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Sunday, December 09, 2007
Sichuan Trip part 4 -vvv

Day 4: 12 Nov 2007

Sansao had arranged transport for us and another group of guests in her hotel to visit Shuangqiaogou this morning. We arrived at the old lamasery in the valley around 0630h. We have to travel the rest of the way on foot. It was total darkness at that time. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet Holmes through my telephoto lens but the other group was already moving off so we hurried after them (as we had no torch lights anywhere near the brightness of theirs).

After an hour or so, we separated and they went on ahead. They were planning to cover 30km that day so they had to travel much faster. I had planned on 30km too (as the famed Muluozi site was 15km from the lamasery) but considering yesterday’s experience, my parents probably wouldn’t make it.

About 7km into the valley, a girl in a yellow jacket caught up with us and we chatted for a while. I initially thought she was with the group in front as they were all in their twenties and looked rather similar but I was mistaken. The girl came from Guangzhou and was traveling by herself. She had just come from Danba, which was where I would be going next, so I asked her about her experiences there.

Coincidentally, while she was at Danba, a “living Buddha” was about to visit the town so all the villagers were busy with the preparations and all dressed up for the occasion. Unfortunately, she had to leave before the living Buddha arrived. She only managed to catch a glimpse of the living Buddha’s chauffeur. Apparently, she didn’t have enough yuan (fate).

A little further on, we encountered an old couple selling Yang Rou Chuan (looks like a long stick of mutton satay) in the middle of nowhere. The woman was a Gyarong Tibetan, apparent from the traditional attire she wore and the fact that many of the locals in the area are from the Gyarong branch of Tibetans. She sat on a rock, sewing something for her grandchild while conversing with my parents. It was comical when my father told her how much he envies her rural lifestyle while she was telling him how much she envies the city people.

By 2pm, we decided we had to start heading back or we would risk getting stranded in the wilderness by nightfall. It was a pity because judging from the surrounding terrain, I was pretty sure we were at most half an hour’s walk from Muluozi. The weather was also too cold for camping (this is true for Singaporeans unprepared for subzero temperatures). Otherwise we could’ve rented equipment and just camped overnight there.

On the way back, we saw a local middle-aged woman traveling with a bunch of children. My mother enquired if they were her children. They immediately burst into laughter. It turned out that the children were really the woman’s grandchildren.

When we returned to the hotel in the evening, there were some interesting new guests at the hotel - an Australian woman named Bianca and her mother (I think her name is Fran). They joined our table for dinner since my family was the only other group that spoke English. Bianca spoke mandarin rather well, probably due to the fact that she had been studying at Kunming for 4 months. After that, she went on to travel around China for another 5 months, including places like Tibet and Yunnan. I found out that they managed to get to Rilong from Chengdu in 6 hours. They must have been so lucky to be able to gain access via Balangshan.

After dinner, we made arrangements for horses through Sansao. Haizigou, the final valley to visit, was rumored to be very demanding physically. I read that one has to climb 200m just to reach the valley entrance. There was no way my father could carry his heavy camera up there without horses.

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Yiheng made
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