Deqin : The high road to Deqin
Deqin Travel Blog› entry 158 of 268 › view all entries
Time for âPlan Bâ. A change of plan for Nick and me. The road to Chengdu. What to do? Weâve been turning a couple of options over in our minds for days now. âWhat was âPlan Aâ?â I hear you say. Well, weâd set our hearts on the rocky road route to Chengdu that runs east from far northern Yunnan province and is referred to as the Sichuan-Tibet or âSouthern Tibetanâ Highway by self-explanatory virtue of its being the road that runs aaaaall the way from Chengdu to Lhasa in Tibet. Described in Lonely Planet as one of the âhighest, roughest, most dangerous and most beautiful roads in the worldâ, my appetite for this ride through the Tibetan-dominated townships of Xiangcheng, Kangding and Litang was thoroughly whetted when my eyes alighted upon it in my brief Hekou LP research session.
As I keep saying though friends âPlans are subject to changeâ; and change they must this time. Turns out this last month or so the Highway has once again been closed to foreign travellers by The Authorities. As with all such situations a whorl of rumour, hearsay and conjecture; Chinese-travel whispers has formed around this event. Nobody knows for sure what the state of play is up there and a mixture of disappointment and expressions of fevered hopes, âmaybesâŠâ and âwell ya never knowsâŠâ dominate the thoughts and itineraries of Nick and I and many of our passing travel conversationalists. We have it on fairly good second-hand authority though that less than a week ago buses were stopped halfway, foreigners taken from the bus in question and sent back the way theyâd come on the next available transport.
The reasons why? Well, ultimately who ever knows? But the word is that recent pro-Tibetan liberation protests in the townships (not uncommon understandably) had led to a declaration of temporary martial law and so the presence of foreigners with cameras or domestic social/ political agitators is, for now, deemed highly undesirable by the Powers That Be. I stress once more that this is all hearsay and conjecture. Nothing more. No smoke without fire though my friends. âKnowwhadIâmsayinâ!â. *
âSo anyways Stevie, whatâs âPlan Bâ?â I now here ya ask me. Nick and I (not our good friends Vanesha and Emmy âsob sob!â ) will now take a trip up to North West Yunnan, to the town of Deqin and beyond to the mountains approaching the Tibetan border.
Farewell to Fifi the beautiful Golden Retriever at Harmony Guest house and an early doors bus to Deqin. This will prove to be one of the most beautiful bus rides of my life so far. The scenery in this part of China rarely ceases to cast beauty and pleasure plentifully before ones eyes. Itâs a good 7 hour bus ride and in between inevitable snooze sessions there is a bountiful feast for your eager peepers.
As we set off from Shangri-La everyone on the full bus is in high spirits. This includes the gaggle of young girls sat on the two rows behind Nick, soon-to-be-travel-pals Marcel and Kathlyn and I.
Soon that curious chemical effect of buses that Iâve observed throughout my travels kicks in.
The bus driver kindly pulls over and lets the bus dismount to take in a couple of the more noted and spectacular views of this fabulously scenic ride. This includes the grand circular bend in the [?? Name forgotten, The Jinsha ??] River and a stop for 5 minutes or so at the journeys highest point of elevation. 4,300 metres above sea level. Outside of an aeroplane this is the highest I have ever been in my life.
Arrival in Deqin is functional. At this point in its history, whatever guide books might say about supposed âcharmsâ this place is a near total dump right now. Seriously, how much naked broken concrete and advertising hording can one mountain town hold?! Half of itâs in the process of being torn right down anyways to make way for more âDevelopmentâ; more âProgressâ presumably.
We are made very welcome by Phil and Sylvia the young Italian travel couple who are currently house-sitting this place for its English owner Richard, whilst the place tries to find its feet. Itâs late but soâs sunset this time of year and the weather, at the minuteâs fab so all four of us act on Philâs statement that FeiLaiSi is only âhalf an hours walk awayâ.
We do. Just! The clouds have clustered in and only moments after we arrive in the dust-blown streets of FeiLaiSi the famous views of the opposing mountain range will be swallowed up. This sudden bleakness serves as an appropriate accompaniment to our first sight of the grimmest manifestation of the - on occasions - almost cannibalistically greedy tourism agenda in âNew Chinaâ that I will see in my 6 weeks in the country. The Great Wall of FeiLaiSi. An upwards of 12 feet high concrete monstrosity currently under construction and designed to run the entire length of FeiLaiSi in order to block the street-cafĂ© level view of this beautiful mountain vista so that you will have to pay for the privilege not too long from now.
Itâs dark now, and cold, and rain is coming down periodically. The taxi drivers have got us over a barrel so the economics of getting one back to Tashiâs are not really viable.
Nick drifts off. Just me and Angie now. But Iâm tired too. I stick it to the end. Itâs been a long day. Beautiful sights seen etcâŠ the credits roll on the flick to the strains of a remix of U2âs âElevationâ
âHigh, higher than the sun, You shoot me from a gun
I need you to elevate me hereâŠ â
Itâs nice to be back in the mountains.
âMaybe you can educate my mind. Explain all these controls, Can't sing but I've got soul,
The goal is elevationâŠ â
Elevation. 4,300 metres above sea level today! âPhewf!â. That is some elevation for little me. Thatâs 2,774 Weselbys high! Jeez!
Eh - le - va- tiiion!â
* At the time of writing (24/05/2009) I am unaware about the current situation on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. Rumour had it, through continued conversation, that beyond 1st May the Highway had once again been opened, such a decision being apparently consistent with previous behaviour of the Chinese Authorities i.