Starting with another wet day, from Lijang to Shangri La we decided to take the motorway rather than the slippery mountain-road heading north on our way to visit Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province in China.
The road construction was evident throughout the day with a quite an extraordinary sight of a four lane suspension bridge being built for the new expressway to Shangri La across the river gorge of the Jinsha river which becomes the Yangtze further downstream.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is the third deepest gorge in the world, and the legend goes that when the river is low, there is a rock in the centre which was used by a tiger to leap across the gorge. Regardless of this fable; it’s just an incredible experience hearing the swirling water rage down between the steeply rising mountains.
It is so awesome, that thousands of tourists visit each day; and the buses streamed in, one after another; offloading umbrellas with two legs underneath scurrying to view the raging torrent. Many had shoes covered in brightly coloured plastic covers making the steep staired descent…. and a much more labored ascent unless you chose to negotiate a price to be carried up the stairs in a chair by two porters. Business seemed to be very healthy here at the gorge … with many trying to convince you that you needed an umbrella or plastic bag cover to keep the misting rain from getting you wet. I loved the water on my face to the disappointment of those with bags of plastic goods.
We were so glad we made an early 7am start, as we noticed on our way leaving the gorge that the buses and private cars were all being restrained by officers, and only released as vehicles left the gorge.
Soft luminous green blanketed the mountainsides as we drove north. Clouds enveloped the mountain-tops. Small areas of farmland speckled the elevating landscape.
The Tibetan influence started to become more apparent as the Stupa’s glowed from the grassy paddocks and the architecture of the buildings were more similar to the ones I saw in Bhutan a couple of years ago. Wheat and grain crops were drying on large wooden speared racks, facing the western sun. Road construction was still evident across the rural landscape.
We arrived at our evening stopover elevation of 3,400mts and a slight headache permeated my brain and a little bit of breathlessness indicated the altitude was affecting my body. All good though…. And by morning I had acclimated to the elevation and my headache had disappeared.
Tom, our fabulous guide from Navo Tours had finished his part of our journey and we were form here to be supported by Danzeng.
Today I started out with quite a few layers on. It was only a couple of days ago and it was sweltering…. and today I’m donned with the full-on winter snow gear. Driving in an open car can get quite chilly at 6 deg and misty cloud!
In the cold morning, after a bit of a car park shuffle to let Penny out for another day, we were on our way northwards and upwards! I had an idea to take the roof off Penny today as we didn’t need protection form the sun… and it looked like it was going to be fine for the day… well.. mostly!! Lol Max did think about putting it on a few hours in when the windscreen looked like it was rained upon… but it was only the moisture from the cloud accumulating on it.
We had a short day’s drive with the mountain scenery just breathtaking. I can’t verbally describe, nor in my photographs how spectacular the mountains were.
The road was good; well… except for a few km’s inside an unlit tunnel in which one lane was sporadically closed and our windscreen was not only being sprayed with silt from the car in front – but fogging up on the inside. I had to stand up whilst we were driving and wiped the outside of the windscreen to enable some sort of visibility! It was a VERY crazy few minutes, which took about ten for me to catch my breath from, because of the elevation at this point was about 4,000mts.
Much of the National road is planted on the edges with flowers, nearly all of them I have grown before in my own garden. Hollyhocks are my absolute favourite… and I planted some before we left and I’m hoping they will still be in flower when we get home… but perhaps I should just enjoy the ones here because we’ve had to extend our trip a couple of weeks due to the hiccup in Bangkok… and once summer comes I think my Hollyhocks may be looking a bit bedraggled.
We stopped at a shop which sold black earthenware pots which hold both the coal pats underneath and the food in a pot above. The clay that is used is black, and is quite unique to this small region.
Terraces with various crops yoked sloping ridges. The landscape disappeared into the damp cloud as we climber higher. We were glad to often be following another car which helped us see where to go on the winding road which was now completely obscured in the cloud.
The mountainous landscape became more dry and rugged. It was much easier to see the geology of this area because the vegetation has become more sparse.
We are tonight at 3, 460mts in elevation, and Max and I had a chuckle to each other that we were even getting breathless going up in the elevator in our hotel tonight. No headache tonight so my body has done a brilliant job of acclimating.
Higher tomorrow as we enter Tibet. More news when we can.