Home > Transit > Mian Bao Che to Shangri-La, part 1

Mian Bao Che to Shangri-La, part 1

When we got to the end of the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail, we were half an hour away from a purported final bus to Shangri-La, about a two hour drive and about 1000 feet higher.

“I don’t know, when we were waiting to go to the Jade mountain they told us the last bus was at six and we waited from 5:30, and then around 6:30 we were like…ummm….” Kay said.  We decided the best way to avoid standing on a dirt road in the dark for several hours (and to avoid having to stay at the Skippy peanut butter hostel), was to use Kay’s excellent Chinese skills and girlish charms to get a Mian Bao Che for the drive.

The man who was driving us over the construction zone, past the newly constructed staircase entrance to what will be the national park, agreed to drive us to Shangri La.  As we emerged from the hostel after retrieving our bags, he was having the inside of his car hosed out by the most buxom 12 year old Chinese girl I’d ever seen that had a t-shirt on that said “Bootylicious”.  It felt a lot like home.  We stopped for ice cream on the way out, and I knew immediately that this driver was awesome, even though all we were doing was rummaging through an ice chest at the front of someones shop.  The family who owned the store stood around the cash register, heads turned toward the TV that rested on a plastic crate, watching the same Japanese horror movie that Megan K. and I had been obsessed with at the beginning of our year in China.

We dozed on and off as the ride continued past a tributary that bubbled into the river, winding up greener and greener mountains, finally breaking through to rolling green mounds that Megan C. could only compare to the foothills of the Alps in Switzerland.  Kay, as she sat in the front passenger seat, continued to chat with our driver, short, kindly, middle aged, as he whipped around the curvy hills. She would intermittently turn around to translate different things the driver was saying about himself, the relatives he had in Shangri La, the names of the different things we were seeing by the side of the road.  At one point, she giggled and turned around to translate.

“I said, ‘oh this is so beautiful’, and he said, ‘not as beautiful as you!'”  She grinned.  We all burst out laughing and we felt our van accelerate hard into a curve.  We all stopped laughing immediately.

The road into Shangri La.

Driving into Shangri La was impressive because of the green of the hills, because of the looming clouds that brought in night and seemed so much closer than any other time besides when we’d been inside airplanes.  Yaks stood clustered around each other, the remnants of their tails hung from shop windows that grew in frequency as we neared our destination.  Women walked by the side of the road in blue and pink hats and skirts–the way that those Tibetan people on the news and in the documentaries dress, even.  A tractor toting a wagon full of children and workers putted by going the opposite direction as us, and we watched little boys tearing after them, ready to jump aboard.

In Shangri La we said goodbye to our driver and I waited in paranoia, through negotiating a room in a Chinese-speaking-only guesthouse (one of the panes of glass was broken–completely punched out–in the bathroom but the proprietor convinced us that this was just to keep it ventilated), to get altitude sickness.  Aluminum cans of oxygen sat outside a number of shops and in the window of our own guest house.  Jessica had gotten it when she had come here.  We walked slowly down the cobblestone street in search of yak steaks.

What we got were burgers, salty, juicy and spongier than the beef we’re used to.  When we’d finished, we walked past a barking dog chained in the parking lot to watch the Brazil vs. Portugal world cup game, cheersing to a good two days of hiking and to several days of hiking still to come in some of the prettiest mountains this side of Nepal.

A yak burger...one of several that I ate in Central China.

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