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The Chinese Himalayas - The Sichuan Tibet Highway

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you

Today was the day I had travelled all the way from Yangshuo for.

It was time to journey into the unknown again. It was time to venture into and through China's end of the Himalayan Mountains. I was so happy that I even smiled as the 6:00am alarm filled the cold air of the Dragon Cloud Hostel room. I had my shower, packed my wet towel and Judy and I headed out to grab a cab to the bus station.

We boarded the 8:00am bus which slowly took us up into higher altitudes before taking us down nearing a thousand metes to Xiangcheng. I had no idea it went down until after playing charades later in the evening a man told us Xiangcheng sat at 2400 meters. HHHhhhmmm, never would have guessed! The thing that quickly began to worry me was the fact that we would be going over two thousand meters in one day to reach Litang.

"Mah Mummah sayez: never travel up more than 300 meters in a day when you reach higher altitudes"

It wasn't my mum at all, but I do remember someone telling me that.

Oh well, too late to turn back now!

OK, for those whom are interested in taking this journey. This first leg was the scariest part of the journey. We had a few rather hairy moments. The roads were in a very bad way in many parts. We past trucks that were bogged and buses that had slid over the edge. Bodies lay torn apart on the hill side....har har, just joking. To be serious, the roads really were as bad as I said and we really did have some hairy moments. The worst was after waiting for one of Chinas typical big blue trucks to un bog itself.

Our driver thought he'd give it ago.

Before this he had gotten us through many deep patches of sludge. Sometimes sliding much to close to the edge for all on board to remain sitting with that snug cozy feeling of safety. This time the sludge patch was even deeper and, oh so very much longer. The mud continued up the hill and around the corner. We reversed and raced up the hill, through the sludge we slid going closer and closer to the edge. As we hit the bend we slid even closer and slowed down too much in the deep mud. The side of the bus we were on was the side looking DOWN THE 3000 or so meter hill. There wasn't many trees until around a thousand meters to catch us.

Within seconds the bus window was nearly looking straight down the hill side. As the wheels spun us deeper into the mud our window became closer and closer to the hill side. Poor Judy was making strange sounds beside me. Me, I just stared down the hill thanking whom ever it is we thank for the toilet visit that morning. I totally shat myself (not literally thankfully) but yes, I was preeeeeeeeetty darn scared. This was worse than the near miss on the bus with Snack Bar Jenny last summer in the hills coming back from Mingyong. This time I stared down the treeless hill.

As I'm here to write this it is obvious that the bus didn't go that last bit and topple down the hill. Our magical bus driver got us through and we made the next piece of dry road. I told Judy that we were no where near the edge. She swore we were, I swore we weren't. She was right but felt better anyhow.

The views from the bus window until now were unbelievable. Yes, you actually do see roaming yaks and solitary Tibetans do watch your bus pass with wide eyed amazement, but there is so much more. Yaks actually roam in groups along the road creating extra waiting time as the bus has to wait for them to slowly make their way past or to the side of the road. Depending on the speed of the bus, it is a tad scary when you fly around a blind corner to face a group of Yaks standing in the middle of the road for no reason.

We stopped at several small nomadic towns made up of many black tents. Here we dropped off parcels or collected more parcels to be dropped of further down the line. We saw so many solitary people walking along the road in the middle of now where. They would have been days from a town. Why they were there, only they would know. Another not so awesome sight is that of a man squatting on the side of the road with his pants down to his knees smiling up as the bus passes. I guess when you gotta go ya gotta go!

The landscape was just amazing. The peaks were huge. This time of year, sorry, no snow covers the peaks. It's a beautiful sight as you look into the distance. From the closest mountain looking into the distance you can see the colours change from Browns into blues. Looking down, way way down into the valleys you see a lush green carpet covering the ground. Small villages can be spotted through out each valley. I guess it would make a very quiet life. One that I wouldn't like to live. Imagine spending a winter in such a place. No power! ARGH! Not for me I'm sorry. I can do without alot of things but not power!

There were several more 'fun' parts to the journey but none compared to that one so I will skip them and go to lunch. HHHhhhmmm, lunch! Lunch really sucked mate. We passed a fair sized eatery for that part of the world and stopped at some tiny place that had one wok. One freakin wok for a bus full of people.

Who's friend is this?

Oh, The Magical Bus Drivers! DAMN!

We ended up with pig fat and plain rice for a price I couldn't even laugh at. Instead most got angry and stormed out of the little wooden shack. The toilets! You couldn't use them, instead people had used the side of the road most of the way up the hill. Everywhere I tried had a little surprise waiting for me to step in. Instead, the guys just simply used the road. The girls went up around the bend and done the same.

This is China!

The next part of the journey was...lets say much safer by roads standard but much more dangerous when it came to the bus driver. The poor bugger had taken us through some of the worst roads I've been on, probably shat himself as much as all of us and still had another four hours of driving. There were two Police on the bus heading our way. One of them sat beside him and continually talked to him. We were still thousands of meters up and his eyes were closing for longer and longer each time. His reaction time when we came across a car coming around a blind corner was getting very questionable.

Finally we stopped to fill the bus with water. The bus driver thought it a good time to wash the bus and spent much more than the usual three minutes in the cool air with a heap of cold water being splashed over his face. From then on I for one felt safe again. He was still tired but not sleepy. Nine and a tad hours after leaving Zhongdian we arrived in Ziangcheng.

It took us 9.5 hours to travel 240 kms!

The following day it took the bus 12 hours!

The week prior it took the bus 14.5 hours!

It seems our roads really were good in the end.

To use Carmellas (whereshegoes) latest ending phrase: Today I'm happy....for good roads!

OK XIANGCHENG (say Shungchung)

TICKETS OUT: I loved everything about the place except for the BITCH, did everyone hear that...THE BITCH who runs the ticket office at the bus station. Yes, in the Good Book (LP) she is the one who 'usually doesn't turn up in the mornings'. In my book shes the one who was standing behind the door when they handed out 'good and cheerful' manners. I've travelled alot of China and she is probably the worst I've ever come across.

The bus was met by several Hotel Staff telling you how good their hotel is using photos. We decided to check out the huge Tibetan style guesthouse above the bus station. Believe me, it was BEAUTIFUL! Infact times beautiful by ten. Every single room was covered in colourful paintings that covered the entire walls. It was like entering a Middle Eastern palace.

BUT, the rooms were small and stuffy, which I can get over...

BUT, I can not get over a 9:30pm shut down!

BEST ACCOMMODATION: No way folks. We left and found the 'Coffee Tea Hotel'. To find this hotel is easy. Head out the small side gate, look across the road and on the right there it is. You will see a sign advertising a 'Bath'. They wanted 100 Yuan for a room with a bathroom but we got them down to 80 Yuan. Travelling in pairs is great, that's only 40 Yuan each and you don't have to head out side in the middle of the night to use the horrid open toilet with no doors. In fact we got a western toilet and a HUGE bath! The staff were great too. The 60ish year old owner whom continually looks at his old style little time piece on a chain was ever so helpful. That comes a little later though.

We spent the next hour or so walking around the tiny town. It took only twenty minutes to walk from one end to the other but we stopped, took pictures and had a good time with some of the kids. For dinner we decided on the little eatery that had a sign out front that said 'Tibetan Green Eatery Food' or something. It's easy to find. It's on the right hand side as you walk up the hill. We didn't eat there as we found out it had rooms.

BEST FOOD: We didn't want rooms so we headed next door (on the right) to the little BBQ type eatery. Mate, it was the best decision we've made for a long time. It was awesome. You get a hot plate, raw meat of your choice, veggies and potatoes to cook.

BUT...Not only do you get food, you get a pink long sleeved smock to cover yourself.

So totally awesome that the locals stopped at the door in droves to watch us cook our food in our pink smocks. We sat for hours and cooked and ate and cooked and ate. It was a great night. Afterwards we headed across the road and sat for a few beers and played cards until nearing midnight. Hey, everything else closed at 10:30pm or so, we were the night owls! Now that's a real bugger for me! Beers N Noodles to you...shane

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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