Sat 24th October
As nice as the heated blanket was, I felt very stuffy the next morning, like leaving the heating over night at home. OH WELL
Got the 6am coach, really wanted to sleep, but no go, as annoying as that was, the annoyance soon disappeared as soon as the daylight began to rise and we saw there in front of us the beautiful surroundings, breathtaking. This has to have been one of the best bus routes for views that we have done yet, however, it was def the most dangerous.
Being a little concerned after reading notes on the web and in books about this route (the Tibetan Highway), we now know why people wrote what they did. The roads have some of the largest pot holes in them and huge rocks laying all over the place, obviously from landslides over the years, really turns your stomach when you think about it. It probably wouldn't have been all that bad, if there hadn't of been a humongous drop over the mountain side, LOVELY!
Even though the roads were as bad as they were and the drivers still drove as crazy as they did, we only had two close calls, which is not too bad considering its a good 12 hour journey. 1) Our driver took a corner as fast as you would on a motorway and didn't expect a giant truck to be coming around in the other direction at a similar speed - as he slammed on his brakes and we skidded towards the edge of the humongous mountain, i believe the words that went through my head as well as Adam's are not to suitable for this blog, even the driver put his head in his hands when we finally come to a stop, think the locals were just as shocked as us and they are used to the crazy driving - lets just say the driver took the next bends at a much slower speed. 2) Not our drivers fault entirely but he probably was a wee bit close to the driver in front, but where the roads were a little damp and slippery in places, the truck in front skidded on a corner and begun to slide towards the edge, luckily he came to a hault and we didn't hit him PHEW!! All in a days work ay!
As we approached one of the highest towns in the world at a height of 4500 meters above sea level called LiTang, we saw a number of Yaks in the fields and hillsides surrounding us. I was fascinated by them, not sure why, they are simply just a very hairy looking cow (sort of), but never seen them before, so was interesting to look at and try to take pics of in a moving bus, not the easiest. The town itself didn't look anything special and I was kinda glad we chose not to stay there, even though some fellow travellers had mentioned that the sky burials were interesting to see, but would probably put you off your dinner - wasn't my cup of tea, so I was happy just to visit for 30mins or so. Saw lots of dogs on the way in though, looked like St Bernards and there were a couple of puppies to one side playing, I really wanted to go back and play with them, they looked sooooo cute.
Our stop for lunch was YUMMY, beef with onion and green peppers, seems to be a popular simple dish but always goes down well.
Still didn't get much sleep so when we arrived in Doucheng after the 12 hours, in the chilly outdoors, we felt a little worse for wear and was hoping to get warmed up quickly. Thankfully, a guy from the Doucheng International Youth Hostel was waiting right outside the bus station and drove us straight there. It was only around the corner, but would have been difficult to find, plus his warm smile and jolly self was very welcoming and we soon felt right at home.
As soon as we had sorted out a room and put our bags down, a really nice Chinese guy called Joe approached us and asked if we'd like to join his crowd on a trip to Yading National Park tomorrow. A bit taken aback we said we'd think about it, only hearing good things about this place, but not actually knowing anything about it. After settling down for a bit and spending a bit of time on the web looking up about the park we decided to join them, but as the night drew in and we realised just how cold this area was, we soon changed our mind. We do not have the clothes for such cold weather and the park is another 1000 meters higher than the town we are now in - FREEZING!!
Headed out for dinner in our warmest clothes to test them and see for sure, but it was clear that the weather was just too cold and we would suffer if we went to the park. Found a really cosy little cafe called "Here Cafe", with a fire burning inside, was sooooo snug, would have stayed if the food prices had been a little more reasonable. Found a nice restaurant a little further in town and warmed up quickly with flower tea. The people seemed really nice, but service wasn't the best. We had to get our own bowls and chop sticks, even though other guests had theirs given to them on arrival and they kept pouring our tea and then taking the pot away, so we had to ask if we wanted it refilled, NO FAIR!!
Our dishes of bean and aubergine and fried rices were gorgeous and we were full in no time. Was very dark on our walk back at only 9pm ish, was surprised to see a young boy of only about 4-5 years old, still playing out in the street at such a late time, guess they don't worry too much here. Used our torches to find our way back down the dark street and was in bed in no time - electric blankets on and warmed up as quick as we could.
Joe was not at all pleased to hear we had changed our mind about tomorrow, but we knew we were doing the right thing, another 5am start, after such a long journey would have done us both right in. Was so pleased to know I had a lie in tomorrow.
Sunday 25th October
We made great use of our lie in and stayed in bed til gone 10am OH YEH was soooo nice to get up sooooo late. Although, my stupid mind was making me feel a wee bit guilty for not making the most of the area and making the effort to visit the park, on the off chance that it wouldn't have been as cold as we thought - it really annoys me how my mind works sometimes.
As Doucheng was just a stop off point for us, we were keen to move on quickly and hoped to get a bus outta town tomorrow. A guy in the hostel was offering us a jeep to leave tonight at a ridiculous high price, even if we had of shared the trip with another 4 people, it would have still been about 100 yaun more than the bus OH NO, I DON'T THINK SO SOME HOW.
Had a really nice stroll around the local streets, was such a nice place, right out in the middle of nowhere, no other tourists in sight, locals living everyday life as normal, so happy and smily, we really felt comfortable strolling around. Every corner had a cow, yak, pig, cat or dog just wandering around, everything seemed to move at a snails pace here and it really felt nice.
Popped into the bus station to check on tickets but was asked to come back at around 2pm, this is when they start to sell the tickets, fine by us. Went for a bit of brunch in a cute little local cafe/restaurant. Ordered Long Noodles from the menu, which turned out to be a hot thick milky looking drink, I can only imagine it to be Yak's milk, tasted ok, but not at all what we expected, luckily we had ordered some dumplings as well. The guy running the place was really sweet and even offered to fill up our tea flasks for free for us, really nice of him.
As we had some time to waste and there was not much to do, we opted for washing some clothes and had a perfect spot on the roof to dry them. I never for a second imagined myself ringing out clothes on the roof of a Tibetian house, surrounded by mountains in the blazing sun, def an experience I've never come across in life before.
Took a stroll around the residential houses and watched while a local guy worked on some of his doors. Cows and pigs were wandering by and every local we passed shouted hello to us, they are so friendly here. OR SO I THOUGHT!!
As friendly as they are I felt we were a wee bit stitched up when it came to the bus tickets. We arrived back at the bus station as asked at 2pm. A handful of people were buying tickets so we waited patiently to be served. The language barrier certainly came into effect here, we couldn't understand a word they were trying to say to us, but it soon became apparant that there were no tickets left for the journey we wanted. I was instantly peed off, it was clear they had told us the wrong time to return and although we knew we couldn't get tickets for tomorrow, we tried to get some for the next day. With language barrier in the way, voices starting to rise and at one point a local guy was almost yelling at us. At last one guy, who spoke a little english said that all tomorrows tickets were sold out and that we could not buy tickets today for the day after, we would have to return tomorrow at 1:30pm to purchase these. I left extrememly hot headed and needed to walk it off, at the end of the day there was nothing more we could do.
Went over to the dried up river and sat on the bank watching some horses grazing on what little grass was left. Then over to a large monument up on a bank, passing locals moving their herds of cows. Some other locals were walking rings around the monument, in prayer, they must of gone around it about 5 times when we were there, not sure how many times in total they need to do it, was fascinating to see though. The yaks around the edge grazing seemed quite happy in the shade of the monument, although as we got close one was almost face to face with Ad, gave him a really funny look, but was ok, didn't bother us.
Back at hostel washing was done, went on web for a bit then out for dinner. Had a look around and could not believe that out of all the street stalls, we happened to find a lady cooking roast potatos, one of the foods we craved most from home. Our luck was in. Sat quite happily on the little plastic chairs munching away at them, it was brilliant.
ROAST POTATOS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE - AD WAS IN HEAVEN, CRISPY TOTS!
As that was just our starter and a good one at that, we went back to the restaurant where we ate yesterday. Think they were really pleased to see us again, cos this time we got served very quickly and all the utensils were brought over instantly. Went for the Kung Pow Chicken and loads of veg, YUMMY! Back to hostel very satisfied, watched some Chinese TV (always interesting) while Ad waiting to see if footy was on, it didn't happen so dragged him off to bed.
Monday 26th October - MONSTER ALI TURNS RED OVER BUS TICKET
Took our time getting up and ready, the pace here is generally very slow, so never in a rush to do anything, which is just the way we like it. Sent Becky a quick email to wish her a very happy birthday and then headed straight to the bus station for our second attempt at getting a ticket out of here.
Once again was told to come back to bus station for 2pm and although we had 2 hours to wait, we were not leaving without a ticket, so there we stayed and Ad played on his PSP for a bit while I watched a film on my ipod. An old local chap came in after about an hour and sat and waited also, Ad tried to speak to him and between them they had some conversation picking up odd words of English and Chinese.
More and more people started to arrive around 1:30pm onwards and the old boy told them all to queue and I was under the impression he had mentioned to others that we had been there for a long time and should get served first, as they all seemed to queue behind us, which I thought was really sweet of them. However, as soon as the lady turned up to sell the tickets, the craziness began. One guy had walked in at 2pm, straight up to the desk and a few locals told him to get to the back of the queue, but he did not budge.
RED Monster Ali came out of her shell - Oh yes, I lost it, this guy was shaking his money under the girls nose, to be served first and I went mad. Started shouting at him telling him to get to the back of the queue, we had been there for 2 hours and I was leaving without a ticket. I even took his money and threw it at him. Ad found this hilarious, he didn't seem to hide it either and other local people started to laugh now, I have to admit, looking back it was pretty funny, but I was feeling my blood boil at the time. Just don't like being pushed back just because we are foreigners. Anyway, luckily some guy told the lady we were def first and she served us, I think everyone got the impression if she didn't I might cause world war III, so to get rid of us would have been the best option te he - sometimes it pays to lose your cool, as long as you don't hurt anyone.
Now time for some food as we were both starving. Went back to the nice chap where we ate yesterday and got a tray of dumplings, delicious. Perfect to fill us up for a few hours, I am def a fan of the dumplings.
Went back to the hostel for a bit, updated some more blog, then spent some time sewing the strap back on my day bag while Ad was checking some sport news on the web etc. Can't believe I am sewing, haven't done it since school, I can't say I'm very good at it, but did a good enough job to keep using the bag, so can't be all that bad ay. Desperate times call for desperate measures and if sewing is what I need to do to save some money, well then that's what I'll do te he.
Decided to go for an afternoon stroll, to make sure we saw as much of the area as possible, now we knew we would be going tomorrow. 3 little pigs were snuggled up amongst some rubbish on our way to the town, was kinda sweet, no sign of the wolf though, I guess he'll be along at night. Wandered down the main street out into the countryside a little, was very spacious with lots of little houses and farming area, looked like something right out of a history book. Nice place actually, very quaint and beautiful views of the mountains in the back ground. We walked almost to the end where the buildings seem to come to an end and then headed back into town.
Found another very built up section of town that we had not ventured yet and took a look around. Some children were coming back from school and took a liking to us. They seemed very friendly and wanted to practice their English on us, were very good as it happened. We politely encouraged them and also tried out our Chinese on them, which they found very amusing. The little boy ended up shouting out "I love you" as he wizzed off on the back of somebody's bicycle, so cute.
Bumped into the guy from our hostel, he was getting his van fixed at the local mechanics and put an arm around Ad to take him in and show him what they were doing, kinda odd, but guess he was just being friendly. Further along we stumbled across a lovely little cobbled street, very old looking, full of souvenir shops, really nice. Had a good look around and picked up some nice little gifts for home.
Opted for an early dinner, so we could get back before it gets too cold. Had a delicious beef with peppers dish and a spinage type dish and rice, was very tasty.
Back to hostel for the evening. A mix of updating more blog, playing the play station and chilling watching a film. Joe was back from his treck in the national park, he said it was fine weather in the day, but the nights did get very cold, so we might have been ok, but think the nights would have been a struggle for us with such thin clothing.