Friday 23 May 2014

A Northern Yunnan road challenge

From Lijiang to Hugu Lu (lake) is supposed to be a pretty good road of about 200 km. However the main road was closed for repairs so we took the next best route. China seems to be one big building site with millions of tons of cement being poured into new buildings, roads, and general renovation and repair, and our chosen route was typical. We were in the same mountainous area with permanent snow on the 5000m “rugged battlements” between us and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
The vintage cars were down to low gear often as we climbed to almost 3000m, with the descents also challenging. At our lunch stop we heard that a hydro power station ahead closed the road at 2pm, giving us an hour and a half to drive about 30km. Sounds easy, but we didn’t have more than minutes to spare. So through the restricted zone (no photos) and down to the now south-flowing Yangtse dam and power station, out past the checkpoint, another half km, then a padlocked boomgate. Up ahead more road excavation on the rockwall above the “road”. The locals tell us the gate opens at 6pm, and closes again at 6am. It’s 2.30 and it’s hot. There’s one ‘restaurant’ and an increasing queue of cars and bored occupants. The toilet is along to the end and follow your nose. Have you ever tried to get a bit of kip on a bench a metre long by about 20cm wide?

Our headlights are not really up to night driving but we eventually have no option but to push on at 6 – and it’s all uphill. At 7.30, with daylight to spare, we climb into a village, Cuiyu, with an eatery newly extended to a hotel. Lucky it’s summer and the whole of China is on Beijing time.

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