2009/03/05: Xia Suo Zi 71 km
We left Luding quite late, not sure how far we’d get. We turned onto a more minor road to continue following the Dado River, one of the four rivers that define Sichuan Province. (Si=four, chuan=rivers) . The two days took us through a spectacular narrow canyon, a landscape that would make a good set for Lord of the Rings movie. We were travelling upstream alongside the river that boiled and tumbled.
Some of the road surface was reasonable, other parts torn up by construction or destroyed by rockfall. Hydro projects were under construction, and we contemplated setting up our tent in the intake of a (not yet used) turbine tunnel. We spent the first night at a tiny village, where a basic room, meal, and the three computers of the local wang ba were all in the same small building. Dinner was served communally, so we ate with three young Sichuanese couples, including the cook. We struggled to converse, with phrase book and dictionary in hand. My last post is a thank you to our friends there.
2009/03/06: Danba 78 km (odo at 3,421 km)
On the second day, we had a breakfast of noodles at a road construction camp. At a later snack stop, a Tibetan man was doing skilled woodworking to build some kind of threshing implement. Just before entering Danba, we were stopped by PSB officer along with a local policeman, and questioned about our motives and specifically whether we might be journalists. They escorted us to the hotel (“Backpackers’ Hostel”) that takes foreigners. Our planned route forward seems to meet with their approval, and I think we seemed to be suitably non-threatening. There is rumour of some areas of western Sichuan and Qinghai being closed to foreigners during early March, but so far our planned route seems to be doable.
We went in search of a snack, and found ourselves in the Tibetan part of town where we were offered cha, with gestures toward a traditional wooden butter churn. We were served yak butter tea in bowls. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s not bad. We haven’t seen any yaks yet, but the cattle are starting to look a bit yak-like to me, shaggy with upturned horns. Can they be hybrids?
We will be climbing to the highest part of our route in China during the next week, and Chris is carefully checking the weather forecast in that area. It is looking quite good, and we will likely move on tomorrow. A month ago, I could not have imagined ever reaching the desert areas of Western China, but now it seems a real possibility. We would prefer to have made it through there before the beginning of June, because we understand that June is sandstorm month. We could reach Xining in about two weeks.