Archive for the ‘Kangding’ Category

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Friday, November 6th, 2015
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On the early morning of October 09, 2015,  we check out of our lodging hotel in Kangding and have a very simple breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Then again we go on with our self-drive trip west from Kangding (康定) to Xinduqiao (新都桥). The scenic drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao has been long expected, one of the highlight sections of the Sichuan-Tibetan Southern Highway (G318). The National Highway G318 is the longest national highway in China with a total length of 5476 km starting from People’s Square in Shanghai and ending at the Friendship Bridge linking Nepal at Zhangmu Town in Tibet, China.

China National Highway G318, oft-lauded as Route 66 & the National Old Trails Highway in the States, completed in 1954, runs almost along the NL30 degrees, and covers multiple landscapes seldom seen elsewhere in the world, ranging from the Yangtze River Estuary to Mt. Everest; from the basins regions to the plains areas and lofty plateaus; from mounds to hills, high mountains and alpine mountains; from fresh water lakes to saline lakes; from rain forests to bushes, grasslands, and wildness. Highway G318 is also a historical and cultural passage connecting the multiple cultures from the past to the present.

80km west of Kangding and 437 km west of Chengdu, Xinduqiao (新都桥) is a town under the administration of Kangding. It is a town at 3450 meters altitude comprised of just one street that is G318 passing through it. It is said that the 10km long National Highway G318 in Xinduqiao Town is regarded as “the Corridor of Photographers “.  In autumn, the valley where Xinduqiao lies is a poetic and picturesque paradise. By the two sides of the highway and at the foot of the undulating mountains flanking it, you will see Tibetan blocks of houses, golden and yellow poplar trees, grazing horses, limpid streams, extending grasslands and magical lights ( especially at sunrise and sunset), a paradise of photographers!

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao

Last night we got a word that there started snowing around Zheduo Mountains Pass (折多山口).  Zheduo Mountain Pass is the first pass at 4298 meters to enter the traditional “Kham” region, the typical Tibetan area in the west of Sichuan Province. But when we are out on the Highway G318 this morning we find it is snowing everywhere around us, not just Zheduo Mountain Pass. We are carefully driving along the wide, but wet two-lane highway ( one lane for each direction) flanked by sheer cliffs or massive mountains.

Driving in snow along G318

Driving in snow along G318

Not many vehicles on the zigzag maintain road. On the route,  we pass through several service stops, very basic with simple toilets and parking lots, and you pay 5 yuan per vehicle to use the service for each stop. All the service stops are run by the local Tibetans.

G318 Service Stop

Take a break at a service stop

Zheduo Mountain Pass is a must stop on the way from Kanging to Xinduqiao or vice versa. At 12:30am we get to the flat top of the pass, and see a huge rock monument standing there engraved with the words”First Pass to Kham – Zheduo Pass 4298 ” in English, Tibetan and Chinese. Behind the sign rock is a white pagoda surrounded by colorful prayer flags.

Zheduo Mountain Pass

Zheduo Mountain Pass Monument

“Zheduo” 折多 in Tibet means “zigzag and bends”. There are plentiful bends and curves of the highway winding through Zheduo Mountain as its name suggests. Zheduo Mountain is an important geogaphical dividing line: on the west is Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau; on the east and south is the high mountains and deep gorges; on the north is the place where Jiarong Tibetans live.

We slowly descend from the 4298-meter altitude pass, driving down along the switchback mountain roads. Soon we find the snow has stopped and it is getting brighter. This has really buoyed us up! The annoying snow has blanketed the otherwise coloful autumn hues of the mountains we have passed by. The snow has turned the autumn fairyland into a monotonous white world.

Drive along G318

The snow has stopped and it is getting brighter

Around 2:00pm, we’ve smoothly descended from the cloud and snow capped Zheduo Mountain to the sightseeing highway not far from Xinduqiao Town at the fall of about 1000 meters. We are excited to see the green and yellow trees and grassland on both sides of the highway.  We stop by the roadside,  taking out our cameras and getting ready for shooting the picturesque scenery.

Xinduqiao Town

Smoothly descended from the cloud and snow capped Zheduo Mountain

For next two hours,  we are experiencing a drive scenic tour along the highway in Xinduqiao, stopping where we think there is a photogenic spot.

Xinduqiao

Snow, Tibetan houses, yellow poplar trees, grazing horses

It is not a bright and sunny day, but we are very much satisfied with the weather – no rain with fairly good visibility. Dotted fallen snow, Tibetan houses, yellow poplar trees, grazing horses constitute  a pristine and pretty picture.

Idyllic Xinduqiao

Idyllic Xinduqiao

With a backdrop of the undulating mountains, Tibetan houses are scattered on the valley with the unlimited golden and yellow grassland; green and yellow poplar trees;  limpid streams.

Picturesque Xinduqiao

Picturesque Xinduqiao

At 4:00 pm, we decide to continue driving west along G318 and stay overnight in Yajiang ( 雅江), 72km west of Xinduqiao. Our original travel plan was to stay overnight here in Xinduqiao.

Any questions on the drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao,  just drop a line.

Add-on:
Night View of Kangding
Chengdu tour

Night View of Kangding

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015
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Often regarded as where Tibet really begins, Kangding (康定) is the capital of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. In 2015, Kangding is upgraded from a county level to a prefecture city, which encompasses 6 towns and 15 townships and over 200 villages. Lucheng Town (炉城镇) is the city proper ( the downtown area ) of Kangding. Lucheng Town is the seat of both Kangding City and Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture .

Kangding ( also known in Tibet as Dartsendo or Dardo ) is set in a deep valley at the confluence of the raging Zheduo River River ( 折多河 ) and Yala River (雅拉河). It is located about 133 km to the northwest of Moxi Town, 49km west of Luding County and 360 km west of Chengdu. Kangding was once the hub for horse and tea trading along the Tea and Horse Route between Sichuan and Lhasa.  For centuries, Kangding has been the exchange center of Han and Tibetan cultures. It is also a gateway to Tibet in the west from Chengdu.

For many Chinese, Kangding’ popularity comes from the themed love song “Kangding Love Song”. Travelers would be attracted by its alluring vicinity covering snow mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows, sweeping grasslands and monasteries. Of course, the biggest draw is its unique Khampa cultures such as Guozhuang (康巴锅庄文化).

Well,  back to our self-drive trip, on October 08, 2015, we leave Moxi Town at 3:30 pm for Kangding where we are going to stay overnight. At 5:00pm, we pass by the downtown of Luding County. We stop for about 10 minutes for a glimpse of the legendary Luding Iron-Chain Bridge (泸定桥) that spans the Dadu River in Luding County.

The bridge dates back to Qing Dynasty, originally built 1705 and completed in 1706. In 1935, the soldiers of the Fourth Regiment of Red Army seized the bridge as a river crossing vital to the Red Army’s retreat during the Long March.  The bridge is 103.67 meters long, and 3 meters wide. 13 heavy iron chains are stretched across the river and lashed with thick boards.

Luding Iron-Chain Bridge

The legendary Luding Iron-Chain Bridge

Further driving from Luding along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway known as G318, we get to the downtown of Kangding at about 7:00pm. The bright lit streets and modern buildings really gives us a shock! Is this Kangding? It looks so developed and prosperous! A world difference from the Kangding in our minds! Below is the picture I snap of the street using my iphone sitting in our vehicle while looking for a hotel for tonight.

Kangding City

The bright lit streets and modern buildings in Kangding

It is not a tourist high season. We soon find a very nice hotel on the busy street in Kangding with quite reasonable roomrates. After dinner, I urge Mr.Chen to take our cameras and shoot the night views of Kangding City. It is drizzling outside and this doesn’t deter us from going onto the streets for enjoying the beautiful night of Kangding.

The torrential Zheduo River River ( 折多河 ) runs through the downtown of Kangding from the southwest to the northeast and enters Dadu River eventually.

Zheduo River River

Zheduo River River runs through the downtown of Kangding

Zheduo River is sandwiched by high and modern buildings – banks, office buildings, department stores…

Zheduo River

Zheduo River is sandwiched by high and modern buildings

A  collection of modern concrete buildings in Tibetan style by the raging river.

uildings in Tibetan style Kangding

The concrete buildings in Tibetan style

A huge commercial building (like SOHO) packed with numerous offices, stores, restaurants and more.

A huge commercial building (like SOHO)

A huge commercial building (like SOHO)

Tonight’s rain prettifies the city with the reflection and refraction of the street lights.

Kangding Night

The reflection and refraction of the street lights in Kngding

The wide street roads flank the raging Zheduo River with the charming reflection and refraction of the street lights.

Zheduo River and Streets in Kangding

The wide street roads flank the raging Zheduo River

Any questions, just drop a line.

Add-on:
Drive from Kangding to Xinduqiao
Chengdu tour

Camp No.03 at Hailuogou Glacier

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
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On October 08, 2015,  we get on the first shuttle bus leaving at 7:30 am from Moxi Town for Camp No.03 up at Hailuogou Glacier (海螺沟三号营地). Yesterday afternoon we visited Camp No.04 and fortunately viewed the Firn Basin and the Grand Ice Cascade of No.01 Hailuogou Glacier. But we are not contented with a distant glimpse of the glaciers, instead we would like to traverse the glacially carved valley, seeing, feeling and even touching the bright and crystal glacier ice as we’ve long expected. It is said that there is a walkway starting from Camp No.03, which finally leads down to the glacier valley where we are able to find glacier caves, glacier ladders and more glacier wonders.

With that aim in mind and without any idea on the hard efforts ahead involved, we again buy the tickets for admission and shuttle bus for Camp No.03. In this case, we have some complaint about the ticketing policy on the part of Hailuogou Glacier Park Administration. The entrance tickets should be valid for 2 or 3 days, allowing travelers to fully enjoy Hailuogou Glacier’s pristine forests, hot springs, rugged mountains, and spectacular glacier. In addition, the lengthened entrance admission would stimulate the local food and hotel industry.

One hour later, a busload of us disperses on Camp No.03 at the sea-level of 2940 meters. It is a rainy and gloomy morning. We put on our raincoats and start hiking up along the one way 1.8km boardwalk. We are supposed to walk for 1.8 km from the 2940-meter at Camp No.03 along the boardwalk up to the 3200-meter altitude observation deck, then walk down to the glacially carved valley at about 3000 meters sea-level, roughly a total 5 km round trip walking.

Hailuogou Glacier Boardwalk

Walk along the boardwalk from Camp No.03

The boardwalk goes through the dense dark coniferous forests, allowing you to have zero contact with the natural environs. But walking for 5 km ups and downs at about 3000 meters sea-level turns out to be an enormously hard job! With heavy backpacks loaded with cameras, water, snacks and emergency kits, we trudge up step by step. We don’t know exactly how many times we have to stop for a break and balance our breath.

For each break, we don’t take off our backpacks, which otherwise would be very stressful.  We just stand leaning on the wooden handrails with our backpacks perched on a rail. I feel much warmer and unbutton my jacket due to excessive sweating, which later proves to pose a serious problem for me. I catch a serious cold in the glacier valley, and the cold almost keeps on for my whole self-drive trip!

Glacier Walkway at Camp No.03

We just stand leaning on the wooden handrails with our backpacks perched on a rail.

Scrambling along the walkway for nearly two hours, we finally get to Glacier Observation Deck at 3000 meters altitude. By the observation deck, there is a wooden toilet and a wooden restaurant, a kind of service center for hikers on this walkway. The whole glacier valley is heavily shrouded in fog and clouds. We decide to continue to walk along the walkway down to the glacier valley.

Glacier Vally shrouded in fog and clouds

The whole glacier valley is heavily shrouded in fog and clouds.

We start to walk down to the bottom areas of the glacier valley along the walkway from the observation deck. The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed, largely due to the restricted geographical conditions and the frequent changes in the climatic and geographical patterns.

We have to walk down along a narrow and steep stone-paved road flanked one side by the sheer cliffs with potential risk of falling rocks.

Glacier Walkway Hailuogou

a narrow and steep stone-paved road flanked one side by the sheer cliffs

The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed.

The walkway down to the valley bottom

The walkway down to the valley bottom is poorly managed

In the course of struggling to balance ourselves going down the steep and rickety boardwalk and stone-paved walkway, we are happily distracted by the autumn hues that cling to the hillsides above the galcier valley – mosses, wild flowers, unamed grassess, autumn leaves, fir and cedar trees.

The autumn hues in the glacier valley

The autumn hues in the glacier valley

Landing safely on the bottom of the glacier valley, we are temporarily disconcerted. I confess that what is in sight floors me! Under the low visibility of clouds, we see only a bottom of gravel and boulders!  Where can we find the clean, crystal and transparent glaciers? Yes, the glaciers are under our feet, covered with gravel and these boulders. But we unlikely dig out the cryastal glaciers instantly.

Hailuogou Glacier valley

A bottom of gravel and boulders

Mr. Chen, a very positive man, tells me that we should walk further on and will definitely find cleaner and brighter glacier ice. He continues to inspire me, saying the Sun will appear! Walking on gravel and boulders is dangerous and uncomfortable. Fortunately my hiking boots ( made in Canada ) never fail me, greatly increasing my confidence in walking in the wildness.

Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses (冰川裂隙), seracs (冰塔), and other distinguishing features. We finally find some of these glaciers in intriguing forms, crystal and a bit azure. Much to our pleasant surprise, at 12:30 am the Sun appears with a small portion of blue sky surrounded by white clouds! Later we get to know we are the only few people having seen the sunshine and blue sky among the hundreds of tourists going down to the valley bottom for the same whole day.

We lose no time shooting the various forms of glacier we can find on the brighter valley flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage.

The valley is flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage.

Hailuogou Glacier

The valley is flanked by sheer cliffs with autumn foliage

Looking at the glacier crevasses.

Hailuogou Glacier

Looking at the glacier crevasses

A happy couple ( Mr. Chen Wexiang and Chen Ya )

Chen Wexiang

A happy couple

I cannot resist taking a picture with the glacier. Touching icy glacier is my maiden experience!

Daniel Li

Touching icy glacier is my maiden experience!

In less than half hour, the Sun disappears and the valley back to darkness. It gets much colder and I think I have caught the cold at this moment. We start to retrace along the same walkway. On the way back, we order some snacks for lunch at the service center near the observation deck.  We are back to our parking lot at Moxi Town around 3:30 pm.

Any questions,  just drop a line.

Add-on: Camp No.03 of Hailuogou Glacier
Camp No.04 of Hailuogou Glacier