Lijiang Travel Blog› entry 6 of 13 › view all entries
Hello again after a simple dinner at the "best" inn in town: stirfried pork, green vegetable, potato julienne, a soup with white radish and o'course, rice. I only ate a small bit of the latter three since the first two are laced with red chili peppers and I'm recovering from a bout of food poisoning. Never, ever, eat fried eggs that have any uncooked yolk at all. My evening that first day in Lijiang was extremely uncomfortable, let us say.
As I mentioned, I'm now in Liming, about a 3-hour drive NNW of Lijiang. It's a scenic area of mountains, lakes, hiking trails, a huge variety of flora and fauna including some rare longhaired monkeys, kind of a Great Smoky Mountains National Park meets the Grand Tetons and Yosemite. The official translation on the map I bought is "Dawn Sandstone Landform" and the mountains you can see from this little village, a sort of Gatlinburg, if you will, sans tee shirt shops, are breathtaking. Literally. The altitude is well over 7,000 feet here at the base and the mountains peak at about 15,000. Part of my itinerary was to climb up to the Thousand Tortoises Hill but there's no way. Just wandering around Lily's village took a lot out of my lungs. This would be a fantastic place for hikers, particularly younger and in better shape than I am. Unimaginably unspoiled. I took a photo of a photo of Thousand Tortoises Hill and will share it if I'm ever able to.
While I have a chance I'll add a little background to previous entries. This part of NW Yunnan Province is close to Tibet, and Lijiang became quite a busy waystation on the "Tea and Horse Caravan" of the Southern Silk Road in the 15th-16th centuries -- maybe later than that, I don't have my sources with me. It also became the capital of the Naxi Kingdom when the Naxis sided with Kublai Khan's incursion to areas south of here. Lijiang is in a lovely but unfortunately not very fertile valley beside the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which looks like I imagine Mt. Everest would look like. You can go up the mountain on a cable car to an Alpine meadow, but Yvonne and I did that in 1998 and I was underwhelmed at that time.
Two foreigners have become famous from their association with Lijiang. Well, relatively famous. One is Joseph Rock, originally an Austrian adventurer but later a US citizen who was self-trained in botany and convinced National Geographic Magazine (and later, Harvard University) to sponsor him to this area in the '20s and '30s. His house in Yuhu, a village north of Lijiang, has been restored and it's a far cry from its appearance back in '98! Rock collected probably thousands of specimens of rhododendron and other plants and took hundreds or even more photos of local chieftans, "dongba" shamans, and countryside that was published in NG. He traveled with a retinue of about 40 who carried his photographic plates, essentials, plus a collapsible bath tub and phonographic player with supply of 78s. A character for sure. He also is responsible for saving much of the Naxi written language, a kind of hieroglyphics that hardly anyone these days can read. Many of his works, photos and other materials were lost when the ship he sent them out of the country on during the Japanese unpleasantness went down.
The other "famous" foreigner is the White Russian, Peter Goullart, whom I mentioned earlier. You can find his entire book online now if you're interested, detailing his work setting up local collectives/workshops among the rural people near here during the '40s, and having potentially dangerous run-ins with Tibetan chieftains plus a number of amusing friendships with locals. He's not as well known hereabouts and I couldn't find where his house was, etc., too bad.
So, tomorrow the plan is to go to Tiger Leaping Gorge on our way to "Shangri-La." The Chinese government, after great study and research, has determined that the town previously called Zhongdian is the actual place described by James Hilton, even though Hilton had never visited China, and probably got his imagery from the Joseph Rock articles in National Geographics of his day. That area is 80 percent Tibetan ethnically, though the map says it's in China. Of course, Tibet is a part of China so it doesn't matter anyway, does it? Looking forward to it!
I'm saying above that I'm still in Lijiang but actually I'm in Liming, which this program doesn't recognize. Very understandable, since it's probably not on any map. I'm also on a very slow connection so can't look at my prior entry a couple of days ago and forget exactly what's there, but perhaps I mentioned meeting the guide who will be with me through the 25th. Lily.
She's a doll, 27 years old, unmarried still, and herself a Naxi. The "Homestay" she offered in the material she sent before my embarkation on this adventure turns out to be at her own home in a tiny village called Nan Yao. Man, do I wish I could get the photo upload feature to work because you would really enjoy seeing her family's home, at the top of this village of 300. It's a three-sided courtyard home with a garden in the middle and living areas on two sides. The third side is storage. Down beside the storage area is the pigsty where three lusty fellows don't seem to like foreigners, plus a water buffalo. The "natural" bathroom is near there, too. A pair of slits in the floor. Aiya.
Mom is 55 years old and looks a decade or two older, the life here is so hard. She wears the traditional Naxi garb of blue shirt, white padding for carrying heavy items with its straps criss-crossed across her chest, and blue Mao-style hat, though the Naxi likely were wearing them long before the Chairman. Pop is nearly 60 and still has a few teeth. Lily's younger brother married a Chinese girl from even farther away from town than we are here and they have a one year old son. He is always tethered with a halter because he's on the verge of walking and is hyperactive. Pop and daughter-in-law's hands are stained nearly black from harvesting and opening the plentiful walnuts from their orchard which they sell in the market.
Mom and daughter-in-law get busy preparing dinner, one that's a lot larger than they usually eat. All is cooked in large woks over wood fires in a huge kitchen/dining area at the end of one of the living wings. Somehow the smoke disappears up from the open rafters and isn't a problem. We sit on midget benches around a short table and dig in: scrambled eggs and tomatoes, fried slices of battered eggplant, mashed potatoes, rice, pork and vegetables, a very unusual vegetable that I inquired about growing in the field that is delicious, and several other dishes.
They show me to my room, about 10x10 ft., evidently used as a clothing storage area when not occupied by foreign guests. Two beds, a desk, several chests and the door is held open with a log. My bed (as all of them I've been in here) is rock hard but there are plenty of quilts so I lay one underneath and one over me. The windows are open and it's chilly at night but I'm toasty under the quilts. Before saying goodnight, Lily brought me a thermos of water, a flashlight and--drum roll here--a chamber pot for in case I needed to "go" during the night and didn't want to set off the pigs going to the Natural Toilet. Came in handy! And in the morning I did everybody a favor and emptied it and rinsed it out back yonder.
Well, dinner here in Liming is ready so I need to go. More later when I get a chance.