Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dali's Cangshan Mountains

Dali is an extremely beautiful area - as opposed to the generally polluted, entirely flat, entirely urban Shanghai, Dali is located in a peaceful valley surrounding a lake and overlooked by a Mountain Range, with beautiful blue skies. The mountains come down less than a mile from the heart of Dali Old City - these three pagodas, the most famous landmark of Dali, are basically down the street.

I decided to go on a mountain hike - it was a lot of fun, and I while I don't know if it alone justifies a trip to Dali, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who visits. Like the few other Chinese hikes I've been on, the feel is a lot different than the hikes I've been on in America - where maybe one drives to a parking lot at the bottom of a mountain range, and from there is pretty much on their own. Instead, the actual hike started with a twenty minute long gondola ride, over steep, forested mountains. It's all extremely beautiful:

There's a guide station on the way, and then a path left and right from this point. Again, instead of the cleared-brush paths and foot-worn paths I'm used to from US hikes, this was something more like a sidewalk:

That pictures conveys how flat and smooth the path is, but it takes place on fairly level terrain. However, there's large portions on the trail that happens along the side of enormous cliffs! Even so, there's almost no gradient at all to the trail, one could easily travel on a bike or maybe even a skateboard. I found it truly strange to be going through a rugged mountain range without even having to hike up or down, just sideways. This is about as steep as it got, and it's not as steep as it might look.

As is obvious from above, the path must have been dynamited out of the side of a cliff at points. It went back and forth directly against the mountain, it could feel like cruising the contour lines on a map:

There's even includes the occasional tunnel going through the mountain, here's a dramatic example:

The picture above shows the lake valley peaking out. While there were no dramatic lake vistas in the portion of the hike I went through, the valley occasionally peaked out, it was a beautiful view. Most of the path winded through the mountain range. I was there in December, and even though the weather was about as nice as could be asked for, it still got pretty chilly. Fortunately I missed the clouds coming in, or it would have been worse:

There were also stopping points along the trail, with small sites to be seen. They were just a couple minute's diversion, but interesting. For instance, some small waterfalls:

And there was also a small shack selling drinks and soup, along the side of the pathways. They seemed to have a small home alongside the pathway, from which they raised live chickens and sold fresh meat:

Due to a broken chairlift, I walked my way down the side of the mountain when I was done. The trail conditions were pretty bad and I can't say I recommend this to others. However, it did take me past some farms and an interesting Bai graveyard. The graves stand up above ground, and there's a lot of them on hills that look out over the countryside:

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