Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The long awaited Deqin-Gongshan road (Lancang-Nujiang, 德贡公路)

UPDATE: Since writing this article I've come across an announcement that the road will officially open on December 30 2017 - so I assume it will be an all weather route!

On my last trip to Deqin in Yunnan in October 2016, I made a side trip down the Mekong (Lancang) to try check out the new road crossing the mountains from the Mekong to the Nujiang valley. This road has been under construction for about five years. It is being built as a short cut alternative to the only other way in to the Nujiang valley, via the Dali-Liuku route, which means a 1000km drive from places such as Deqin and Zhongdian.

The rough highway shows up on some maps and on Google Earth as linking the start of the Kawakarpo trek - at Yongzhi and Chalitong - crossing the Biluoshan mountain range and eventually descending to the Nujiang via Dimaluo. The road looks completed on the 2015 Google Earth images, but when I arrived in Chaliding in October 2016 I found that none of the Tibetans there willing to take me over by motorbike. Even in the dry and relatively mild autumn season they said the road was impassable - blocked by rocks and deep mud. Obviously still not finished. There were no buses or any other vehicles crossing between the two canyons, though some road construction trucks were occasionally going up that way (but they wouldn't take me).

I've been keeping an eye out online to see if there have been any developments, but little has appeared until now. If you search for the term 德贡公路 (De-Gong Gonglu, ie Deqin-Gongshan Highway) you'll find a few adventurers have tried to get through in 2017 and not made it. But they talk of others who have made it through by 4WD or motorbike. There's even one story of 41 construction workers getting trapped up there in the snow of February 2017 and having to be rescued when their supplies ran out.

I'd love to try do this route by mountain bike.

Anyway, here's one guy who tried on a motorbike and found the road blocked by huge rockfalls.