Lost Horizon - Trekking in Shangri-La
"Losang is a 9 month old Tibetan boy who is living in a 10sqm wood cabin on the 4020m altitude pastureland, surrounded by 2 caring parents, 100 yaks and 2 Tibetan mastiffs......"
Constantine is a French guy who was introduced to me by a common Beijing friend. He is well known in Shangri-la since he has been living there over 10 years, everybody calls him TinTin ;) . His recommendations were more than helpful, he really knows the best spot in Shangri-la, like Karma Cafe and its owner Afang, where we spent lovely time chatting and eating delicious home made food. Afang has a special gift for hospitality, she treats her guests, her food and her staff with respect and with love. She trains and encourages the staff to cook in her spacious open kitchen, making good coffee, home made jamjam and a delicious bread baked with mother yeast. Every day she packed our breakfast, since we left the guest house early morning, to make sure her staff can rest properly and no noise to other guests. We appreciate it so much!
Peacefulness in the Righa Valley
The first day in Shangri-la we rented a motorbike to be more independent, visiting the "small Potala Palace" and the surrouding grass land, 25km away from the city center. The day after our driver Asu (13988713249) drove us for 4 hours to an isolated cabin outside Ninong village, on the bank of Lancang River. We decided to trek in Yubeng Village from Ninong, doing a clock-wise route, like most of pilgrims do based on a religious tradition. This route is more difficult compared to the one entering from Xidang... but it is really worthy, the scenery you can find on the way is simply gorgeous. After many hours and 14KM trek, just turning a small bridge the valley opens up and in front of us is Lower Yubeng - brook, animals, Tibetan flags, stupa and monastery... a secret land! Unexpectedly beautiful!!
From the isolated cabin outside Ninong village, we started to climbed up, walking on the middle of the mountain along with the chocolate river (Lancang River). We walked on a 1m wide road, with no plants around, no shadow for 1.5 hours. I imagined that we were walking on a floating dreamy desert, this part is my favorite, it's so very special!
Beginning from Ninong
Trekking with us into the canyon, one and only pilgrim family, with bare necessities and a 2 year old little girl; tourists like us were all walking on opposite direction, constantly telling us how difficult the route going up is, and asking us why we didn't decide to enter from Xidang.
Well, yeah...but no...but yeah... thank you!
*Food, we only had nuts and dates, they balance our body while trekking. We kept 2L of water each, in the water bag. There is one restaurant/station for food supply, but not oily food nor unhealthy snacks are a match for trekking, would bring dullness and slothfulness sensations. So think about what you eat base on the purpose of your trekking.
*About loo, there is only one at the station, but you need more for sure. To respect the nature, use degradable paper or leaves ;) Girls please keep your personal pads / tampons with you, do not trash them around, they are plastic, babes.
*From Ninong there is no renting mule business, so you must carry your stuff on your own, so keep bare necessities. Once you get in, be strong, be positive, be focus, enjoy it!
No more people entered after us on that day from Ninong side, so it was very pleasant and quiet journey, I walked 30m behind Claudio, the only sound around was moving fast water, so I paid attention only on the little piece of earth in front of me and I easily got into the meditative walking state.
Lower Yubeng... mirage. After 8 hours, 14km trekking it finally showed up!
We like lower Yubeng, everything is very peaceful and humble. We decided to stay the homestay right in front of the monastery, 神瀑客栈. The view from the homestay is fantastic - Meili snow capped mountain, monastery and stupa and flags and animals with their sacred bells; green open courtyard just like the friendly humble owner! Their bed is the most comfortable one in this entire trip:)
View to Meili Mountain from Lower Yubeng
From Lower Yubeng to the Sacred Waterfall is a easy path, with an ascend of 600m, we spent 6 hours for 11km round trip, with many pauses. There are many black pigs having breaki in the wood, all of them were timid except one, who walked to Claudio and rolled over her body expecting a tender stroke. She must sense that Claudio is a vegan, such a connection!
Arrived at the Sacred Waterfall we discovered that the pilgrims have a ritual of walking 3 rounds under the waterfall, clock-wise while chanting and praying, then tie the prayer flags for their whishes. The waterfall is small and elegant, a sacred and meaningful place for pilgrims. It really give the feeling that the water is falling down from the holy heaven. I would imagine that there is another quiet village, up there, behind the water and clouds...
On the road to the Sacred Waterfall
The Sacred Waterfall
Lower and upper Yubeng are divided by 2km distance, it takes 1 hour walking up, no shade. If you are tired and want a lift, some guys would take you up with their motorbike, one bike one person cost 100yuan.
lobsangtrekkerlodge.webs.com is a very mature guest house in upper Yubeng, the owner Kawa (13988797053) speaks English and is very friendly. The guest house has an open terrace, where we decided to have our dinner, seated on the floor, absorbing the energy of the last sun of the day while contemplating the moutain. Big window in the room, facing to Meili mountain. During the night we kept the curtain open to absorb the moon energy when sleeping. After all its all about energy ;)
From upper Yubeng (3200m) to the Glacier Lake (3800m) took us 9 hours for 12km round trip. We saw the mule business going on here, either to carry you or your backpack or tent. You can camp up there at the base camp. Notice that it's not possible to ride the mule the all time, you need to get down when it's very steep, so most of the time. What's the point to ride a mule for the esiest parts of the path? The Glacier lake is stunning, but I think people should stop going up on the ice, people bring mud on it from their shoes, so the ice is no longer white...
The Glacier Lake
In terms of tourism, upper Yubeng is more developed, but we like more the lower Yubeng, it is more humble in every aspects. Road in upper Yubeng is wider, village car passing around horses and pigs, but not allowed to carry any tourists (I think it is a great decision). You can rent mule to carry your stuff out to Xidang hotspring (225yuan/mule). The mule won't walk with you, they will quickly go down and leave your bag at the ticket place then return their own way.
*If you rent a mule, considerer the weight of you and your bag, rent two mules if too heavy, and don't leave your bag to the mule keeper to carry it just for saving money. Some of the mule keepers are women or teenager girls. Be mindful to others please.
From upper Yubeng to Xidang hotspring, 5km walked up, 6km walked down, we spent 6 hours in total. When you see the chocolate river again, you will know that you almost did it! We met our new driver at the entrance, 此里(18787691868), he took us back to Shangri-la in 3.5 hours.
We slept one night in Shangri-la, then the next day early morning, well rested and with a breakfast packed from Afang we headed to Niru village, 3.5 hours driving.
*Fees: Xidang hotspring - Shangri-la, 600yuan, 3.5 hours. Shangri-la - Niru village, 500yuan, 3.5 hours.
38km from Luoji town to Niru village, crazily zigzag road /\/\/\/\
The best homestay in Niru is 依主客栈, also called 尼汝老外客栈 contact Sanjie (13988765863) for booking. She also helped us to arrange our guide 拉茸扎西(13988734854) and his two mules, Lisong and Lhamo (normally they are not very willing to rent one mule at a time).
*no China Unicom in this area. Superb!
*Guide, 200yuan; mule, 200yuan/day. Tent, sleeping bag, 50yuan/each.
They are natural posers
We walked 14km in 8 hours from Sanjie's homestay to Nanbao pastureland, Zhaxi's home. There we met Losang, a 9 month old Tibetan boy who is living in a 10sqm wood cabin on the 4020m altitude pastureland, surrounded by 2 caring parents, 100 yaks and 2 Tibetan mastiffs. The nomadic family moves back and forward two different pastureland, depending on the season.
Losang and mama
6pm is the time when all the shepherds need to drive their baby yaks back in the shed, big yaks stay all night out... adulthood ;). They offer us the yak cheese, as curtesy we tried a bite, it's super sour! But I guess that is the only snack in this high land. While they drink yak-butter tea at every occasion, dusk to down.
After 5pm the temperature is getting quite cold, not long after dense clouds rushed up, the mountains disappeared, other few cabins disappeared too while the last beam of sunlight painted the clouds pink for a short unforgettable moment.
Losang and papa in the pink hour
Losang's family offered us to sleep inside their humble cabin instead of making tent. So six of us slept in the cabin warmly. Losang didn't cry for the whole night. Such a boy of nature, spoiled is not his tag! The only noise during the night is the snoring yaks concert going on around the cabin wood.
Wake up at 5:30 the morning after, with the mom starting to relight the hearth. We got up warmly, packed, had a simple breaki (porridge and nang) and we were ready to leave. Before leaving we accomplished our monthly charity to baby Losang, all the best to him!
At 6am, at 4020m pastuland, MIST is the only thing you can find around. We walked down from another path, all the way down to Niru village we spent 4.5 hours. We had no idea how many kilometer due to no signal. Zhaxi said, only going down, no break!
Lisong and Lhamo in pink hour
To rejuvenate your trekking energy, follow these simple spinal movements when you are taking breaks during trekking.