Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Day 88 - Dali to Tiger Leaping Gorge – Wed 22 May 2013

Day 88 - Dali to Tiger Leaping Gorge – Wed 22 May
A level of excitement throughout convoy as we are headed to Tiger Leaping Gorge today. Used Andy to sort a kerfuffle around a lost key and departed hostel, buying our last sweet breakfast fritters from stall across road (definitely a higher carbohydrate diet since South East Asia). Identified better road than straight to Lijiang, passed pagodas and stupas in Bai villages heading north. Speed bumps on highway, running parallel to Green Mountains, past lake's end. 

Moved on to national road (deceptive title, definitely NOT maintained), past rice fields, veggie gardens. Entrepreneurial villagers - course thick hay was spread over road so vehicles can drive over it to break it up. Looks like it is then spread on top of tilled rows, probably to help retain moisture. New bridges being built, dam in valley, as many hairy situations navigating roads as usual. Some villages specialise in skills/ products eg gravestones, cement moulds/ carvings, pottery/ tiles. But the sculptures from tap roots of trees were rather ugly. Kids on way home from school for lunch wearing red neckerchiefs.

As we ascended BoyRob became steadily unwell, we wondered whether it could be altitude sickness. He felt hot and clammy, and thoughts of bird flu arose. Of course we haven't been picking up dead birds/feathers although found chicken beaks and feet in meals up to approximately 10 days ago, both in Laos and in China provinces that are supposedly clear. We also turn a corner out walking sometimes and unexpectedly come upon live chicken markets but veer off where possible. We've cut out almost all chicken from the diet now, in fact couldn't buy in it in last western style supermarket we visited. Moved on to pork in recent times but read/observed that pigs and chickens share the same yards in most places! Good thing there's no animal-to-animal or animal-to-human transmission proved so far... Pulled over for lunch, Phil discovered a shackle problem so went ahead and luckily got the right part. On road again, Jade Dragon Mountains ahead, snow on both peaks. River from glacier wide, opaque and muddy. Lots of log piles as we climb, obviously colder up here. Sudden change from rice to wheat growing, but it also was planted in paddies. How very Chinese!!


The convoy pulled up at the entrance to Tiger Leaping Gorge (with obligatory photos of camper trucks under the leaping tiger) (photo-bombers notwithstanding!) and negotiated the fees to drive through and camp along track. BoyRob was worse, hot and cold chills, aches and pains, so kipped in the vehicle whilst others went out in the rain for first sight of high narrow gorge. Amazed to see dozens of wooden buggies with handles and fit carriers to ferry people up and down the stairs to viewing platforms and swirling river below.

We backed up in the first car-park against carved/ornamental fortified concrete wall forming support for cliff face, intending to stay for the night, but there was a knock on doors, and we were asked to move to next car-park due to danger of landslide. Given how BoyRob felt, the steady rain and darkening skies, we reluctantly complied, but were glad we had when we drove around a bend in the windy track to be faced with a small rockfall blocking the road. Under lights, GirlRob worked from our side and car of young people worked from the other to clear the road enough to get around. We were grateful to get to a bridge and guesthouse with a yard big enough to park outside for the night. And it was such a pleasure to find how effective the insulation is if you put up the “skyroof”/ internal blinds before it gets really cold outside. Haven’t had to bring out the winter doona insert to date, only the cotton blanket inside the doona cover. At least the bed looks "made" quite quickly...

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