Home > Uncategorized > The first mountain town of many (part 1)

The first mountain town of many (part 1)

Since my travel style is usually more meandering, I was worried about letting my inertia get the best of me (or us, rather) during our time in Shangri La.  Patrick and Kay were the best people possible to hook up with, in that case!  I don’t know how we would’ve found our way out to the Pudacuo National Park without them or to the other adventures that were to be had in the attic crawlspace of the world.  Patrick and Kay had plans and were kind enough to include us in them, to help us by going through some of the more intense negotiations, building a relationship with a 23 mian-bao-che driver and former soldier who gave us great deals on rides out to the mountains.

The first day in the mountain paradise, we went to a national park full of mountain lakes, meadows and hilarious Chinglish signs exhorting us to be mindful of the environment and the possible dangers it presented.

After Tiger Leaping Gorge, we felt invincible in our hiking abilities.  The national park had a hop-on hop-off shuttle that took us along with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even a few  American tourists from one lake to another.  We walked down boardwalks suspended beside the lakes, waving off mosquitos and talking about our favorite childrens’ books and previous adventures in other parts of the world.  We also discussed the Shanghai expo, which they had previously visited.  Patrick alerted me to the fact that Denmark had shipped the actual Little Mermaid statue to the expo and had it under 24 hour surveillance.  Based on how frequently the cultural relic is vandalized in its own home, I remarked that it might experience fewer dangers during its stay in China (ironically enough).

Because of the flatness as well as the enhanced environment the walk felt like nothing, but the distance that day probably amounted to at least five or six miles.

The next day was a lot more impressive as well as an unexpected delight.  Our plucky Mian bao Che driver drove us out of the city about an hour and down a bumpy dirt road.  I was curled up in the backseat when a toothless woman in traditional Tibetan clothes ran out to our car and negotiated a price for our guide to take us on a hike up the mountain, withdrawing a cell phone from her clothing and shouting into it (like ya do in China).

Out of the field beside the road rose a woman who looked older than I’m sure she was, but with a completely placid expression.  She wordlessly turned from us and started down the path.  The trail was less a trail than a river bed, complete with embedded stones and gravel that was hell to walk on when a misty highland rain began to fall.  Every tourist we saw descending was Chinese, and was seated on a horse.  The horses had particular problems with polanks that had been laid out along the meadow at the top of the mountain to keep us from sinking into the mud.

Both Megan and I slipped in yak excrement.  When we got to the lake that was our destination, Patrick’s attempt to walk across a log out to a boulder ended with him falling into the water.

Kay was delayed not only by the fact that the altitude was making us all short of breath, and not only the fact that there were so many purple irises to photograph, but the fact that she made friends with every small child who tried to hustle us and every yak farmer we encountered.  “Yi ji zou!” She’s shout–let’s go together!  And would engage in heavily accent Chinese chat-time.  Our guide eventually warmed to us, though everything she said, including her name was quietly mumbled.  We finally got some laughs out of her when we all sang Bohemian Rhapsody a capella from beginning to end on our descent.  As we reached the car, our driver dozing softly in the back seat, we could see the full arc of a rainbow forming over the valley.

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