Shangri-la Backroads

Misty Morning in Shangri-la (Claire)

Misty Morning in Shangri-la (Claire)

We took the recommendation of Bill Weir and Alice and Andoni, cyclists we’d met way back in Almaty in 2005, and took a back road rather than Highway 214 to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We had at least one climb each day, one day we had three climbs totaling about 18 kilometers. The road is now paved except for washouts and we had very light traffic and beautiful views. Villages along the way were full of hard-working but friendly people eager to say “Hello!”. Coming the backway into Tiger Leaping Gorge was more fun because we didn’t feel so much a part of the tourist hordes. The big rock slide blocked vehicle traffic so we had the gorge to ourselves for most of the morning.

Shangri-la Vista

Shangri-la Vista

Clothsline in Shangri-la

Clothsline in Shangri-la

Plowing with Oxen

Plowing with Oxen

Fall Colors in the Mountains of Shangri-la

Fall Colors in the Mountains of Shangri-la

Nearing Another Pass With Moss Covered Trees

Nearing Another Pass With Moss Covered Trees

Shangri-la Flower

Chinese carrying burden of plants for animalsshangri-la flower

Travertine Pools of Bai Shui Tai

Travertine Pools of Bai Shui Tai

The main reason we went the longer, back way to Lijiang was that I (Claire) wanted to see the travertine terraces at Bai Shui Tai. Unlike at Havasupai, these terraces are perched on a hillside, rather than in a canyon.

Flower in Shangri-la

Flower in Shangri-la

Dahlias grow everywhere.

Carved Headstones

Carved Headstones

Village in Shangri-la

Village in Shangri-la

The expansive valleys on this route were stunning; deep enough that we couldn’t see all the way to the bottom.

Mountains of Shangri-la

Mountains of Shangri-la

Chili Harvest

Chili Harvest

View from our $4.20 room

View from our $4.20 room

Lunch Time in a Shangri-la Field

Lunch Time in a Shangri-la Field

All Dressed Up

All Dressed Up

Hava Snow Mountain

Haba Snow Mountain

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge

After the rain in Tiger Leaping Gorge

After the rain in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Lucky’s High Pass

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Lucky made it! I guess we can take credit for 16,000 ft. since we’re all on the same team.

We’ve been in the high meadows of the Tibetan Plateau, most days over 15,000 feet for hours; we have found the back garden gate of Shangri-la. Look for a longer post soon with lots of pictures.

Claire:
Poor Bob had to pedal by himself halfway to Sangdui because I was too busy kicking myself up the mountain. Can anyone tell me why one remembers something left behind only after you’re well beyond going back to retrieve it? My security blanket is gone, and it’s all my fault.

At the breakfast table, in the roadhouse where we spent the night, I left my packet of maps, phrases and our chopsticks. It was an envelope I clutched tightly anytime we were off the bike. Now, it was 30 kilometers back and 1000 feet down. We weren’t going back for it. So we’re without a good map until at least Shangri-la (Note: Bob was smart enough to photograph the road atlas pages, so we do have a backup). The phrases? I’ve mostly got down the basics enough to get us a room or a meal without my cheat sheets. And the chopsticks? Well, this is China.

Bob:
There will be more mountains to come, and some will probably seem harder than this one. Zippy is making strange noises from the drive-train, and we fear we have put him under too much strain this time.

We are sometimes tired, but feeling stronger every day. We’ve reached that magical three-week point in a long challenging bicycle tour, when we are in the zone, when we feel pretty much ready for anything.

The next post is one you won’t want to miss: we now know we have entered the high back garden gate of Shangri-la. The success was hard won, but all the more rewarding for the suffering.

It will be posted soon with lots of photos.

First Pass, Chinese Cycling Friends, and a Long Tunnel

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Last night at a basic binguan, we met three Chinese cyclists and they showed great interest in Zippy, our tandem. In the morning a larger group of their club friends arrived and there was round of picture taking and general language confusion, but lots of smiles. We saw the large group off up the mountain, had our breakfast and followed about a half-hour later.

We caught them 1,000 vertical meters later at the entrance to the summit tunnel to great exclamations of pleasure and another round of picture taking, with Zippy at the center. Lucky was busy flirting with one of the girls and got left out of the picture, again!

There were police and army personnel all over the place, protecting the tunnel no doubt, and we had to show our passports to be allowed through. We had heard horror stories about the tunnel, but found it reasonably well lit and smooth. As usual, when you worry, it is always unnecessary.

It was fun riding through with the large group and part way down the hill;  Zippy, is fast downhill and we soon left them. They are staying in the same town and we will probably see them tomorrow on a 5,000 ft climb to the next binguan and food.

They are a really sweet group of young people, all in their 20’s, and we look forward to seeing them again. Two different people in the group stopped at vendors and bought us apples. They all have nice looking mountain bikes with slicks and the most up to date clothing, so they are not poor.

It’s really fun to see the Chinese getting into bike touring and seeing their own country.