Tuesday, June 13, 2006

long time coming...

We've been in the saddle riding through the Himalaya for over a week now, and decent internet connections have been hard to come by.

City's tend to temporarily suck the life out of me if I'm not careful, and getting a bit sick in Kunming didn't help much. But that's all over now! Mountains have the opposite effect on me.

Since KunMing, we have spent time the backpacker center of DaLi, the Chinese tourist Mecca LiJiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, and a backroad over a 3800 meter pass to get here.

Now we are in ZhongDian, a.k.a. Xiang Ge Li La, a.k.a. Shangri-La. Shangri-La is a bit of a strech - a ploy to bring in tourists no doubt - but it's a beautiful area none the less. On the edge of the Tibetan plateau, this has apparently been a centre where Tibetans met with YunNanese and others to trade for the last thousand years.

I don't really have anything good to say about DaLi and LiJiang, so I won't. Onto Tiger Leaping Gorge. Located about ten kilometers after the "first bend" of the Yangtze River (where the Yangtze essentially turns back on it's self, therefore flowing out into central China rather than Southeast Asia - you understand the significance), the gorge is flanked by 4000 meter peaks on both sides, while the Yangtze flows at 1900 meters. It's big. It's so big that it was really difficult to take a decent picture of it. You had to be there.

Roadside house.

There's even farming in a few more open spots along the gorge.

We waited here for a couple of hours after we came upon a little landslide that injured three road workers. It seems that while they were clearing the rocks from an earlier landslide, more rocks came down and broke a few arms. It was a little scary for a while, as those with the "authoritah" were panicking. Eventually a van was commandeered to shuttle these boys to the hospital. After the authoritah left, some locals took to clearing the rocks that blocked the road themselves. They would sprint into the red zone, grab or push a rock of the edge and sprint out. Then another guy would take his turn. I can attest that at least two more fair sized rocks fell during this operation. After it was suitably clear, a truck approached the slide area and everyone but the driver got out. They ran across one by one, and finally the truck sped through. About twenty vehicles proceeded in this manner. It had been about an hour since the last rocks had fallen, so last of all Brett and I also made our way through. hmmm maybe I shouldn't tell this story.

We stayed at a nice guest house in the gorge for the night. There, this little girl taught me the correct way to beckon "BaoZi" the dog. She also laughed to herself every time she saw me walking (I developed a limp, not from bicycling, but after walking my knee into a firehydrant placed in the middle of the sidewalk in LiJiang).

The little farmstead above was around 3400 meters. They raise pigs, horses and a few cattle, and farm wheat and vegetables.

After the gorge, we continued on a backroad towards ZhongDian and eventually over a huge pass. We must have done about 1700 meters of climbing over two days. It was slow going, but the views were great. There were four distinct valleys, scenically and culturally. In one valley an older women dressed in full traditional wear stuck her tongue out at me (this is a greeting I understand?). I stuck my tongue out at her in return and she laughed.

One valley I have named "Friendly Valley" and the next I named "Crazy Valley". In "Crazy Valley" I was accosted by a marauding group of ten year olds. They grabbed onto my panniers and stopped me dead in my tracks. They demanded chocolate. They attempted to open my bags, and then tried to take them off my bike. I humored them for a while and then said my farewell. They immediately gave chase and managed to stop me again. In the end I had to employ a technique that I use on mountain dogs. I pretended that I was going to kick them with one foot as I rode away. It worked.

A man also hissed at Brett in Crazy Valley.

We came over the pass and dropped down a few hundred meters, but everything was different. The houses, the people, the livestock. Yaks everywhere. Monstrous houses. I guess this was the cultural border of Tibet. 30 km we arrived here in ZhongDian...

A current events section of my highly informative blog follows...

Strangely enough, I may be teaching English again soon. I've been offered a job as an English Instructor at an English camp in Korea. I did apply for this job, so it's not as random as it might seem...

Your input regarding whether or not I should take the job will be given 50% weight in my consideration. Leave your comments below. The remaining 50% will be determined with the flip of a coin.

If I decide to take this job I will fly to Seoul in mid July and stay until late August. Then I can come back to China and... do something. I am forming more diabolical plans in regards to what exactly I should do. I guess I'll let you know.

On a slightly different note, I'd like to say "Gong Xi Gong Xi" to my sister Simone and Neil. If you didn't know it yet, they recently got engaged. Congratulations and love from across the way.

If you're interested in getting to know these two fine young people more, you can check out their blogs on the right. Maybe they could start a couples blog detailing their engagement and the trials and tribulations of organizing a wedding! Could be good reading.

They're probably getting married next year from what I understand. I guess if you don't see me before then, you'll see me... then.

I know that I have a bad track record for attending friends and family's weddings in the past few years. So, if any other people out there are thinking about getting married next year, perhaps you could get married a week before or after my sister.

If you do, I promise here and now that I will attend.


Bill German said...

Awesome mountains. I thought the sierra's were majestic

marcandorkylie said...

I think you should not take the job and come to Africa with us! (But I am slightly biased in my opinion so maybe make mine count for 25%) Kylie

Katherine said...

I vote for not taking the job and you moving back to Canada, specifically Ontario because that's where we'll be. Wait a minute, I'm sensing a trend here that people are going to vote according to where they are and not necessarily what's in your best interest. Perhaps you should put 100% of the decision onto the coin flip.

Simone said...

Well, I say go to Korea, it's only a month and a half, right? It might be a nice break from all the cycling. It'll give your muscles a rest.

Sparks said...

Yukon. Need I say more? I find out tomorrow about the land I applied for...