Sparky Travels

November 19, 2009

Jiuzhaigou

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:59 am

At 7:00am on the 16th of November I left Sim’s Cosy Guesthouse and hailed a taxi to the bus station. I had a good supply of food for the 11 hour journey and I managed to read the whole of Enigma by Robert Harris in between eating and sleeping. The journey was fine except for a one hour delay on a mountain road due to a trailer that was on fire. Parts of the road were a bit hairy due to the rock falls in the area. There was lots of evidence of this piled up on the road but I’ve certainly been on less safe roads in the last few months so no worries there.
The bus dropped us of in some random wasteground in Jiuzhaigou and the temperature was below freezing so I was grateful when a chinese guy I’d been chatting to on the bus offered to share his taxi. He directed the driver to my hostel first and refused to take any money for my part of the fare. Nice guy.
I checked into the hostel (apparently I was the first person to book through hostelbookers.co.uk. I failed to persuade them that this deserved a discount), dumped my bag and attempted to warm up. It was late so dinner was some god-awful spaghetti bolognese at the hostel, containing what I hope was tuna. Then it was off to bed in preparation for a busy day of national-parking tomorrow.

Map of Jiuzhaigou

I woke at 7am and headed to the entrance to Jiuzhaigou Park to buy my tickets. I got a pleasant surprise because the ticket prices had been reduced to offseason rates (80 yuan rather than 200 yuan) a day earlier. I then made my way to the random-wasteground-bus-station to buy a ticket back to Chengdu. I’d originally planned to head in the direction of Xi’An to save returning to Chengdu but transport links that way are really poor if you don’t want to fly and Chengdu is not a bad place to wait if tickets are sold out.
I returned to the Park entrance and joined the amassing tour groups for the bus ride up to the sights. There are regular hopon-hopoff buses so its easy to get around the place as you want.

I took the bus up most of the way up the eastern route and then walked back down. This took me from Arrow Bamboo Lake (used in the movie Hero, apparently) to Mirror Lake along the well maintained and signposted walkways on the opposite side from the road. It was below freezing but I was just about warm enough with my new hat and fleece on.  Along the way there were a number of pretty multilevel waterfalls and I managed to find myself alone for decent periods of time. At the attractions and viewpoints there were always a good number of Asian tourists doing their round-robin photo routines but it was quieter than I expected given the 1.5 million visitors the place receives every year. The lakes are mostly variations on a theme - shallow, extremely clear, multiple shades of blue - but all are stunningly beautiful.

Once I reached the tourist centre I grabbed a huge pot noodle for lunch and then got a bus up the western route to Long Lake which is reminiscent of Loch Ness and then made my way to the self explanatory Five-Colour Pond.

The last leg was back down towards the entrance past the 320m wide Nuorilang Waterfall and the shimmering Rhinoceros and Tiger lakes.

Bonsai Lake aka PottedLandscape Lake was dotted with a variety of small trees jutting out of the water. Though not as desolate as Rannoch Moor, it has a similar otherworldly vibe.

Near the bottom I stopped off at the colourful Heyezai village to see a bit of Tibetan life. It was a typical tourist attraction village that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Epcot Centre. As I reached the Exit/Entrance to the park my camera battery died. I took this as a sign to go back to the hostel and have a shower to warm up.

As I sat in the hostel I got chatting to a Malaysian guy who invited me out with his friends for dinner. They were from Hong Kong, Singapore and China and soon there were 20 of us sitting round a couple of tables in a traditional restaurant. Everyone was really friendly and the food was hearty fare.  Once they found out I was from the home of whisky I was challenged to drink some of the local brew, a 58% spirit (in the form of double and triple shots)  and a corn-based ‘cider’. It helped to get rid of my near constant shivers but my new friends still insisted on haggling a local price for a new fleece for me at a shop next door. After dinner we tottered to the hotel that some of the group were staying at and then back to our hostel where we drank beer till 1am.

I woke up at 6am the next day with a kick-me-in-the-face hangover and boarded my bus to Chengdu. Despite feeling rough I managed to read a whole book on this journey aswell. This time it was Dead Famous by Ben Elton. Arriving back at Sim’s Cosy Guesthouse at 7:30pm I planned to have dinner, a shower and an early night. When I got to the bar a French-Canadian who I’d chatted to a few times was sitting on his own so we proceeded to drink beer till midnight.

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