Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zhongdian, 3,200 meter
We've stayed here a whole week.
We arrived to town around noon, and went straight to a local restaurant for our "bautze" and a beer - big mistake! Gal's head started to hurt. In the early afternoon her head wanted to explode.
After 5 hours she finally fell a sleep for a bit. She started taking altitude pills (which we bought at Lijiang, a special trip to the hospital) and we decided to rest a bit, get acclimatized, before cycling to 4,000-4,800m.
The atmosphere was good to us; people were friendly, the old town was not as cheesy as the one on Lijiang, and the new town (small Chinese town) was 3 minutes walk away. The place is far from amazing, you'd think - 'Shangrila', but not too bad, and there were a few 'tourist attractions' (a beautiful monastery, extending the visa, etc.). So,Gal decided that after 5 months of packing - cycling - unpacking, she needs a short vacation from our long journey.

The monastery near Zhongdian.

Day trip.

Building a house, traditionally.

We finally left, as usual with a climb, to 3,600m in a nice valley.
The pass was classic, like a pass should be. From this moment on, we enjoyed the most beautiful scenery on this trip. It started with a green valley, surrounded by snowed peaks, and changed to a dead desert with a 1,200m drop, zigzagging a cliff, to a very deep gorge (the Yungzi river), which we climbed through on the following day.

Typical public toilet.

Typical menu : "what do you want to eat?"


The Yangzi and where we slept.

After more than 20 km in this impressive, brown-gray gorge (even the river was brown), our road turned right, to another gorge, with a turquoise river, taking us to Derong. We stopped 30km before Derong (getting late & wet), enjoying the local hospitality, building our tent on their roof, overlooking the river.
"The woman of the house", after fixing us dinner (pouched eggs with rice), took us to a neighbour house - the village monastery (village =10 houses). After a short debate we were allowed to go upstairs, in this traditional old house. A door was opened to reveal a roting old monk, shrunk in a corner of a small, stinky, dark room, waiting for the next couple of tourists to arrive and donate. For our humble donation and kneeling (we were told to and how) we got herbal medicine in a small souvenir box (made in India).
If till now the only religion we've seen in China were a few Muslims here & there, with their barbecue stand, the locals here (Tibetans) are strong believers: monasteries everywhere, even in the smallest villages, prayer wheels, prayer beads and even non-smoking monks!

From 1 gorge to another.

Climbing to our tent.

Entering Derong.

13-14/5, Derong
After 2 days without a shower, we reached "The big, wet city", Derong,a small town with many hotels, where it rained constantly and the locals just threw buckets of water on the sidewalks (Peter, the German cycling machine, told us he got a full bucket on his sandals, just as he entered a shop).
We took a room in the fanciest hotel in town and rested a day. It was raining, so we rented a movie (in English! 1 Yuan = $0.125) and A DVD player was brought to our room. Even though the movie was shit, we enjoyed it and quickly brought another, this time a good one.

15-18/5, 4 days without a shower
It was raining. Peter, the German cycling machine, was already waiting 3 days in Derong for the rain to stop. We decided to cycle anyway. It was dripping all day, while we were climbing to 3,600m. The higher we went, the colder and wetter it grew. Quite quickly our Trek winter gloves became useless (totally wet and frozen), our fingers froze (impossible to change gear), we became grumpy and started thinking that Peter had a point.We decided to stop at the next house, and we did. Rami offered to sleep at their house. He suggested an area in the big kitchen as an adequate place for our mattresses. The house owner agreed and invited us. But, then we decided that the children where too annoying and too many, so we decided to continue climbing the 5 km to the village,Ci-Wu, and its shitty hotel (a hotel that has no toilet facilities is a "shitty hotel").
The hotel was almost dry (the roof dripping), the family running the place was very friendly, celebrating the 1 year birthday of the restaurant, inviting us for some drinks.
The best thing about the village was it being 4 km from the first pass, so we didn't need to camp in the rain.We started the next, wet morning with a climb into the clouds. beyond the easy pass was a dry, green valley with a 20km descend to 2,700m,followed by a climb to 3,700m. We decided to start climbing and camp on the way (Rami was dreaming of a house on the way).
Climbing steeply on the cliff, we were worried about a camping spot.
Rami decided (bravely) to finally throw the 1.5kg straw carpet (מחצלת) we were carrying since Thailand. We continued. At 18:30, after passing a few bad camping spots, we found the almost perfect place. Due to yesterdays rain, we had no fire. We slept just next to a clear stream, enjoying its' sounds.
The next morning, during breakfast, coffee & packing, we saw the clouds slowly climbing the valley. Then, after about a week, we saw blue sky.
The reminder of the climb was tough (12km, 600m), the scenery was beautiful.

Inside the clouds, on the pass.



Checking the map.

Out of the rain.

Climbing (to 3800m).

Building the camp.

Good morning, blue sky.

The climb continues.

The pass (3800m).

We descended 7km to the village Reda. It was 16:00, we haven't eaten yet lunch (and for breakfast we shared 1 instant noodle soup) and we cycled only 20km that day, but who cares!We decided to stop there & sleep in the local "shitty" hotel, run by a"Business Monk".We had a nice walk to the monastery next to the village (finally, no admission to a place of worship). On the way back, we saw Peter (the German cycling machine), who did our 2.5 days journey in 1 day (but,he said he was exhausted).
In the late evening we enjoyed an amazing thunder storm followed by clear sky with millions of stars (making the typical star constellation unrecognized).


We woke up early, the next day, with a 1,000m climb in front of us.
The climb was long, but not as tough as the previous climb. Rami was wrong, the map was right: we zigzagged the cliff, overlooking the river and the cliff across the river, the whole way. The clouds, which were still low in the valley when we started, quickly rose, revealing snow peaked mountains all around.
Towards the top Gal was a bit dizzy but we managed to reached the 4,320m pass.
Finally, the pass was covered with snow. The views to the other side were incredible! A deep valley and behind it 180 degrees of snow peaked mountains.
We wore all our warm cycling clothes and started our 30 km descend to the Xiangcheng (with its hot showers), beautifully positioned in the valley.
We enjoyed a luxurious room (again), with beautiful views, big (single) bed, fantastic hot shower and enough room to park our bicycle.
We rested for 2 days and continued our journey to Litang.

Cloudy morning.

Firdt snow.

Looking back at Reda and the monastary.

Climbing (us and the clouds).

"Look there, between the clouds".

Peter, the German cycling machine.

At the top.

One side.

The other.

Looking down at Xiangcheng.

A rainbow after the snow and hail.

Tibetan lock on a door of a small monastery.

Our luxurious hotel room in Xiengchang.

The views from the monastery.

It took us 2 days to climb the 1800m, to the next pass (4900m). The climb was tough, but beautiful. We planned on camping at 4100m, but were exhausted, and found no water on the way up, so we stopped in a road-workers camp (3800m) and were invited to camp there.
After instant-noodle-soup for dinner & breakfast, we continued.
The reminder of the climb went slow (25km, 1100m) but was easier than the previous day.

Starting the very long climb.

A look to the left, as we climb.

The climb continues...

A look back.

Towards the pass everything was covered with snow!
Just as we reached the pass, thrilled from the scenery and the achievement, a car stopped next to us. Usually thousands Chinese spill out of the car with their cameras, making us feel like movie stars. This time, to our surprise, a young guy jumped out and ran towards us with 2 bottles of water. We thanked him and he left. After driving 100m he stopped, took out something from the back of his car (we were prepared for the camera) and ran to us with a big box of cookies & an oxygen spray can for altitude sickness. Again we thanked him and asked him to take our picture together (with our camera).
Who Hoo! after two days of climbing, downhill! To Sangdui & its shitty hotel.

The pass (4,922m).

The other side.

Sangdui from above.
Blue sky.

The landscape has changed. From sharp mountains & deep valleys we've come to a 4,000m plateau.
We started the climb near a beautiful river, in a lush valley, quickly reaching a 4,500m flat, dead desert. We cycled through this dead plateau most of the day, passing 2 4,700m passes and many ex-snow marshlands.
After the 2'nd pass we quickly descended as much as we could, searching for a suitable campground, before it gets dark and cold.
We found a beautiful spot, on the river, and Gal even built a fire.
Again, instant-noodle-soup for dinner & breakfast, but this time we brought hard-boiled eggs from Sangdui!

The dead plateau.

Another pass.

Our campsite.

View from our toilets.

Finally, we started the morning with a downhill! We passed a beatiful valley and climbed slowly to our last pass on the way to Litang.
From the pass we could see Litang, 18km away. It seemed only 5-6km away.
We recalled that Yahoo weather report about the area said: "visibility: UNLIMITED". As far as the eye could see we could see! Even mountains 80km away!
We descended to the valley and cycled the last 14km.
6km before town we were fighting 70-80km/h head winds (according to Gals watch), rain and hail.
We finally reached town and our hot shower.

The last pass, visibility: unlimited!

Litang, the wild west.