Day 75 - Boten to Mohan to Meng La to Menglun- Thursday 9 May 2013Woke to steel grey sky with occasional raindrops. Added dragon-fruit to breakfast muesli and met with full team for first time. We reaffirmed the travelling protocols and the newly formed convoy was off to China!! (made a little difficult for GirlRob as the arm of her eyeglasses broke off). As previously, the border crossing details will be posted elsewhere on the blog, although this was the first time we’d experienced an internal “house” inspection, and had to get Chinese licence plates to travel. We met our NAVO guide, Andy (not his Chinese name) who will accompany us for the 52 days – he has excellent English (but we discovered early he doesn't know what margarine is). We were greeted with the large tidy town of Mohan with impressive size buildings, shiny and new in sun, and found the four lane highway that Phil’s been longing for, complete with street lighting and ornamental trees on verges (although couldn’t figure out why wrapped in shade cloth?) How delightfully different from every other border town to date!
We parked in Meng La for the police vehicle roadworthy check of gears, lights and brakes which didn’t start until 3pm, and took a bus to supermarket and ATM. Chinese girls were in very short skirts, with high chunky heels, lace and glitter umbrellas, and heavy makeup with pale foundation. Boys’ choice of colour is black with very modern hairstyles. Saw a toddler with backside cut out of pants, so much easier to poo! Power was out along street, and it was sweaty inside shops. We were the show walking around town - many people stopped to stare and talk about us.
All vehicles passed the tests, so collected them from police compound, and took off north to Menglun. Series of tunnels, pleasure to drive straight and faster after recent windy roads. Forest plentiful on top slopes, plantations on steep sides, and agriculture neat and more modern towards valleys (eg blue bags on bananas, market gardens covered in taut shade cloth - not a rip in sight). Flooded terraced rice fields. Emerged from tunnels to series of massive bridges above the valleys connecting the mountains. Miles of rubber plantations on mountains.
We arrived for our first camp in car park of Academy of Tropical Sciences in readiness for tour tomorrow morning. The group sat in a circle for a meeting with Andy re first impressions and the itinerary before wandering off to explore river and nearby village before dark (where the entire female population appeared to be involved in outdoor aerobics). Wearying day full of “processes”….