Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cizhong to Dimaluo (茨中 - 迪麻洛) hike. Part Two: walking up to the She-La

The morning of Tuesday 30th September was sunny and warm in Cizhong. I'd arranged with a local guy to guide me over the She-La pass to Dimaluo for three days for a fee of Y1200. He told me to be ready to leave at 7.30am, but on the morning he didn't show up. Instead, after an hour of hanging around a sullen guy turned up with a small horse and an attitude. He didn't say much but tied my bag on to the horse and lit up a fag. We set off at 9am, walking down along Cizhong's only street until we reached the valley branching off to the right (west).

After buying a peach drink at the little xiaomaibu (something I was to be grateful for on the thirst-inducing climb) we set off up the hill, past the hydro power station and followed a steep track up alongside a big water pipe. It was hard going and I was soon sweating. The track then opened out to a zig-zagging road with views over the Mekong.  This is how Rock described it:

And this is what it looked like in 2014:

After an hour or so this road twisted into a narrow gully with a huge drop to the valley floor. My guide amused himself by kicking rocks off the road to fall hundreds of meters down into the forest. The track went to the left of a small dam and into deeper forest, where a few locals were felling trees and lugging huge freshly-cut planks on their shoulders. BY the side of the track there was a tree that had been turned into a Christian shrine with a hollowed out 'tabernacle' covered with a plastic window showing some sort of icon.

At about 1pm we emerged into a more open valley and stopped for a brief lunch at a primitive log cabin. I was glad to have brought my camping stove as I was able to brew up some Yorkshire tea to go with my Vitawheat and salami.

Onwards and upwards we hiked up the green and pleasant valley much as described by Joseph Rock.

Within the hour we had come across a very swish mountain hut called Hongxing (Red Star) Lodge that looked recently built. The wooden hut seemed the perfect place to stay for the night, with great views of the valley and also well equipped with beds and cooking equipment. But my guide urged me on, saying we had to stay at another lodge higher up the valley nearer the pass because we would need to make good time tomorrow.

And so it was we continued up the valley, walking alongside a stream and occasionally crossing it by wooden plank bridges or logs. I had earlier drunk from this stream, being reassured that the water was OK to drink - however we later found a dead pig carcass in the river. Too late. I didn't die.

At about 4pm we stopped at a derelict stone shelter with no roof, situated next to a huge square rock. For some reason the guide insisted that we stop and eat dinner there, even though it was early. I made more tea and ate a few Vita Wheat and then continued on upwards to a blue hut in the distance, where the guide said we would stay for the night. It was only about a 20 minute walk, amid beautiful scenery, much as described by Joseph Rock. On the way I saw a troop (?) of large golden brown/grey monkeys scurrying away up the side of the valley about 300 metres away from us.

The 'blue roof hut' had a Catholic/Christian heart/cross emblem on it and characters in Tibetan and Chinese saying it was a "Benevolence Lodge" (San Fang) - it had presumably been built or inspired by the Catholic missionary priests based at Cizhong. We settled in here for the night, with great views of the main divide. The interior, however, was very bleak and unwelcoming. Absolutely bare, with a stone floor and no amenities other than the windows through which a cold wind blew. The guide soon had a fire going in the middle of the room and I prepared one of my dehydrated dinners and made more tea. The fire filled the stone hut full of smoke, which set me off coughing and spluttering and turned my eyes bloodshot. After half an hour I decided to pitch my tent outside and sleep there instead. It was hard to find a piece of level ground, but I eventually got a slightly sloping plot and stuck my tent there.  It proved to be quite comfortable and at least had breathable air. My guide warned me there would be rats, but I got to sleep OK with no unwelcome visitors.


Anonymous said...

Nice post! The hut here was indeed recently built but a villager [named] Hong Xing who also owns a guest house in Cizhong. The name has noting to do with Redstar but is the name of a person. The idea was to build something similar for hikers on the Cizhong side of the pass as that built recently on the Dimaluo side so that there are good places to sleep and rest throughout the hike.

mutikonka said...

Thanks for the info! I wasn't sure who owned the place but it looked really nice. Pity my guide was against staying there - but as you can see he was intent on doing the trip in tow days, not three.