The Road to Everest

Day 8: Wednesday 3 May 2006
May 15, 2006,

Day 8: Wednesday 3 May 2006
Chengdu - Jiuzhaigou

Road to Songpan
Following the visit to the Giant Pandas yesterday, we took a journey through areas where the pandas exist in the wild. Unfortunately, no crews sighted any, but this was to be expected, since these endangered creatures tend to be very timid, living high up in the mountain forests under cover of heavy vegetation.

The route took us via Expressway to Dujiangyuan, from where we travelled on a secondary road through rocky hills and valleys to our lunch halt in a small, roadside, Tibetan-style restaurant with stalls selling local gifts, fruits and offering yak rides!

Dragon at Songpan
After lunch we traveled the 80km to the ‘old town’ of Songpan, which was founded in the Ming dynasty as a garrison town to guard the nearby mountain pass. To say ‘old town’ is definitely a misnomer as it was tragically almost destroyed by the Japanese when they invaded China some sixty years ago, and it is only now in the process of being rebuilt.

However, we arrived in the middle of a festival, meaning that Songpan was alive with drumming ladies, a Muslim market, colourful processions and dancing Dragons. Such a rich view of traditional Chinese life made it well worth the visit. Songpan also gave us our first taste of Tibetan-influenced life.

After a prolonged stay, crews managed to prise themselves away and get back to their vehicles. The remaining 100km took us up to over 3,000m (our first experience of high altitude), and then down through some lush alpine hairpins to our overnight halt in Juizhaigou.

Pancakes in Songpan

© Copyright

Day 30: Thursday 25 May 2006
Zhaoqing – Splendid China, Shenzhen

On this our final day of the Great Tour of China 2006, we made a short journey mainly on expressway from Zhaoqing to the Splendid China Cultural Park in Shenzhen for the ceremonial finish.

May 26, 2006
Day 29: Wednesday 24 May 2006
Guilin - Zhaoqing

We left Gulin on smooth fast roads with wonderful views of the ‘eggbox’ type hills. These are hills of limestone which have eroded into shape over centuries covered in native vegetation and resembling very large teeth.

May 25, 2006
Day 28: Tuesday 23 May 2006
Kaili - Guilin

The agenda today was another long driving day to Guilin along a mixture of road surfaces: smooth main roads, bumpy secondary roads and some roads still under construction.

May 24, 2006
Day 27: Monday 22 May 2006
Huangguoshu Falls - Kaili

Before negotiating another day on the road, everyone spent a couple of hours today visiting China’s most scenic falls at Huangguoshu. Set against lush, local vegetation, the falls make up in beauty for what they lack in size.

May 23, 2006
Day 26: Sunday 21 May 2006
Kunming – Huangguoshu Falls

This morning we took the northern road from Kunming on a mix of main highway, dual carriageway and back roads. The first town we passed through was Quiyang en route to Honggu, a large town with coal mining and steel production as it’s main industries.

May 23, 2006