Back in Chengdu we once again entrusted our bikes to the care of China’s cargo train company to send them to Kūnmíng, known as the “City of eternal Spring” for its equable climate and our base in the Yúnnán Province!
In the meantime we shipped ourselves to Lìjiāng, a truly time-locked little village in the province’s northwest. The traditional old town is a maze of cobbled streets between rickety wooden buildings and is dissected by a web of gushing canals that once brought the city’s drinking water and are now the source for a gaudily colored flowerage. Besides the five millions of tourists that are flooding the town every year, the town is mainly inhabited by the Naxi ethnic minority, an ancient nomad tribe that had developed its own pictographic writing 1000 years ago, which is still in use for some traditional literature. We will keep Lìjiāng in good memory for the hearty welcome we got at the lovely family-run hostel we stayed in, and the boozy, plum-schnaps soaked evening we spend with the whole family.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Close to Lìjiāng lies the Tiger Leaping Gorge. With 16km length and a giddy 3900m from the waters of the Jīnshā River to the snow-capped mountains of Hābā Shān it’s one of the world’s deepest gorges and another highlight on our China top sight list. So we packed our imaginary backpack and were setting off for a multi-day hike on a narrow trail, rock-hewn between steep, black cliffs and lofty crags with the raging stream a thousand meters down.
According to the legend a tiger once jumped across this rippling waters to escape an imperial hunting group, hard to believe since the stream is 50m wide with a current so strong, that it killed most of the heroes who ever tried to defeat it with a boat. Sculptured by the blind forces of nature over thousands of years, the scenery is truly magnificent and we were feeling utterly exhilarated while enjoying a well-earned beer at the terrace of the Half-Way Hut, watching the fading sunrays dancing between rock needles veiled in clouds, bearing resemblance to gigantic broken teeth.
On the Way to Laos
While we were enjoying some of China’s nature treasures, our bikes had safely arrived in Kunming. And after some serious (but ephemeral) cleaning, we were ready to finally set off on our bikes again, heading south to tackle the last 700km to Laos! The road lead us through soft valleys along the vast tea and banana plantations around Pu’er, a region with nearly tropical vegetation and extremely humid weather conditions that lead to a thick fog cloud that is enshrouding the world every morning, leaving a fine film of dew on literally everything. But therefor it provides the ideal climate for the famous Pu’er tea, which we – being old tea freaks – of course tasted thoroughly. Unfortunately our laptop didn’t like the tea sample Gui was feeding him with. Typical Chinese style, our first requests for help were vehemently “Meo Meo!” rejected, but by plain luck we eventually got help by some young backyard tinkerers who replaced the keyboard, even if it meant that we had to saw out some parts ^^ It’s thanks to them that we are now able to write you these lines 🙂