AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Jiuzhaigou Tour: Day 2

Breakfast was at 7:30am. It consisted of waterlogged cold rice, plain beansprouts and a strange bread (kind of like sourdough and very stodgy). We have got used to eating poor food but this was pushing our limits. The noise of the others eating was only just bearable.

We were driven to the entrance to Jiuzhaigou National Park. The guide spoke for 20 minutes on the bus and this clearly wasn’t long enough as he then spoke for another 10 minutes at the entrance to the park. Our unofficial translator told us briefly (in about 1 minute) the gist of what he’d said. We had to be back at the bus for 4:30pm. The park was a Y shape, get the bus to the centre and then go up either side. There’s 60km of paths in total so he said where to skip. The only restaurant is in the middle of the Y shape, but it’s expensive (almost everyone else visiting the park had the instant noodles and snacks with them, very few would be buying food in the park). The guide had said to get the bus from the centre of the Y around 4pm to be back in time. The park was busy. Very busy. There was probably a couple of thousand people crowding near the entrance and this was a Thursday morning.

We queued for the bus which would take us to the top of the left hand side of the park. There was a line of buses, as soon as one was full the next would pull up. A gap of about 20 seconds. So we were surprised at the child like behaviour. Everyone was pushing and shoving as hard as possible. Many were jumping the queues to get on the bus. As soon as the bus door opened everyone would run forwards to get in first. This was as bad as the school bus!

It took us 30 minutes to get to the top of the park. This place was far bigger than expected and it became obvious we couldn’t walk the routes we’d planned. We were dropped off by Long Lake. We’d bought some small cakes as a snack and decided to eat most of them now because we hadn’t eaten much at breakfast. Afterwards we took two photos then headed down the path to the next lake. The sight wasn’t very impressive.

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The path was the same as yesterday. A raised wooden walkway. Flat, wide and with shallow steps. Suitable for anyone. It took a few minutes to get to the next lake known as Colourful Lake. It was quite nice with a very deep blue centre. Around it the path was filled with people. This in itself is fine but everyone is obsessed with having their photo taken in front of stuff. So the edges were crowded with people fighting to get to the front and have their photo taken with the lake. I stood at the front looking and was constantly asked to move out of their picture.

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This was the end of the top section. The other lakes had dried out in the dry season and it was a 15km walk back to the centre of the park. So we hopped on the next bus back to the centre. We got off the bus at the village but the restaurant was about another 5 minutes down the road at the other side of the village. We started walking on the grass by the road and were immediately shouted at. We had to walk through all the shops and stalls! The footpath was filled with sellers who had all kinds of junk. Bracelets, combs, just loads of tat. But no food! Everywhere else in China has food absolutely everywhere, every other building usually serves food. Here there was none. Just glancing at the stalls would be enough to get the sellers shouting and beckoning me over. This was very annoying, I hate being forced to walk through sections for no other reason than marketing purposes and I also hate it when there’s an obvious monopoly, which in this case is clearly the food. We’d read the food was expensive and not very good and that usually only happens when there’s no competition (such as motorway services). By now the tiredness and general annoyances had put me in a bad mood again! (Can’t you tell?)

We found the restaurant and entered. It had a reasonable selection for a bit above restaurant prices. We paid 32 RMB (£3) for a  Kung Po Chicken with rice and veg, and the same again for a pork meal. Pricey, but only about 15% higher than usual. UK service stations are usually double the price! The food was not very nice but far better than the instant noodles on sale everywhere for between 10-15 RMB. Very few people had ventured into the restaurant, almost everyone in the park was eating the pots of instant noodles.

After lunch we got on the bus to near the top of the right hand side of the park. Again the people pushed and shoved, jumped the queue and ran to the bus. It was so bad that people further back had pushed so much combined with people at the front being so desperate to get on that they were now out into the road. Each stop has someone controlling the crowds, he was shouting and screaming at these people to get back onto the path. I thought only children needed someone to control queues!

At the bus stop by the lake there were two paths, one going over the shallow reeds to a path on the opposite side of the lake and one running down the side of the road. The path on the opposite side was at the bottom of the hill in the woods and looked like a good path. Plus it was deserted.

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We walked down this empty path enjoying the views and the peace and quiet. Walking in the Yorkshire Dales and Nepal was very solitary walking, usually meeting very few people and having only the sound of nature. Walking in China was a very loud and a busy affair. Chinese people seem to stamp their feet, they shout rather than talk (we’ve discovered that taking loudly is a sign off strength in China), they never look behind themselves before starting to walk so will often step into someone and generally most people but not everyone, doesn’t give a damm if someone is behind them. They are oblivous to anyone, should they want to come past. And the one really annoying thing here, which is the same as everywhere else, is taking photos of each other across the path. Why not use half the path so we can walk behind the photographer? Everyone who takes a photo using the whole width of the park gets me walking directly in front of the camera (yes, I’m sometimes childish too!) The path we had arrived at was very nice. In the forest there were the sounds of birds only, the lake looked good and around us were tree covered steep mountains, of the kind synonymous with China.

We continued down to the next lake.

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Then the next.

These lakes really were stunning. They were so clear and the water was so pure. We’d never seen lakes looking like this before. Some in Switzerland had come close, but this many, so close together was something else! This made the early mornings and the annoying Chinese habits worthwhile.

Further down we reached some waterfalls. The footpaths took us along the front of the falls and over the top near the edge. Excellent!

Further down were yet more waterfalls, called Pearl Waterfalls. These were huge. Over 300m wide and supposedly the widest waterfalls in China.

A bit after the waterfalls the path was closed and we were forced onto a bus down to Mirror Lake. Named because of the amazing reflective views of the mountains on the lake surface. We got off the bus halfway down the lake and discovered there was a breeze and the lake was covered with small waves destroying all reflective properties. We got back on the bus and continued down.

We had time to see a few more lakes before getting on the bus back to the entrance.

We were at the bus for just after 4:30pm. How many others had made it back on time? Just two people! It was turned 5pm before the whole group was back.

Our itinerary stated that we had a Tibetan Lamb Party tonight in a Tibetan home. We were greeted off the bus by someone wearing very bright clothing and handing out yellow scarfs with the greeting of Ta-shi-de-lek (hello in Tibetan). We were led by the Chinese looking woman into a room to sit. It was incredibly cramped. Some food was brought out, three potatoes, a few chunks of bread, some boiled spinach and something else to share between three people. Then the Chinese looking woman stood at the front and shouted. She found a suitable volunteer (a student aged about 20). He was forced to the front to sing and perform. The crowd loved it. Then he was told he’d have to marry one of the local girls. The crowd roated with laughter. Instead of acting like any other university student and rising to the occasion he went along with the strange humiliation. Then we had someone supposedly sing, but the pitch was high enough to shatter glass and sounded more like a screech to us. Then another guy came in and sang in the same awful manner. None of them looked Tibetan, acted Tibetan, dressed Tibetan and the food wasn’t Tibetan. But the crowd were pleased anyway. On our way in our photos had been taken and now they were been handed out. One of the students commented that now they would want the money in a tone which sounded unhappy. He then promptly reached into his pocket and pulled out the money for the photo. Almost everyone bought the photos! It’s strange that the people who wouldn’t pay an extra 15 RMB on lunch would happily spent that on a poor quality photo of themselves when they probably have a thousand photos of themselves from in the park!

Then we were led outside. A fire had been lit and we formed a ring around it. It looked like we’d be doing the hokey pokey. Oh great! A children’s party. This then became a conga line. Then everyone had to pray and hang the scarf around the bulls horns. A convenient method of getting the scarf back. In all our time in Tibetan parts of Nepal and in Tibet itself we never saw anything like this.

Thinking that we’d just been screwed with a crappy meal we went and bought drinks, snacks and half a kilo of cherries (cherries are on sale everywhere at the moment and they taste great). Then we found that there was dinner provided in the hotel. The same food as the night before.

It was still early so we watched a movie on my phone then went to sleep.

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