|Tiger leaping gorge 2010|
Clear skies and burning hot sun when we arrive at Lijiang airport. A scenic 2.5 hour bus ride to Bridgehead (Qiaotou), where we stay in a Tibetan guesthouse. I have the feeling that the Tibetan lady managing the guesthouse understand my English better than my Chinese - maybe she hates Chinese and therefore prefers to speak English.
An early morning start the next day - we see the first rays of sunlight peeking over the mountains, when we prepare ourselves for the battle of the 28 bends going up the mountain. I meet a girl with her little brother. Her school is in Bridgehead and she stays there Sunday to Friday, only spending Saturday and Sunday morning at home. Can't really imagine Quin not being at home during weekdays.
We stay half way the trail with an amazing view of Yulong Snow Mountain. We meet some long term travelers, who are not too impressed with the gorge - I guess long term traveling makes experiences bland. The experience is very different if it is just a short break from routine city life. We share the same traveler's problems though; not being able to shit. Especially Randolf; his belly is really congested and feels like a blown up balloon.
After a rest, we pass a waterfall the next morning. Here is where my sister Heleen took one of her best pictures of her trip, so we have to do the same. We finish the mountain pretty quickly, but the road we have to walk afterwards is under serious construction. We are biting into dust. Every so often there is a group of workers, but none of them seem to really know what to do; trucking sand up the mountain, trucking sand down the mountain. No big plan here, except for the measurements of the concrete blocks at the side of the road. They have to be exactly 50 cm high and we see the workers chiseling off a superfluous centimeter or 2 of the blocks already made by the mould. It is a mystery to me why they do not make the mould 2 centimeters lower. Other workers are blowing rocks from the mountain with dynamite. "It is dangerous up there", says one of them and we see the rocks rumbling from the mountain. We wait a bit for the rocks to quiet down, but even then there is still a lot of rocks coming down.
We stop a truck and hob up to join 2 young guys at the back. When I ask where the ferry is, they offer me to bring us to Daju, but I really only want to know the way. When we reach the side-road leading to the ferry, it is still further away than I thought. The road to the ferry is not well sign-marked and when we finally see the river, it looks as if we just enter a coastal sandpit. There is a boat though, but nobody to be seen. Randolf sees footprints in the sand and suggest the captain must be sleeping up the trail. When I go and have a look, I indeed find a sleeping man. He is not the captain, but another passenger. "The boat goes at 12", he says when I ask him, but it is 1 pm. "Oh, then the boat goes at 3 or 6", he continues. I love people who do not wear a watch and do not care about the time the boat leave. Half an hour later, the captain from the other side shouts: "wake up!". We follow our timeless fellow traveler to the boat landing. Of course we have to pay more for the boat than our 'same old hundred names' (Chinese for: common folk) fellow passenger, but who cares?
At the other side, I take some water from the captain's kettle. He laugh out loud - he loves to have this foreign lady in his shed. "Very comfortable!", he exclaims and I decide not to think further about his meaning.
Daju, the last village, is great. We decide to spread our money and sleep in one guesthouse, but eat in the next. "I want to eat outside", I keep on saying to the Naxi man who owns the place, but he opens a door to a dining room.... then continues... to another door and we are outside again. An amazing terrace with an amazing view. Our host is very proud of everything home-made and home-grown. He treats us to home-grown figs and home-brewed spirit. It is pretty tough stuff and it comes in a Sprite bottle. We see the shepherds coming in with their goats and the sun slowly disappearing behind the mountain. We promise our Naxi host to send him the photo of Randolf and him drinking.
Go here for the stunning view in Daju and an even more stunning strong drink
Back in the sleeping guesthouse, Randolf goes to the restroom and finally manages to do the number 1. "You know what it smelled like?", he asks me when he gets back - 'Sprite!'
Next day we cannot see Yulong Snow Mountain anymore from Lijiang and it is a lot colder. We definitely picked the right 2 days to do this trip. Two days is just to short though - honestly speaking, I could retire here. I loved the scenery, the fresh air and the friendly people.
Back to Shanghai - over and out!