Thursday morning one week ago I went to a bus stop in the downtown of Lijiang. This was a 25 minutes walk through the old town. All the tourist shops were closed, just a few early breakfast opportunities were open. At 5:55 the bus departed to the railway station, and as there was not yet any traffic, we were 15 minutes later arriving there. I got some slight troubles at the security controls, but this time only due to my water bottle. The train was quit annoying. As I hadn’t an ordinary seat. Instead it was supposed that 8 people sitting in a four bed compartment. But instead only adults, there were also additional 3 kids and the luggage of all of us. Hence, I needed to make clear that I also required a seat. The two girls were just sitting calmly but the little boy was a bit active. Also climbing around, but his mother didn’t cared if he was stepping on someone else’s feet. The adults watched movies or listened to music, without ear plugs as this is the Chinese style. After a while I didn’t give a fuck and was also listening to my music, for sure in Chinese style as I wanted to assimilate. Probably these people listened the first time to German punk rock and metal.
After two hours we arrived in Dali and I wanted to take the tourist bus to the old town with is about 16 km away. It seemed to me, that everybody else infront of me got a ticket, but as I was arriving the guy told me, all tickets were sold out. And even after I told him several times in English but with the Chinese sound pressure level (a.k.a. loud) I felt upset because I thought I was discriminated as a white person. In essence I took a public bus, which was after two stops full and it took about 40 minutes to get there.
At the old town of Dali Jojo was already waiting for me. Wednesday was holiday in Hong Kong and she took additional two days off. Hence, she already arrived a day before in Dali. After leaving my stuff at the hotel room we went to the lake and spent the afternoon there. We got a bad but therefore expensive coffee. Afterwards we headed to the three pagodas, but didn’t want to pay the high entrance fee, before we eventually got our dinner in the old town. After looking for a long time for the post office, we were able to find it, but unfortunately it was already too late and it was closed. The old town is nothing special. You’ll find the same tourist shops as in Lijiang but even more commercial and less pleasant as the small aisles in Lijiang. Hence we headed back to the hotel.
Wednesday morning one week ago the couple from Thailand and me took a shared minivan which was somehow organised by our hostel. As also some other locals went with us, it was quit interesting. The weather was nice and hence, I could enjoy the very autumn shaped landscape during the three hours drive along small winding mountain roads. There was only a few traffic and trucks take this road only, if it is absolutely necessary. From time to time a had a view back to the peak I was the day before.
In Shangri-la we said goodbye to each other, before I had a quick lunch, as I directly took the next bus back to Lijiang. This drive was nothing special, except maybe to see all the ongoing construction works of highway and railway beside the valley. After four hours we arrived in Lijiang, where I directly went to the railway station to get a ticket for the next morning. Due to late afternoon traffic jam, as each parents or grandparents got off their childs from school or kindergarten, it took me more than one hour to be back in downtown and eventually to my hostel in the evening. Here I grabbed all my stored stuff and repacked my complete backpack as well as my parcel with the hiking equipment I no longer need. In the evening I had a nice talk with my roommate Anna, she was living for 15 years in Germany but afterwards headed to Spain, as here parents are from both countries. I gave here some advices about the Tiger Leaping Gorge and we exchanged some of our travelling experiences in general.
Tuesday very early morning one week ago we took our very early breakfast after a night with just a bit rest. As my body was for sure not yet acclimatised to the altitude, the resting heart beat was still high during lay down. But luckily I didn’t got any headache. The host gave me a thermo trouser and a thermo jacket back in Haba village. As the wind was quit strong this early morning I decided to wear them. But nevertheless the temperature was still a bit above zero degrees at the base camp. We started all together at 3:30 o’clock, but even in the first 20 minutes to the tree limit, there was a big discrepancy in hiking speed. For me it was OK, but I already started to sweat, even as it was a bit cold around me. Hence, I had too many or think clothes on me. I tried to open my jacket, but couldn’t get rid of my thermo trousers. The single Chinese guy and the Chinese girl from the couple were faster than me, or I just slowed down a bit. Whereas the couple from Thailand and the Chinese guy from the couple were far behind us. I just followed my guide and tried not to increase my heart beat too much. And breathing become with each metre altitude harder. In the end I hadn’t any view beside my path, I was just one step after each other. When we were on a broad ridge, there was heavy wind with strong gusts. We stopped two times, otherwise the wind would us just blown away. In this case, being tall is not a very good option. At 7 o’clock after 3.5 hours we reached the beginning of the glacier and put on our crampons. We now were walking side by side with another group. Each guide put the short rope to the guest and pulled them up the mountain, as I guess they were using the first time crampons. Hūhuàn also asked me if he should do it. But I happily declined as the firn was excellent and I really enjoyed it. Hence my guide was mostly 10 to 20 metres away from me. I preferred going zig zag as it was faster for me, whereas the guides mainly went straight, but their legs looked more like frogs going up. In the end we overtook almost all of this doublepack except for one, from another group, which might started already 30 minutes earlier in the base camp. But that was more than OK, I didn’t expected that I’m so fast at all. When we arrived at quarter past eight at the peak there was no wind, no cloud only the sun was out. What an awesome view. We spent a couple of minutes, doing pictures and enjoying the view.
On the way down it was the same again. I was just easily walking side by side with my guide. And when we passed the other groups coming up, I finally understood that this was a crazy perspective for them, that a guest is just going up by himself without any help from the guide. The finally asked where I’m from before we continued our way down. Now that the sun was out, I heavily sweat in this thermo pants, I just wanted to get rid of them. But with crampons on the shoes, not a good idea. After walking down for more than one hour, we finally left all the snow, and I could exchange my pants. Now I felt the altitude, as I wasn’t hungry but I knew I should eat something. Also I might drunk too less on my way up. Hence the next less than two hours, I was exhausted and felt not good. I was just going down the base camp as I knew it will be better with each metre down. At about half past eleven we were finally back at the base camp. Hūhuàn provided me with some lunch, as the other guides who did that before were still in the mountains. After having some of its local dishes and some tea I felt completely restored, and no longer the beginning of the altitude sickness.
I packed my backpack and we started walking down at 12:30 o’clock. He told all locals that he knew, that I was walking all the way up to Haba Snow Mountain at my own. Especially when he told a guide from two Chinese tourists riding on their mules, which were on their way up, these were a bit ashamed. He seemed to be pretty proud of me as his guest, as he told me afterwards back in the village that I had a strong physical fitness. After two hours easy walk down, we arrived again the car at the house of his sister. Luckily I had no real problems with my knee, as this was my hardest fear. After about 2,800 metres going down, we spent the afternoon just sitting next to the stove.
Monday morning one week ago guide Hūhuàn picked me up from the hostel. The host discussed and said that I should put my backpack on a horse, but as I didn’t want to go without food and drink I was allowed to carry on my backpack at my own. The other five guys picked each a mule, with which they rode uphill. First Hūhuàn took me to its home and shortly introduced me to his mother before we went on to the house of his older sister in order to park the car their. He couldn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese but with Baidu translate and Google translate and lots of body language we could somehow communicate. When we arrived the first meadow he told me that this belongs to his family and his farther is herding the yak just a bit uphill…and the second meadow after two hours belongs to his sister. Hence, I was quit impressed. At the third meadow we made again a short break and after a few minutes the other tour members with their mules just arrived after us. They did the last 25 minutes to the base camp now also by foot. We arrived in early afternoon at the camp, and I set up my sleeping place and took some rest, I went for another hike without any backpack. As the basecamp is located at roughly 4,000 metres I wanted to do again at least additional 200 meteres up, because the old rule “go high – sleep low” in order to avoid headache. I just followed a path uphill in the beginning and then went just straight up above the rocks. After 1.5 hours I returned to the base camp. We got early dinner still during light and afterwards were introduced to crampons and harness. As each member got its own guide, we wouldn’t create a classical rope team as it would be common for high mountain tours. Hence, there was only a short rope attached to the climbing harness. After everything was setup we relaxed at the fire until darkness, and I went into my sleeping bag.
Sunday morning one week ago I continued my walk alone down to Tina’s Guesthouse, as I wanted to take the bus to Haba village. There is only once a day a bus. Hence, I didn’t want to miss it. The weather was still a bit cloudy, but for this short walk of bit more than one hour, not a problem at all. Once a arrived at the guesthouse, it was told to me, that the bus is leaving at about 13 o’clock. Hence, I had still enough time to go down to the middle leaping gorge, and I was even allowed to deposit my large backpack at the guesthouse. I enjoyed just walking down and my knee was also quit OK. Nevertheless, I still felt that it was not yet perfect. The walking down and up is not for free and if you want to go over the small suspension bridge, you have to pay an additional fee. In the end I paid the same price to the private persons than the entrance fee for the whole national park. Bit once you’re there you won’t decline it.
After my return to the guesthouse, the sun was out and I had still enough time before my bus was leaving. I met also the Swiss couple again. They told me, that nobody is allowed to go down to the gorge, whereas I said, I just came from there. But nevertheless, their bus was leaving 2 hours earlier because of that. If there was really a flooding afterwards…I’ve no idea. My bus was 20 minutes, but I guess this is still counted as on time here in the mountains. So I had enough time to show my pictures and it was nice for me to speak some German again after such a long time. When then bus passed the entrance of the middle leaping gorge, I saw two people going down…maybe it was not yet closed.
The bus drive was a bit less than two hours. Not really fast, as the road was in bad conditions and several large rocks were laying on the road. After we arrived Haba village, I was asking for a hostel. But instead I met by chance a couple from Thailand. They told me, that they want to go hiking the next two days. Hence, I just followed them to their hostel. I didn’t need to say anything. The Thailand guy just told his tour operator that I also want to go hiking and after 30 minutes everything was set up for me. I got a bed, food and a guide for the next two days, even as I don’t speak any Chinese. In the evening we had dinner with hotpot and grilled meat. I preferred the latter, as it was really tasty and because I don’t like to eat meat with bones. In the end another Chinese couple and Chinese guy joined the group of six persons.