China Trip May~June 2013

May 29

We had taxied into Shangrila’s airstrip at dusk the evening before, the taxi ride over the labyrinthine cobbled streets had been rough and left me with little orientation to the town. my body clock stayed on the Western Standard time, waking at sunrise I decided to stroll toward to the town reservoir. At 3200 m even the short hoof up a cemetery hillside winded me. One of the top plants on my hit list was a perennial member of the Daphne family, Stellera Chaemeejasme. To my knowledge this lovely thing has never been satisfactorily established in cultivation, despite numerous attempts. I was strangely a bit disappointed that this hill was covered with them, virtually the first thing I had seen in flower on the trip. It should have been a bit harder. So began a daily routine of botanical candy around every corner. Sharing the hill with the Chamjasme, the first Rhododendrons, I wandered back to the hotel and took breakfast across the street, a very authentic Thibetian hole in the wall. Everything on the menus was less than a dollar, I settled for a rather dry orange pancake, a sweetened liquid yak yogurt and fried eggs. At the hotel, selected for advertising it’s English speaking manager, I had to settle for a halting exchange with the desk staff on how to get about. Two guests had rented a car to go to a nearby park, perhaps I was missing an opportunity but again clarity was lacking. Anyway, like a kid on Christmas, I wanted to open the biggest present first, Shika Snow Mountain, 4449 m , with its ski lift right to the top. Altitude sickness be damned. The cab ride out of town may have taken all of 30 minutes, it’s about 7 km southwest of the main town. I’m deposited at the main building, inside is the ticket booth and lift platform. The lift pulls away, at this stage the hills seem gentle, though in reality the grades are quite steep. two shrubs are in flower here, Rhododendron yunnanese and Berberis xxx. We arrive at the first stage, a field used for Yak grazing and in the summer a horse racing festival. Tibetan music is piped out of loudspeakers, there is a daily dance demonstration. At the edge of the field are flowering banks of Rhododendron growing among it are Corydalis curvistyla , Primula xxx. It’s easy to walk into the forest. here the pink flowers of Podophyllum hexandrum var emodii are just opening, some are beginning to also push out foliage. the ground is carpeted with anemone rockii, interspersed with both Corydalis cuvistyla and another smaller blue species , Corydalis xxx.
I get my ticket punched for the second stage on the lift. I’m alone in the car. Quite suddenly I”m flying over a Rhododendron forest, in full bloom, occasionally an Abies interrupts the splendour. I am at every window, I don’t know where to look first. Where the lift nears the ground it cuts a swarth though the trees, I can almost reach out to touch the display. All too soon i reach the cliff wall marking the final approach to the summit, the Rhododendrons vanish. There’s a walkway around much of the peak, I’m at 4400 m now, security doesn’t seem too concerned about me stepping off the path. It’s frigid and foggy, there are still large patches of melting snow. only the earliest of flowers are in bloom, large yellow drifts of Ranunculus xx occasionally interrupted by purple, clumps of Primula xxx or the smaller Primula xxx. i should have spent more time here, there was probably more of interest, but I’m on the clock, my guidebook states there aren’t any taxis here after 16:00. I don’t yet have a grasp of where I am in relation to the town. I need to get back into the forest below. Returning to the Yak field there are several clear paths up the mountain. I’m able to take 10 or 15 steps at a time, then have to pause to catch my breath. A couple of times i overexert, I’m so winded my vision blurs and fear i will pass out.It crosses my mind that this might not a good senario. Within a few hundred meters I’m into the Rhododendron forest and life is glorious. I’ll admit however, the view is better on the tram. Many of the trees are specimens of Rhodoendron xxx, there”s also
I still have some time when i return to the yak field so i walk around the perimeter. Theres a road leading down in the direction of the lift base and town beyond. I start along it. The road turns away from the town, theres a near vertical cleft between me and the lift, Im sure the road continues to the base but its unlikey to come out where I need to be. Each easy step down is going to be a struggle coming back up, Finally I’m asked if I’ll share a ride with a couple going into town, 10 yaun , about $2.00. They have hired the cab to take them to Dequin at the Thibetian border, my plan has been to go there in 2 days. I”m dropped at the edge of town, exhausted from the days adventure. I must look a sight as I trudge through the village square. Supper is at another restaurant close to Shika Snow Mountain Scenic Area is located 7 kilometers southwest Gyanthang Town of Shangri-La County. With its highest altitude being 4,449 meters above the sea level, this area covers 65 square kilometers; and its elevation drop is 1,179 meters.
Baiji Temple (100 Chicken Temple), (Walk up the path past the old abandoned temple visible just behind the golden temple, or walk up Cuo Lang St heading away from the old town and about 50m past Tavern Hostel and Timeless Inn there is a small wooden sign pointing left down a path that says Chicken Temple). This is a quaint little temple on the top of the small hill behind the old town. The temple gets its name from the chickens roaming around the grounds. It is also covered in tibetan prayer flags and locals can be seen/heard praying at the temple. Free. edit
Golden Temple, (Obvious temple right in the middle of old town). The Golden Temple is made up of three temple buildings and the worlds largest prayer drum. The main temple houses a large bhuddist statue shoe horned into the building. The large prayer drum outside reportedly takes at least 6 people to spin although is under renovation as of May 2014.