Wednesday, 11 November 2009
After leaving Lijiang for Lugu Lake the road seemed fairly OK for the first while. Then we started dropping down a river gorge, where we met German cyclists Matthias and Katarina pedalling up the hill. We could see a big zig-zag drop ahead of us, and they were the bearers of bad news regarding the troubles awaiting us. By that evening we weren't even half-way up a bad "cobble-stone" 40km hill, and we camped at a rare level spot with water (scaring the poor farmer's goats and pigs beyond recovery). Two nights later we were on another rough-road mountain pass, and camped at 3000m behind a peasant house next to a shed occupied by pigs, chickens, and a dog with puppies (every screech of the tent zipper at night was met by a chorus of grunting, squawking, barking, and puppy wails). Eventually we reached the beatiful Lugu Lake, and spent three nights at different villages on the lake shore. The community around the lake is apparently the only remaining Matriarchal society in the world (women are officially the boss - family lineage is transferred down from the side of the mother). Surprisingly (perhaps because the season was at it's end) there were very few tourists who were almost all local Chinese tourists. The lake is at a level of 2700m, and from there we went down along a spectacular gorge to the county capital of Yam Yuang. The down didn't last very long, however, as within the next two days we climbed everlasting passes, again over 3000m, before reaching the S-Central Sichuan city of Xichang (home of the Chinese satelite launching business). Some of the isolated mountain homesteads supply piped water to trucks and busses for brake cooling down the steep passes (we also camped at some of these - level spot for tents, and water for cooking and washing). Often the local bus passengers suffer from motion-sickness, and they double over at the roadside to violently "bark at the ants". However, once the ever-present scruffy black pigs are released from their over-night accommodation, they waste no time to clean up the mess. One morning I took a walk up the hill and found what I thought was a suitable ditch for my morning ablutions. As I later cycled past that spot I was pleased to note that I hadn't left a permanent blot on the landscape (the busy little pot-bellied janitors were doing their job - one of them still had toilet paper protruding from his jaw). Enough of that for now, until we take on the river road to the East of Sichuan Province. Distances cycled since Lijiang were:- Mtn camp 62 km; Ninglang 74 km; Mtn camp 59 km; Lousui (Lugu Lake) 21 km; Lige (Lugu Lake) 10 km; Wuzhilou (Lugu Lake) 27 km; Yam Yuang 124 km; Yalong River 77 km; and Xichang 79 km. Total distance cycled since the start of this trip is 48 972 km.