The following 2 weeks of cycling from Yushu was some of the best cycling we had done. We were blessed with sunny skies and despite climbing passes over 4500m, we could comfortably bike in shorts. The roads were quiet, food good, people friendly and the tibetan culture fascinating. This was certainly no longer China and we were greeted with waves and ‘Tashi Deleg’. The first day from Yushu took us to Xiewu where we stayed in the only hotel in town. It occupied a large building in the centre of the small town and the rooms were on the first floor. It had no reception but a couple of guys who took some money off us and showed us to a room. We walked along the decrepit corridor and were shown a room with damp walls and basic beds. It was our only choice. We checked out our neighbours and this is what we found………
The following day also presented us with blue skies and smooth roads. This evening could not have been more different though. We rolled into Serxu to find hundreds of cars and thousands of people. It was some kind of 4 day festival at the monastry here which is the largest outside of Tibet.
The surrounding meadows were full of tents and amazingly we managed to get a room at the hotel adjoining the monastry. It was a fascinating place and was a feast for the eyes and ears. As the only foreigners in town we were also quite an attraction and had many photos taken – some by more brave people who asked and others simply photos taken at any opportunity. Although not as bad as the Chinese, the Tibetans also offer little in the way of personal privacy.
We continued via Cacagoin and Zhuqin to Garze from where we then headed down the beautiful Yalong Canyon. The road was precariously built at the bottom of the cliff and although generally descending was a tough road with lots of ups and downs. On the other side of the river were various villages and every now and then a suspension bridge would lead across the river.
We camped on that side on a grassy ledge and on our second night in the canyon took advantge of some local hospitality. The people in the small village were very happy to put us up. We were invited into a grand house with typical local architecture where we were fed and given a huge room to sleep in in a seperate building. The whole house seemed set up for entertaining guests and along with us were several monks from the local monastry were also staying there. Sleeping was done on a mattress on the same bench as where guests sat to eat.
Cycling under blue skies and with some cute animals:
Nights were cold however and mornings frosty:
Litang was the next stop where my friend Pink Cheeks finally caught up with us. On his first attempt he got stuck in London due to not having a Russian visa. It is maybe not so clear that there are circumstances when transiting in Moscow that you need such a visa. No visa, no fly. He therefore had to buy a new flight from London and this time chosen not to fly via Russia. Litang was a town under construction and nearly all the roads were being dug up. There were lots of cute and interesting shops though, all of which I found had very practical names and were very helpful to the tourist. Certainly the names were much helpful than something like ‘Debenhams’ or ‘Migros’.
After another few days cycling with more mountains we were hit by some bad weather and had snow and rain to negotiate:
We weren’t the only ones affected….these poor people had booked an outdoor wedding:
We also slowly came out of the tibetan influenced area and into a section of more mainstream tourism. Shangri-La is the start of this and is a small town being expanded with huge modern buildings. The wooden ‘old town’ was recently caught up in a fire and many of the buildings which were razed are now being reconstructed. From here we took a very scenic back road to the Tiger Leaping gorge whic now has a government controlled entry on the road demanding a totally unjustified 65 RMB (7 Euro). The gorge itself hwever is spectacular and has an impressive hiking trail partly cut into the wall.
It is a popular hike amongst the more active chinese people and the locals charge a small fee for the use of the trail which passes through their land. We stayed at Sean’s guest house which is the oldest in the area and offers delicious food and amazing views of the gorge.
A tibetan face: