China: First Expeditionary Force

"The journey of a thousand leagues
began with what lay beneath the feet."
Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)

After three years of living in Taiwan a visit to China was perhaps well overdue. I spent three months on the road during which time I was able to renew old acquaintances, make new friends, travel down the Yangtze River, visit a glacier, witness a "sky burial", and travel through the mountainous regions of Eastern Tibet, dodging landslides, police and hairy yaks. I had two severe cases of diarrhoea and managed to lose a few kilos on the way.

snow

Northern Sichuan, I'm the one on the left.

China is big! Very big. You might think it's a long way up to the Mornington supermarket......

In the end I got to see but a fraction of it really. At times my trip was exhilarating and at others utterly tedious though on the whole it proved to be an uplifting experience.

My travelling companion for the first leg was Rick, a music teacher from Phoenix, Arizona. We were to be flying China Airlines, the Taiwanese national carrier which at the time had about the worst safety record in Asia. My friend at the travel agency assured me I wouldn't turn into charcoal in mid air and got me to join their "Dynasty (die nasty?) Frequent Flier programme. As China Airlines had crashed once aready that year we figured we were probably in the clear. In any case all plane crash jokes ended at the airport gates.

In fairness to China Airlines their standards have improved somewhat since, though the food is still nothing to write home about.

Dateline: Sept 3 - Dec 3 2002. Route: Kaohsiung to Hong Kong by air, train to Guangzhou, bus to Yangshuo, on to Longsheng, Chengyang, Congjiang. Guiyang to Kaili and on to Chongqing by train. From Chongqing to Yichang by boat passing through the 3 Gorges Dam project. Yichang to Xian by bus, train to Chengdu, bus to Kangding (and Guza) bus to Luding, car to Moxi and Hailuogou Glacier on to Shimian and bus to Xichang, train back to Chengdu. Bus to Songpan for horsetrekking and return to Chengdu. Chengdu to Lhasa by air. Bus to and from Tsetang. Bus to Drigung Til Monastery, hitch-hike to Tedrun Nunnery and back to Lhasa. 4WD from Lhasa to Deci (6 days), bus to Lijiang, trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Lijiang to Dali by bus, on to Kunming train back to Hong Kong. Ferry to and from Macau, back to Kaohsiung by air.