Monday, May 7, 2007

Dali, 19/4
According to our Master-Plan, we should have started heading north, towards Sichuan and the Northern Silk-Road.
we chose the detour west and past through Dali & Lijiang, the tourist attractions, thus cycling through higher mountains, hopefully more beautiful.
So, our "destination", when leaving Kunming, was Dali, the famous ancient town, lying in the shadows of a 4,000 meter high mountain, overlooking a lake.
Finally, reaching Dali, we were disappointed.
Everybody we asked (Rami does statistics of peoples' opinions) told us about this beautiful place. We expected something much prettier. And, the whole 'old' town was rebuild for tourists, nothing old at site!
Worst of all: there is this big, beautiful mountain on the west, but none of the popular guesthouses we checked (and we checked) has a balcony or a roof-top overlooking it! Yes, from our bed we could see the snow on the peak, through the window (not bad!), but we were looking for somewhere to mingle with travelers, talk with other people, while enjoying the tranquility under the mountain. We couldn't find this place (while in India you have these places everywhere).
We once sat at the teressa of a tourist restaurant, enjoying the view (through electricity wires), but, in a place like this no one talks with other people... you get the point.
Don't get us wrong! Dali is full of good vibes, friendly, hippy people (that Rami doesn't trust, thinks most of them are hypocrites), the locals are rather cool with the massive tourism (mostly Chinese), wherever you walk you see the mountain and there's plenty to do: learn Chinese, Tai-Chi, learn Chinese, Tai-Chi, etc.
The place just wasn't for us.
We rested a day, lazying around, and headed north, towards our next "tourist destination", Lijiang, 200 km away.
P.S. - Gal bought a book in English - the real reason for going to "tourist destinations".

Houses in Dali.

Ready to go.

Carrying a baby on the back.

Small town market.

Garlic land.

Garlic market.
A gorge, from one valley to another:

On the way to a village, for the night.


Local pottery factory.

The mountain flora.

First prayer flags.

Gal lighting a cigarette.


And descending.

2 Yuan ($0.25), 22/4
What a wonderful day!
We cycled only 34.5 km, 4 of them out of last nights' town and back to the mechanic, stopped early, walked a bit, drank a lot and even had a warm shower!
First thing we did this morning, after coffee, on the 'good' roof of our fantastic hotel (we're a bit embarrassed to talk about accommodation so enthusiastically) and taking a shower, better than in Tel-Aviv, at our crumbling flat, was to change Ramis' front brake cable. On the 400 m' down hill to the valley yesterday, Rami felt it tear a bit.
The nice hotel employ (the modern lesbian) led us across the main road, opposite the hotel, to "the specialist", an old bicycle mechanic with a junk-yard shop. From the fantasy of buying Shimano brake-cables the guy put a 2 Yuan cable ($0.25).
Rami was thrilled! We were at our 4812 km; lets see how long it lasts...
After a typical noodle soup + traditional post-breakfast dump, we left town. After 1.5 km Rami told Gal he heard a worrying sound from somewhere in his bike. Half a km later, seeing his back wheel was doing '8-s', he figured out he broke a spoke. Not taking it too seriously (after buying 5 'inner spokes' in Kunming), we headed back to town, using our phrase-book asking for "the best mechanic in town". To our surprise, they all lead us to "the specialist"! He was pleased to see us, this time with all our equipment. Using our brilliant, improvised cassette-opener, we quickly (less than 5 minutes) replaced the spoke with a 2 Yuan ($0.25) local spoke and balanced the wheel. We were at our 4816 km; lets see how long it lasts...
We finally left town. The valley climbed slowly, all (short) day long, scattered villages & calm scenery all around. The ride was very relaxed: no tough climbs, no fast descends, little traffic, a nice popsicle stop and extremely good weather (partially cloudy & cool)...
We finally reached the first turnoff from the highway to Lijiang. It was 15:30, 45 km of mountain road to Lijiang (the next turnoff to Lijiang is not as hilly) and Gals' knees & back wanted the stop.
We found a small, simple (but elegant) motel near this no-where junction.
We threw our stuff in the room, bought a beer and a 2 Yuan ($0.25) glass of local fruit spirt (you see it everywhere), and climbed the mountain behind the village to the village-pagoda, overlooking the valley we climbed.

Replacing a spoke.

The village pagoda.

On the way to the Yangzi river.

Snow peaks.

Climbing to Lijinag.

The valley towards Zhongdian - we'll be back.

A well positioned monestary.

Climbing to 2633 m.

Down, but not too much.

Lijiang old town.

Leaving Lijiang.

Back on the same road, still beautiful.

The Yangzi.

Yulong Xueshan, 5596 m.

Leying on the road...

Enterance to the "Tiger Leaping Gorge".

We were climbing all day. Since we left Qiatou, the road climbed gradually along the river, under the snow peak mountains. Towards the afternoon Gal became tiered, so we decided we'll stop at the next village. After passing only 2 small villages till then, we weren't too optimistic.
It seemed the climb will never end! Gal was so tiered she became frustrated. Then we reached a tunnel - her worse nightmare (she got over the fear of bridges). It was over 300m. After a few minutes of panic Rami found a solution: Gal will hitch a ride past the tunnel, while Rami will cycle both bicycle (1 at a time).
Our dream of a descend to a village in the coming valley (isn't that the reason for the tunnel?) was shattered! We saw the road indeed climbs forever.
2 Km later we saw 2 houses (shacks). We called "Hello" and a man appeared. As we showed him with our hands & head, eyes shut, a sleeping notion, the man immediately opened the gate and welcomed us. We jumped on the offer, as it just started to rain (again).
We parked the bikes in the courtyard and entered the house (the northern wall of the "hirbe" was a nylon sheet, the same as what we bought for $2, to cover our bikes from the rain), sitting near the fire, warming, while dinner was heated for us. above the fire, mushrooms were being dried to be sold in the market.
In the house lived a young couple (younger than) with their 1 year old baby. We managed to communicate a bit with our phrasebook and hand signals. We all felt comfortable.
The next morning we had rice & fried potatoes for breakfast, near the fire.We offered them money, but the strongly refused. We headed on.
Up the valley, towards Zhongdian.

A night in Wu-Di, not on any map.
Leaving Wu-Di.
We continued the climb of the previous day. We climbed another 600 m, passing 3,000 m for the first time. Again, no downhill after the climb... a platoue.
We wanted food! We were hungry, but there was nothing. "There is a restaurant... in 20 km", we were told. Finally, we found a hut selling warm Pepsi. They had hot water, so we, embarrassed, took out our "instant noodle soup" ("Mana Hama", in Hebrew) and had the best view one can ask for "instant noodle soup" lunch.

Another climb.

3,200 m.

A peek down.

3,200 m platoue.


Since the last pass, the platoue, the architecture has changed. We saw Tibetan traditional houses scattered around the valley.
We had 40 km to Zhongdian and didn't see any reason to kill ourselves, reaching there after dark, looking for a room in a tourist place (during the local holiday). We decided to look for a hotel. The only one we found was terrible, and it was too early to stop (in a terrible place), so we continued.
It was becoming dark. Rami decided we'll stop in the next village, so we did. Once again, we asked where can we sleep. We found ourselves in one of the Tibetan houses/mansions.
Obviously, the house & the valley + small river were picturesque. The family was far from poor.
All was nice, till the next morning, when the father arrived and mentioned in Chinese "50 Yuan", an outrageous amount for sleeping on the floor & eating plain rice for breakfast.
After the father left, we gave our host (the son) 30 Yuan, and left.
So what have we learned?

Tibetian houses, all around.

A night inside one, 15 km from Zhongdian.


Yak cheese.

Zhongdian from our hotel roof.