The Road to Everest

Day 9: Thursday 4 May 2006
May 15, 2006,

Day 9: Thursday 4 May 2006

Today offered a welcome rest day in the luxurious Sheraton Hotel in the alpine town of Jiuzhaigou.

The town was very busy with local tourists, who flock here to visit the renowned National Nature Park – although many others were in town for Jiuzhaigou Folk Custom Month.

The Park itself offered a stunning series of ice blue lakes set against atmospheric mist-wrapped and snow-capped mountains. Those who visited enjoyed plenty of walking, as well as bus rides through the park, which stretches for tens of kilometres into the local countryside.

The buses did prove a bit confusing, with several finding themselves heading deeper into the Park when they thought they were making for the exit. However, with every turn came a new series of serene lakes and waterfalls, surrounded by colourful flora, straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Each of the 100 plus lakes in this UNESCO World Nature Heritage site supposedly signifies a shard of broken mirror, shards created when Buddhist goddess XXXX dropped her looking glass upon xxxx.

The rest day also afforded participants the opportunity to enjoy massages and other delights, all in preparation for the arduous journey ahead on Day 10.

Day 10: Friday 5 May 2006
Jiuzhaigou – Lanzhou

After the delights of a rest day and the fresh sights of Jiuzhaigou National Nature Park we headed out early for the 662km drive to Lanzhou.

The road out of Jiuzhaigou was very good, taking us through valleys and over mountain passes towards Wen Xian. The latter is famous, since it is the region in whose wild, remote areas that the endangered Giant Panda lives with most prosperity, thanks to its wealth of Panda-friendly, edible bamboo.

From Wen Xian, we headed north to Wudu, where we encountered some poorly surfaced roads, which contained many potholes thanks to damage sustained by the floods and landslides that often affect this area. In parts the road bore scars of where it had been washed away completely and make-shift earth padding plugged the gaps.

Some crews decided to stop at Wudu for lunch in a small Moslem restaurant that served excellent food. Meanwhile others had picnics at the side of the road, sharing food and cups of coffee with other participants who rolled up beside them.

After lunch we left Wudu and drove along the valley floor through several kilometres of busy towns lying alongside the river. There were many poor Chinese farming communities in this area, where the inhabitants live in very basic mud huts, sending all of their family members out to work at a very young age. The main products were vegetables cultivated on old terraces on the hillsides. This truly was rural China, such a difference from the major cities we have visited.

We then traveled onwards for 300km, before we sped along the Expressway from Lintao to our overnight destination of Lanzhou, a town notable for its large Islamic community. Here, everyone arrived safely at the Sunshine Plaza Hotel and found a very welcome bed!

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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