The Road to Everest

Day 22: Wednesday 17 May 2006
May 19, 2006,

Basu – Deqen

Today we had to start out early for a long but rewarding drive through mountains and gorges to Deqen, which is close to the sacred Buddhist mountain, Mt Meli (6,740m), also known as the Snow Mountain.

Straight out of the hotel, we met a truly amazing 15km run through a wonderful gorge with overhanging rock faces, with the confluence of two major tributaries of the Mujiang River raging far below.

This then led to a one-hour climb over one of the most spectacular gravel passes of the Great Tour. Alpine-like in design and rising from 2,680m to 4,622m over some 38km, this demanding road was higher, longer and much more impressive than the Stelvio. It truly was a hidden Tibetan gem with magnificent views at the top.

Shortly after the climb, we descended into the small but bustling village of Bagdu before turning right and along the next valley floor. This road has now been upgraded to asphalt since the 2004 Great Tour, but there were several stretches that were damaged from landslides as we made our way to Zuogang, before starting to climb over the 5,093m Dungda Pass and through a Nature Reserve on gravel roads.

At the top we descended back towards China and crossed the Mekong Bridge at 2,680m. Further on (40km) we arrived at the border town of Mankang before turning south. Here we encountered a large hailstorm, with extremely large but luckily very soft stones, plus bright, freak fork lightning.

The storm passed quickly as we travelled along some very narrow single track roads passing the small village of Yangjing, which is famous for its Salt Well located in the middle of the freshwater Mekong river. Then, all too soon, we left Tibet and continued into China proper’s Yunan Province.

The border crossed, Tibet did not, however, disappear from view or memory, especially when we started our climb up towards the top of a final 3,440m pass, where a sacred Buddhist monument overlooks Mt Meli.

A few kilometres before this point Bob and Thelma Howells found themselves being flagged down by a distressed young girl. She had been travelling in a car with four others when their vehicle had uncontrollably left the road and fallen 30 feet down the mountain side. Miraculously the car had tipped upside down and been caught on a sturdy tree, saving it and its passengers from the shear drop hundreds of feet below. Luckily, there were no serious injuries, and Bob and Thelma were able to take the traumatised girl to a nearby village so she could call on the emergency services for help.

After this eventful day, the last car pulled into the Rainbow Hotel in Deqen just before 10pm, and all enjoyed a superb and much-needed meal.

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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