China Trip May~June 2013

May 30

Again I was up with the rising sun I walked the 2 blocks to the Golden Temple, located in the central square, the tourist throngs not yet arrived. The worlds largest prayer wheel is here, it takes 6 men to spin. The scene from the temple as mist rose off the ancient town, the prayer flags and incense, the old monks preparing for the day, it was one of those images of a lifetime. Breakfast at the same joint by the hotel, this time my random pick led to a bowl of what seemed to be moistened flour of some sort, I’m sure it was another Thibetian morning staple but it would have taken some getting used to. I was coming to the sad conclusion that the English tour guide company advertised so well on the web with hikes, maps jeeps and guides was no longer in business. Their phone number was out of order, I had trodden the warrens within the old town core enough to recognize their shop was gone. I had hoped to arrange a jeep and driver for a couple of days to go further north to the Thibetian border town of dequen. The route to Napa Hai Lake seemed pretty straight forward, 10 km out of town on a level road. Many of the smaller establishments in town rent bikes and 10 dollars later, an easy transaction without a word of English I was off. Once out of town it’s immediately apparent that traditional Naxi dress is not for the tourist trade, how all the women working the fields kept these elaborate colorful outfits clean is beyond me. The road bifurcated , to the right the lift to Shikashan , I could have cycled here, left to the lake. out to the lift of the day before, I should have just cycled here. After an hour or so it dawned on me that the puddles in the plain to my left were all that was left of Napi Hai lake, I suddenly remembered reading the lake is seasonal, it’s replenished with monsoons. The foothills of Shikashan rose up from this bowl, The low hills flowering Irisruthenica, Euphobias Stellera Chamejasme, but drawing me to a breaking halt, Cypripedium xxx. These were only the early spring bloomers, a number of websites show several other cypripediums, lilies, nomochrais , all manner of things along this lake as the season progresses. A pink haze in one of the ascending valleys turns into acres of pure Rhododendron xxxx, I stop for lunch here. With the altitude, the lake is at 3250 m, it’s exhausting climbing up the valley, higher up is dotted with white Rhododendrons but I decide to conserve my energy, further along I can see they descend to the road.
May 31 Pudacuo (or Putacuo) National Park, [2]. It’s advised to take at least half if not full day to visit the park. Upon arrival you will take a tour bus inside the park whick will bring you from and to parts where you may disembark and choose different ways of getting on, by foot/by boat(extra fee)/by tourbus. Staying in the tourbus for all parts would make you miss alot of the splendor of this great park. ¥138 Entrance fee ¥120 bus non-negotiable 258¥ admission fee. edit

June 1

I’m already tired from my exertions of the last 3 days, and as difficult as communicating in this tourist town has been, I’m betting it will be much worse in remote Dequin. Also diminishing Deqiuns appeal, I’m told by the tour operator that the new four hour road to the town is in reality a 9 hour winding slog. Anyway, I’m a month earlier than the alpine plant tours going to this area, both Sikashan and Jade Dragon suggest that not much of that brilliant high alpine stuff will be evident yet. So Quan suggests Dali, the former capital of Yunnan, his mother has always wanted to go there and the areas beauty and history is renowned among the Chinese. I hadn’t read much about Dali though I know there’s a new chair lift. A quick web search, the Changshan hosts 39 species of Camelia. I’m sold. At the bus station the young Thibetian man I sit beside has an English study book, we have a halting conversation. He’s going on to Dequin. Damn. Have I made a mistake. When my bus is called he takes me past a row of big new double decker buses , at the end sits my dilapidated 16 seater van. I don’t even get a window seat. Perhaps for the best. For the next 5 hours my life flashes before my eyes on average 4 times a minute. There’s a grand new freeway being built along this route, but I would have missed a fascinating slice of rural Chinese life had it been complete. The first leg of the trip was shocking, for a full hour we drove past a continuos expanse of flowering rhododendron xxx, the field at Napi hai lake had been a dot. It killed me. They cleared as we began the decent off the plateau. In 2 hours we reached xxxx, I was instantly glad I hadn’t included this most well known of Yunnan hikes in my itinerary. A truck stop for food, a line of ancient women on the road opposite selling fresh strawberries, I bought a pan from one, I couldn’t resist, I’m sure between them they didn’t have one full set of teeth. I wish I had a picture. She washed them dutifully in the bucket of water beside her, for all the good that would do me. I ate them anyway. By 5 PM we were driving along the shore of lake Xxx, the women beside me, assuming I knew what I was doing, indicated I should get off here, in old Dali, the tourist center and entrance to the Changshan. I got off, I had booked my hotel in New Dali. Oh well. Not an enormous mistake. The half hour taxi ride was cheap enough and it put me among the locals. I picked a restaurant near the lake at random, with no pictures I simply poined to the Chinese characters of the first item in each section, on the assumption these might be their popular dishes. Total cost, $7.00. I distinctly remember letting out a guffaw when they brought out the first dish, what Quan tells me is the famous Dali fish soup, a cauldron large enough to feed a family of 4, delivered with, I swear, 2 quarts of rice. And I had ordered 2 more dishes. The meal was delicious,if a it volumous.
June 2

breakfast at the hotel is also vast, reimaged items from last nights buffet. A moppet of red hair stands out, I haven’t seen a westerner for some time. He’s here from the states landscaping. a major golf course being developed. The taxi driver to Changshan has a smattering of English, I would bet that’s why he was selected from his group of drivers on the hotel steps. There’s a bit of shilling, a tour on one of the junks plying the lake, but nothing pushy. He arranges my lift tickets, I have to purchase a pass through the amusement park to get there. The mountain is swaddled in clouds, with a days rest I now have a sinking feeling I’ve made the wrong decision in coming to Dali. Lazy. I should have gone to Dequen. The lift ascends from 2000 m to its first stage at 3200 m. Visibility drops to zero for most of the ride. Out past the lift platform I can make out something blooming from the triflora group in the fog. The second lift continues the ascent, to within a stones throw of the peak of the Changshan at 4300 m. An occasional glimpse of one or another rhododendron in bloom swirls out of the mist, red, yellow , pink or white clinging to shear cliffs. We reach the top. The fog parts. I am not prepared for what’s before me. There was no hint in the online literature. rather than biting new town. 600000 下关; Xiàguān) and Dali Old Town 40000 (古城; Gǔchéng
Dali chair lift