a few days of nothing when you first get here, then once acclimatised the terrain is yours to discover. Nonetheless, despite my haste and paying the price, I was treated to some amazing sights in the hills above Deqin, the best of which was when the mighty Mei Li Xue Shan (6740m) revealed her sacred peak through the cloud. This mountain has never been climbed (in the last attempt in 1991, 17 Japanese mountaineers lost their lives). But enough, here are the pictures and there will be more because this place has to be visited again, it is awesome. (Dizzy above Deqin 18/19 July)

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


Jul 18 2009

Up and up and up

AltimeterRoadworks at 4000mP1040107And so it goes on, the road snakes further and further through the most awesome mountain ranges. At certain corners there are small concrete bollards to prevent the unwitting driver from tumbling into the abyss. After a while though these seem to peter out and the metalled road is still under construction. From a small town at 2050m the road climbs for an amazing 67Km (that’s over 40 miles) to reach a dizzy height at the top of the pass of 4160m (that’s over 12,000ft). The reward is in the view as you are treated to the first glimpses of snow capped mountains that soar and stretch way to the beyond. The road workers are working mainly by hand – it must be extremely tough living and working at this altitude in these conditions (not many jobs command such a world beating view though 🙂 (4160m in the sky, on the bus to Deqin 18 July)

 

 

 

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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


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

China 09 DofE Gold Expedition recce


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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