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Monday, January 14, 2008

Deqin and surroundings

Hiking over mountains, through the snow in the north-western part of Yunnan!
In Zhongdian a.k.a Shangri-la it was cold... very, very cold! During the day it was very nice: blue skies and a warm sun. But during the nights and mornings... brrrrr!!! After a little stroll through the old town on Friday we decided to have some exercise the next day. So we rented two bikes and made a trip to Napa Hai, a lake north-west of the town. We had pretty decent mountain bikes, so we also went off road and cycled over some frozen fields to the edge of the lake. On the way there were several beautiful sights of the local culture and of course the lake itself with all its birds.

On Sunday we took a bus to Deqin. The ride was both fantastic and scary! To get to Deqin the bus has to go over passes of more than 4000 meters and drive on roads that have very steep and deep cliffs right next to them. After about six hours in the bus we arrived and straight away took a taxi to Feilai Si, a temple just outside town from where you have a great view of the mountain range that includes Kawa Gebo, with 6740 meters the highest mountain in Yunnan.

We spend the night there and shared a taxi with three Chinese people the next morning to get to the MinYong Glacier. The walk from the parking lot to the glacier took Shos and me about two hours (the Chinese girls 3,5...) walking uphill, but it was worth it. The glacier looked really cool, almost otherworldy. So we spent some time admiring it, but then still had to wait for the Chinese girls to arrive. So we walked back a little bit to the TaiZi temple at 2940 meters and I played some pool with a young monk :-) After we got back down, the taxi dropped us at the entrance gate of the park where we waited for a ride to the XiDang Hot Springs. We got one and the car dropped us in XiDang, which meant that we still had to walk 5 kilometers uphill to the other place. Found it and got a good meal, a beer to wash it down with and a fire to keep us warm!

On Tuesday we were expecting our hardest day. We wanted to go to Lower YuBeng, which is a little town close to all the big mountains, but it can only be reached by foot. So we had to go uphill for 12 km (from 2680m to 3680m), then down for 6 km and another 2 km to get to the town. It was a little less heavy than expected, but it was still very rewarding!!! The little town is beautifully simple! People working on the fields, building houses from wood and so on. On the way there we met the owner of a guesthouse (The Mystic Waterfall) and since he seemed to be a genuinely nice person we decided to go to his place. Once there we had one of the best experiences of this little trip. He and his two best friends (who all traveled to Tibet, Nepal and India to study Tibetan and English for several years) joined us during the evening. Lots of tales and of course tastes of the local food and drinks (such as warm, homemade barley alcohol mixed with yak butter and egg).

The next day we undertook the trip to the Sacred Waterfall (one way about 7 km). Once again we had amazing weather. It was so warm that we actually brought way too much clothing and we were sweating all day long. The water of the waterfall was not exactly rushing down the mountain, the reason might have been that it was frozen solid ;-) But nonetheless the views were great and we stayed there quite a while to enjoy the scenery (although we were warned for a high possibility of landslides and avalanches...). Later that afternoon we moved to Upper YuBeng and stayed at the guesthouse of one of the three friends. We had dinner with the whole family and shared several drinks, after which we decided it was time for bed.

On Thursday we walked back to Hot Spring town and called a taxi to pick us up and take us back to Deqin, so we could catch a bus the next day to Zhongdian to start our long ride back home! The next morning we took the 8.30 bus to Zhongdian (where we arrived safely, probably due to the prayers the driver and passengers did before leaving...), booked sleeper bus tickets for 16.30 that same afternoon and after 14,5 hours in the bus we arrived at 7.00 in the morning in Kunming.
In Kunming we met Marc again and he was planning to leave to Laos either on Tuesday or Wednesday. And our plan was to leave on Tuesday... So to add some fun to the more than 24 hour busride to Laos we decided to go together. So tomorrow at 17.00 the second part of our wintertrip will start!!!

Ruudje B. & Shos B.

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