On the 12th of December 2008 I flew from Sydney to Guangzhou and then took a connecting flight to Chengdu. I didn't really have a clear plan, just a vague idea that I might try walk/ride buses from kangding over to the Yalong river and Muli. It didn't work out that way because I didn't realise just how cold it would be around Kham (northern and western Sichuan) at that time of year. After a day in smoggy Chengdu, I ignored the advice of the slackers at Sam's cafe (who said it was still not possible to travel to Kangding) and took a bus there the next day. Kangding was certainly open, but by gum it was cold. Not too bad during the day when the sun was shining, but once it got dark (and it did so very early) the temperatures plumeted, and I needed all my thermals plus a scarf and earmuffs to survive.
I seemed to be the only tourist in town and a very grim place it seemed too. I had the Black tent Hotel to myself, and it was very depressing to return to that cold and empty dorm room in the evening at 6pm with the prospect of little to do but huddle under the sleeping bag for warmth and try read under the weak bulb for the rest of the evening. I spent some time in a cafe by the square where the locals practised Tibetan circle dancing, and I sipped lemon tea to pass the time.
There were quite a few Tibetans in town, most wearing their traditional chubas or long dresses, but covering their faces with surgical masks or big woolly balaclavas.
On my first full day I took a taxi out to Yulin to see if there was any chance of trekking up to Gongga Shan. I was surprised to find that the valley up to Yulin was now the scene of much construction, with new condos being sold off the plan right up to the Tibetan houses.
I had a dip in the hot springs pool and walked up to the village to seek out a guide. Some local Tibetans were corralling horses into a trailer and their head man aid it would be possible to trek to Gongga Si, but it would be cold and the days were short, so it would take longer than usual - up to eight days for the return trip. I demurred, looking up at the beautiful peaks but deciding the hardship wasn't worth it. It would just be way too cold for safety, let alone comfort.
I returned to Kangding and took a bus back the next day to Chegdu. I would try the warmer climes of Yunnan instead.
And so I took a train to Kunming.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
From Chengdu to Kangding.