Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Awake to a cold morning, the sight of snow-covered mountains and a simple breakfast of boiled eggs, pitta bread and apple jam. Our new half-Han, half-Naxi guide, Eleanor, accompanies us up the valley to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain national park. It's very touristy with heavy entrance fee, massive coach park and a full-on open-air show about the myths and legends of the Naxi people (co-directed by Zhang Yimou) with mountains as backdrop, a cast of hundreds and a dozen horses. It reminded me of the Millennium Dome show: spectacular but somewhat vacuous.

Still, beyond that there's yaks loitering around a crystal clear river, a cable-car ride up to a meadow and pine forest with well-laid out trails, and fabulous views of the main peak, Shanjidou, 5,596m. Our guide said it had never been climbed, but a quick search reveals that it has - just once - by an American expedition in 1987. While up there we witnessed an amazing ring round the sun. Apparently it's called a 22 degree sun halo which I'd never even heard of let alone seen. 

Back at Nguluko guest house we huddled around a fire in the middle of the courtyard, practising our bad Chinese with Mr and Mrs He, looking up at the stars and drinking damn fine Dali beer.

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