From the Tiger Leaping Gorge, an old boat takes people across the river from where we headed south and over a huge pass into Yulong Snow Mountain Scenic area a Chinese AAAAA classified scenic area. On the road passing through here, there was already the toll booth where they demanded a hefty fee for entering the park. As we just wanted to cycle through, we spent a long time negotiating and as it was almost dark and starting to rain, they agreed to waive the fee and allow us in. Fortunately we found an old and unused hotel of sorts which offered a dry camping spot and some great views:
Inside the park we passed by a pretty pool area from where the shuttle buses to the glacier park left from. The area was heaving with Chinese tourists following their flag wielding guides and wearing thick borrowed jackets so they would not freeze up at the glacier. It was as entertaining watching these people and their selfie taking as it was looking at the rock pools:
The next town on the Yunnan tourist trail is Lijiang which is on the UNESCO world heritage list and famous for its systems of waterways and bridges. More than anywhere else, Lijiang is heaving with chinese visitors and contains a large pedestrian area with ‘old’ buildings which I personally suspect are not so old. There are flowers growing everywhere and a network of small canals in which young children urinate. It is clear why this is a chinese favourite. The shops have a repeating nature and sell either drums, yak products, textiles, silver or some kind of food. I enjoyed strolling around, but Doctor and Pink Cheeks found the place way too cheesy and preferred to chill in the courtyard of our guesthouse.
Heading south the countryside remained attractive, the high mountains became more like hills and we descended to just over 2000m. The scenery is pretty and there is a lot of agriculture:
Erhai Lake is another visitor magnet and again the more sporty Chinese come here with their bikes and ride along the lakeside. It was really relaxing cycling with some constant nice views of the lake:
Dali is the last town on the Yunnan tourist trail and was something of a mix between Shangri-La and Lijiang. Similarly however it also had thousands of chinese tourists jostling down the narrow pedestrian streets.
I had no expectations for the rest of China, but the days cycling south of Dali towards Laos, were also a real treat. The climate became warmer and more humid. Manjinglancun is one of the larger towns here and is a renowned destination for the migration of wealthy Chinese from the north. In their cold winter time they come here to seek the warmth and indeed in early November it was pleasant in the evening with just a t-shirt.
South of here is a further amazing piece of road construction. Through the rolling hills, a large highway has been built. Huge sections are on stilts or in tunnels. The old road still exists and of course as the spirit of the trip is to avoid large roads and travel the roads less used, this was the choice. It was narrow and went up and down every small hill. In parts it was being reconstructed for whatever reason and became like a mudbath in the rain. Nonetheless it provided several days of memorable riding. The main road would have been much easier….but what is the point in cycle touring if you are riding main roads???
Finally the border was in site and it was almost with reluctance that I passed through the smooth proceedings and crossed into Laos, but not of course before enjoying a final Chinese kebab 😉