Jiuzaighou National Park
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
19Trip End Jan 03, 2007
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Where I stayed
27th Sept :
The stress is obviously getting to me, I had a temper tantrum today and burst into tears at the injustice of things when just couldn't cope anymore. Time to escape the masses, take time out and do nothing. Juggling money, availability and access, requires an aptitude that sometimes escapes me, and on top of that I've got to remember when it's Saturday and Sunday!
Y121 ($22) bought us a single ticket, including foreigner's insurance, on the bus to Jiuzaighou (Jew-zie-go) World Heritage National Park. When the ticket price includes insurance you know you 're in for a hairy ride.
A constant stream of buses pass with just a bee's whisker between the wing mirrors. Overtaking manoeuvres on the edge of precipitous drops are the norm, and usually on blind bends as well. So the driver blasts away on the horn so that if another vehicle is coming they can slow down and let them back in, as I said before, they work on a basis of co-operation.
But Hey! If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room! Right!
The Chinese live amongst the most appalling collection of rubble and rubbish. There are bridges and tunnels going up all along the river, how they get the cranes and graders up the steep sides of the mountains, all about 4000m, is beyond me.
GOBSMACKED & AWESTRUCK..... After the first 2 hours of the 11 hour trip, the scenery just blew us away. Everybody talks about the National Park but no-one ever mentions the drive.
The Great Ocean Road and Amalfi Drive have got nothing on this road, just don't sit near the front of the bus cause you don't want to see what's going on with the traffic; the never-ending stream of buses on the narrow winding road provides plenty of isometric exercise as
you clench your buttock muscles in horror.
The road follows the Min River all the way, and the raging waters are a spectacle. Maurie would be rapt with the kayaking, grade 3-4 & churnng all the way, no quiet pools to contemplate the best shotover. Yeehaa!
In places the road zigzags past Tibetan villages built from rocks and river stones, and all with satellite dishes. The road rises to 3000m with sheer cliffs dropping on one side, and other places with mountains soaring straight up that make Mitre Peak look like an outcrop; this is the Longmen Shan or the Dragon Gate Mountains.
And today I Yak Sat..., just near Songpan the villagers bring out their huge white yaks all decorated in brilliant colours, and for 50 cents you can sit on top of these beautiful but smelly beasts and have your photo took... couldn't resist even though this isn't normally my bag.
They even have Bactarian Camels, the real ones with the double humps not our dromedaries.
At this altitude they use timber for their houses, probably the larch that grows up the mountain sides. Timber racks 15 feet high are used for drying wheat, and there's 100's of them.
Every skerrick of land is cultivated even way up the slopes, and the farmers come in from their labours in the afternoon with huge bushel baskets on their backs, strapped from their foreheads, loaded with fresh vegies.
A rainbow is a rare occurence in China, mainly because you need sunshine and they don't see much blue sky in the cities, so when a perfect one appeared in an unbroken arc the whole bus got excited. The sun didn't last long but at least there's no smog here in the hills. This has to be the best value bus trip ever! 460 klms for $22 and the most incredibly diverse scenery.
All 36 passengers (and we were the only round eyes) clapped the 2 bus drivers when we arrived at 7pm.
Then we hunted around for a hotel ($20) and went down to the square to get something to eat. The Tibetans love their chargrills, so we selected a variety of meat and vegetables on skewers, then they paint on some oil/spicy mixture that's typical Sichuan cuisine, bbq it over coals and serve it up cooked beautifully ($1 ea) plus a big bottle of beer for $0.65 each.
We dined in painted marquees sitting on kindergarten stools at coffee tables.
Thank goodness eating and drinking is cheap, and rooms are average, 'cause the park entry is the biggest sting.
The entry fee is Y220 ($37) plus Y90 ($15) for the buses that pick up and drop off all day. There're 3 valleys along the 50k's of road, and it's all uphill, so you wouldn't want to walk.
The only ray of light here was the 2nd day free option, but you had to make sure your photo is printed on the ticket, but they still slug you another Y50 for the bus the 2nd day; nobody checked our bus ticket so we decided to wing it... & saved Y100.
Jiuzaighou is a glorious alpine valley studded with dazzling turquoise lakes as clear and bright as gemstones. In the primeval forest of old growth firs, spruces, larch, and deodars, we could really smell the pine fragrance, luckily they stopped logging here in the 70's. The most popular time to visit is autumn, late October or early November, when the hills are totally golden and red with autumn tones from maples etc, and the backdrop of the first snows on the upper peaks is picture postcard stuff.
Waterfalls that'll blow you away, the main Pearl Falls are 163m wide, cascading onto calcified rocks and rushing away in brilliantly clear streams. Panda Falls cascade thru the forest for 75m, literally roaring over the rocks and there's a photo opportunity at each twist and turn. Heavily forested and surrounded by massive peaks over 4000m, with Tibetan villages dotting the park, it is a national treasure and home to the protected golden monkeys and pandas. Haven't seen either, but have seen two varieties of squirrels, the smallest one about 12cm plus fluffy tail and so cute, and a very healthy looking ginger stoat.
I've never been at an altitude higher than Kosciuszko at 2230m or thereabouts, and I had real trouble with the altitude here at only 3000m, going dizzy after only 10 stairs, gasping for breath. This is a real worry for me as I want to walk the Inca Trail next year, and that's higher than here.
Just a little bit of Chinglish: Stop of Getting on Bus (Bus Stop) and Same Lake as Before Lake (2nd Lake).
We have been in China four weeks now and still having an amazing time, little annoyances notwithstanding.
Tonight we are sitting in the common room of a traditional Tibetan house where we have negotiated to stay tonight. This is a no-no as far as the National Park is concerned.
Anyway we approached a little place with a woman outside and made the sleeping sign and they got the picture. We're hoping they light the fire inside this brilliantly decorated room as it's only 14 degrees. The day has been overcast, 8 degress, showery, bright haze, raining and then the sun came out... something for everyone.
The cost of staying here is Y100 plus Y30 for dinner, so that's a bargain at $22 for the two of us for such an experience. I just hope I don't have to drink yak's milk tea!!
Staying overnight in the village gives us an extra half day to walk around a couple of the lakes, and enjoy the place for just a little bit longer before we leave tomorrow. Saturday marks the start of the National Holiday and this place gets packed, so we're outta here.
The Tibetan's national dress is very colourful, and they wear wolf skin hats which I'd love for winter around the campfires. We have bought 2 hats, but they are the cowboy type they wear, with fancy stitching, very fetching.
For the 2nd time I have picked up a bug that's given me a head cold, so I'm fighting that off as best I can. Perhaps that's why I've had trouble with my breathing. Crawled into my yak bed feeling crook, and woke up feeling crooker.
Sat: The day has dawned sunny, blue sky everywhere and now we can actually see the mountains... lucky for us we're still in the park. We took the bus up to the far reaches of the valley and went mad with the photos, the lake and mountains and conifers looked just like the pictures we'd seen of the Canadian Rockies. We couldn't stop oohing and aahing, simply magnificent.
We're surprised at the few Round-eyes we see in this top Chinese tourist spot, on average we see 4 a day... that's so few.
Sun: We had to go to Nanping, about 40k's away to pick up a bus back to Chengdu going back via a different route. Well, what a shemozzle that turned out to be. When we boarded at 6...gulp...am, the bus headed back the way we'd come into town, our eyebrows shot up, we looked at eachother and said "Shit, this is not looking good". And so it was we ended up back in Jiuzaighou on the same route back to Chengdu. Ya gotta laugh, fair dinkum!
Once again they handed out the sick bags, and sure enough, half of them chucked up, it's not pretty! This turned out to be a 12 hour trip so we were in need of some R&R for a coupla days.