Friday, 31 May 2013

Day 97 - Lugu Lake to Xichang - Fri 31 May, 2013

Day 97: Lugu Lake to Xichang - Fri 31 May
One month left in China. Andy with us leading, all reluctantly saying goodbye to our paradise camping spot by lake. Passed quaint villages, people in colourful traditional clothing gathering for Children's Day parade through town, dressed and made-up for a performance. 

Followed babbling brook through gorges, narrow roads. Donkey caravan as well as usual goat herds on road, well-used but in poor condition. Bridges, waterfalls, washaways - huge boulders fallen from rock face into stream. Open-ended duct over road directing water into gorge. Delayed by road clearing caterpillar trucks for 20 mins, so made it morning tea stop. Talked to South Korean helicopter pilot who was in China for 8 months to put out forest fires - told him about similar exchange Elvis program in Oz. He admired our convoy and said we would have no problem driving through North Korea (really????) Many small hydropower stations along river, sometimes dammed high, sometimes a trickle. Addits/ tunnels on side of hill - maybe bringing/diverting water into bigger river. Huge silt/ gravel deposits in river, using to build walls to divert water to one side of bed, and use other bed for small crops. Saw coal seam, and mining operations.

The river turned to the north but we continued east on appalling roads, dustier than ever. Town of Meyiu - horse and rough carts carrying passengers (local version of tuk-tuks). First 6 hours we only averaged 29kph!!! Thankfully road improved after Yan Yuan, but there was a steadily increasing rattle/noise from underneath our truck. Lunch beside river, looked at shockies/ springs but couldn’t see anything. Apiaries/bee keepers in mobile tents every few kilometres on switchbacks/ downward side of mountain road. Finally down mountains to face industrialised city, bypassed Xichang as turned onto tollway north and into a raging dust storm. 

Weary after 9 hours on road, stopped at first fuel stop/rest area. Uh-oh, discovered source of noise – our 2nd fuel tank had dropped below skirt of vehicle, sheared bolts and broken bracket (sound familiar John and Ann???). Bush mechanic conference and offer of longer bolts, then BoyRob diverted half fuel into main tank, jacked up spare tank and put it back in place so we can continue our trip tomorrow - phew!! We ate in the diner - catfish, rice and veggies (fish better than expected) Dust storm worsened, all vehicles parked close together between buildings to reduce the effects of the wind and called it a night.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Days 95 & 96 – Around Lugu Lake - Wed 29 & Thurs 30 May 2013

Days 95 & 96: Around Lugu Lake - Wed 29 & Thurs 30 May
Wednesday: Slept in - bliss. Read (fiction!!) until hunger made us get up. Caught up on chores, including vehicle checks and tightenings. No swimming allowed in lake - what, the whole 50sq kms?? (because it's 93mts at deepest point? or eco/purity reasons?) Jon and Jude took their canoe out for a day's paddle, rest of entourage looking on enviously. Apparently "accidentally" fell in. Guy also "accidentally" let his hat blow into the lake and had to wade out to retrieve it..... 


Mads has a bad back, trying to set up acupuncture appointment in Chengdu. Drivers met with Andy to change upcoming routes, trying to shorten the longer driving days. Noticed that 7-8 tourist buses arrive late arvo (from Lijiang?), cable car up or luge down the mountain, walk lake (and stalker-talk us!!), stay in village for dinner and join traditional dancers before buses depart.


We dined in town at a B&B, helpful Chinese tourist translating menu and order, pork noodle soup, egg with potato and rice, barley tea. Shopped at little store, passed old lady twirling prayer wheel and fingering her prayer beads. Another woman kept her cash in polystyrene box under the open counter - must be an honest town. Met rest of travellers who all agreed to stay another day – hadn't acknowledged weariness of daily travel until we'd stopped….

Thursday: A second sleep in – guilty, but divine. Beautiful weather continues. Completed all the departure chores before driving back to pretty Loishou village but couldn't find Mosuo museum to view Joseph Rock's 1920 photos.

from Joseph Rock collection

35% pure - Miles' face says it all....

Dinner together sharing lotus calyx, yak, pork, eggplant etc. Some tried plum wine (cold in sealed glass) from next door, sweet, 25% alcohol. Miles bought a bottle of clear corn and barley spirit at 35% ("pure ethanol" was the popular opinion!) Went on to experience traditional Mosu dancing in a circle around the fire. Noisy and colourful. Strolled home to the soothing lapping of waves in breeze...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Day 94 - Lijiang to Nisai Village, Lugu Lake - Tues 28 May 2013

Day 94: Lijiang to Nisai Village, Lugu Lake - Tues 28 May 
Pretty pink clouds heralded sunrise. Weaved through goats and cattle to Old Shuhe village, and watered-up at shop. 
"The Road is Mine", sayeth......well, everybody.....

No seatbelts - freeloaders or paying customers??
Billboard of Yi people in variety of traditional costumes


High windy route today - workers, trucks and construction materials spilling into roads.  
Street beggars can't be seen by RHS drivers

Stopped beside large dammed opaque/ green (minerals?) river, with lazy trails of debris. Evidence of small coal mining operation. Rockfalls, washaways and fault lines; log and brick cabins perched precariously on ridges - we shuddered at image of potential landslides in rainy season. 


Finally, a sweet view over Lugu Lake heralded the end of today's driving.

Pork can be preserved for 10 years.....



Gained permission from young vice chief/mayor to stay right beside lake in between Lige and Nisai villages. He would prefer we sleep in his hotel, but Andy explained "sleeper trucks", with the trade-off that we frequent his "best in town" restaurant tonight. Settled into pretty campsite amongst ducks and dugout canoes - tomorrow we could explore "a pond of crystal water in Himalayas" as our ticket proclaims (no natural resource is unticketed in China!) 

Surprised to find mayor is male as we have come to the last practicing female bastion in world. The Musuo (Kingdom of Women) have aspects of a matriarchal culture: most well known custom is of "walking marriages"/visiting relations (men NOT invited to sleep over afterwards....). Women are usually head of the house, inheritance is through the female line, and women make business decisions. However, unlike a true matriarchy, political power tends to be in the hands of males. In fact all the workers we saw during our visit were women.... 

Dinner was excellent, fish soup, pork and mushrooms, blood sausage, variety of vegetable dishes, and home-made barley tea - the latter having a touch of malt was perfect for day's end.