Friday, 24 May 2013

Day 90 – Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La - Fri 24 May 2013

Day 90 – Tiger Leaping Gorge to Shangri La - Fri 24 May
Three months since leaving Australia. Departing Tiger Leaping Gorge today, heading for Shangri-La, the closest we will get to Tibet this trip. Love the sound of these magical places rolling off the tongue. Clouds coming in fast, obscuring mountains, but glimpses of blue sky behind. More breathtaking views as we continued on last section of gorge. 

Road from plateau zigzagging down to what looks like another mine through cave in rock face. Passed villages, sudden braking as goat on road panicked and ran in front of us. Hilarious to see cow towing plank of wood along road, may be in training for harness work.

Discovered it was a tungsten mine we saw yesterday, not silver, BoyRob pointed out chlorite schist folds when we stopped to look back and say farewell to the Gorge. Butterflies with long tails, and russet red birds. Loving the re-appearance of flora and fauna.

Started climbing, driving through steep nature reserve and pine forests, with pretty tight pointed cones. Atmosphere cooling delightfully. The drivers notched the altitude at 2500ft over their radios. Discovered a vital piece of info - those with Webasto stoves now need to press altitude button at start! 

Stopped in narrow streets of quaint town of Haba for morning tea and stroll - bought sausages on stick dipped in chili flakes, and large homemade (but tasteless!) biscuits. So appreciative of the villagers who tried to talk to us. GirlRob showed a man that a dog was eating the meat sticking out of his plastic bag, and the women all around cracked up with laughter! Men playing pool or sitting on stoops, women working (same old, same old….)


Battled traffic jam to get back under way, picturesque valleys. Prayer flags across road. High winds, rocks on roofs of huts. Small mining operation - not much evidence of workplace safety.

Stopped at White Terraces, chose to walk rather than take horses up paths. Breathy walk up at altitude, pretty calcium pools, clear blue/green. GirlRob slipped over on the black algae coating the rocks first (although good save of camera at cost of elbow and wrist), then Jon went down. 

Obviously the flora, insects and pond life are better suited to the (once-boiling) heavily mineral-ed water. Mushrooms, walnuts and huge fungi for sale - woman indicated you cooked and ate the latter (must have been a delicacy at the price!) 

3000mts - new personal best! Roads falling away, bridge detour, fences collapsing. Unbelievable – build these roads and then don't maintain them! Town built of sticks. Hills of wild rhododendrons, mistletoe and azalias. A very hairy yak! Villagers fell trees high in forest then push logs down land slips or waterfalls - inventive using natural elements for
processes. Dandelions blowing in breeze. 3200mts, so excited that the trucks are handling well. Furry coated cows. Thicker pines and conifers of all varieties - very pretty mountain driving. Birdsong increasing. Ears getting cold - windows up! “3500mts” goes out on the CB radio....levelled out at 3593mts. Shaggy goats. Logging truck - with snow chains on! 

Prayer flags adorning stupas as approach Shangri La. Rewarded with glimpse of snow capped mountains at last. Tibetan style architecture prominent, 2 story, colourful decorated eaves and entrance archways. Large sharpened logs/ cross beams for drying (what crop?) Pulled into National Park entrance, but decided the natural arch not worth seeing when payment was demanded in carpark before we’d even turned off our motors. On towards Du KeZong Shangri La Old Town on the Southern Silk Road, where we parked for the next two days, piquing curiosity of many passers by, including yellow hat sect monks of Dalai Lama.

Explored Old Town in the waning light, fascinated by the narrow cobbled streets, intricate carved building decor, food stalls and artisans at work. We made way for the very impressive Tibetan mastiff.

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