Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Yading Outer Kora trek diary: Day 2

On the second day we walked over the first pass from Baiyu (Lurong valley) to a spectacular campsite at the base of Chanadorje's eastern face, where a huge glacier terminated.

I slept OK at Baiyu despite pretty much constant rain through the night. My fears about the integrity of the Nemo tent were unfounded - one of the few good things about camping in the rain is the snug feeling of being in a nice dry and warm sleeping bag in the tent. I was also fortunate not to suffer from any altitude effects this time around - no hangover headaches or problems sleeping due to being short of breath or having a dry mouth.

I woke at daybreak on Day 2 to the sound of rain pattering on the flysheet, and managed to drag myself out  of the sleeping bag and get my hiking gear on in the confines of the tent. Fortunately for my frail tent it hadn't been too windy, and the morning was cool rather than freezing when I wandered over to the stone hut to make a cup of coffee and some muesli for breakfast. I was already learning that even the simplest tasks become real chores when camping. Making a cup of coffee, for example - having to go and fetch some water from the stream. Then unpacking the stove and the food bag, find the lighter at the bottom of the pack, get it all set up ... and try boil some water without knocking the pan over in a crowded stone shelter where smoke from the fire turns makes eyes smart and turn bloodshot. Then repeat in reverse...

The mist and low cloud meant there still wasn't much of a view from this spot where Rock had gained such great views of the mountains ( and his description of this spot inspired the whole Shangri-La Blue Moon Valley descriptions in James Hilton' Lost Horizon). No exotic valley for us - just a lot of wet crags looming over us in the mist. And I felt sorry for the mules being left out in these conditions overnight (though they seemed happy with the little grazed areas of fertile paddock).

After breakfast the China TV crew filmed me gazing thoughtfully at the crags and scenery through my binoculars - and also striking my tent, as if I knew what I was doing. I was ready to leave by 9-ish but they faffed around packing up their gear so we didn't hit the trail until about 10am. I just sat in the shelter reading Alexei Sayle's autobiography (Thatcher Stole My Trousers) on my Kindle.

The track up to the pass wasn't particularly difficult - just a bit of a slog up through rocky and rather bleak terrain. We ascended a couple of steeper sections of track and lo and behold, there was the pass ahed - across an open expanse of slate rocks, looking not too far off. We reached it at about midday and I sat down by the prayer flags and chortens to have some cheese and crackers. I'd been worried the cheese brought from Australia would go off but it seemed to keep OK in this cool climate.

Across the pass (4900m?) we entered the familiar territory of the rocky valley that led down to a collection of huts used by Garu Tibetans who were foraging high in the hills in spring for congcao caterpillar fungus. I remembered this descent as being a long slog, but this time it didn't seem so far. I spent much of the descent chatting to Qin Rey, telling his that the scenery reminded me of the Lake District and Yorkshire dales - but of course on a much grander scale.

Qin had a running joke with one of the porters about finding a xiaomaibu (shop) that sold Coke.
We paused for an hour at the huts, where a few local Tibetans were in residence. The porters had some late lunch (tsamba, butter tea & momo bread) there and I gave away a few balloons to the local kids.

We then continued down the track that led to Galuo, but soon branched off on a parallel track to the right that led down to a bridge over a raging creek. The weather by now had really closed in and it was raining, with very little visibility because of the mist. At one point I caught a glimpse of an amazing waterfall - but by the time I'd got my camera out this vision had been swallowed up into the mist. The track down to the bridge through the forest was further than I thought - and it was a very muddy, rocky trail. It would only take one slip or mis-step to twist an ankle.

At the primitive wooden bridge the TV guys insisted on filming me crossing - twice (once from in front, once from behind). Then it was uphill again, back into the forest and we turned in a south-westerly direction towards the source of the Shuiluo stream - and towards Chanadorje. The walk through the fir forest was quite tranquil and pleasant - a few birds could be heard and there were loads of unfamiliar plants and flowers. I'm sure this would be a botanists' paradise.

We crossed three smaller streams before finding ourselves in the riverbed of the more open valley basin that leads up to the base of Chanadorje. I recognised the 'bendy tree' from last time - a spruce that has been deformed into a one-sided shape presumably by the wind. From here it was just a half hour stroll to the open pasture at the base of Chanadorje. Again our view was limited by the low cloud - but it was still an epic spot for campsite - especially with the glacier moraine right in front of us.

We picked a spot next to an isolated and deserted log cabin to make camp. And as if on cue, it started raining as soon as we started to put our tents up - and the floor of my tent was once again soaked.
Once again we steamed our clothes dry in front of the fire, and I took a wander down to the stream to try get some fresh water. Despite being from the glacier the water appeared to be suspiciously like urine: yellow and frothy, so I walked up the dried out river bed looking for cleaner source. I could hear water rushing down from the mountain but could not locate it. Then I found out why - after stumbling over rocks for 500m I located a clear stream running off the mountain - but it seemed to dry up or disappear underground at a spot where there were a lot of prayer flags and primitive chortens - a sacred magic spot?

And thus we settled in to the spot that Rock described as Shingara - The Sea Dragons Snout - where it seemed the icy eastern face of Chanadorje plunged vertically right to our feet. I did another episode of the Daily Video Diary in Chinese, feeling like a right berk trying to describe the 'spirit of the forest' in Mandarin. I suspect the TV crew would use my more spontaneous "Phew - this is brilliant!" remarks captured on their iPhone at the moment we arrived.

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