Skate to the Glacier route, Spring 2012, 950Km
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- aclimatizing at 2000m (5/10/2012)
evening, yesterday i arrived in shaxi, after a long day on the busses. i decided to give myself five days rest to acclimatize to the altitude, and i rather spend the extra time in a quiet village than in kunming city or the tourist charade of dali. i’ll skip dali altogether this trip and came direct from kunming to shaxi. one four-hour bus ride to xiaoguan, a motor-rickshaw to the next bus station, a bowl of noodles, another four hours in a smaller bus to jianchuang, then immediately after, into a packed minibus, i arrived after about 40 minutes in shaxi. exhausting, but worth it; i thing my back hurts more after a day sitting on a bus seat than a day skating with a backpack. that is if i remember correctly, how much the pack troubles the shoulders after a day’s skate. that memory will be refreshed soon enough.
this morning out in the fields in the rising sunshine, dark earth caking my shoes, i visited some farmers carrying water to the fields and others, gathering up juvenile rice plants in bundles, to plant in the paddy elsewhere. white wild roses in full bloom, golden rays of sunshine coating the landscape, and the mountains watching all from the east and west, 1500m above toiling villagers and wandering travellers; this isnt quite remote, but it sure is a long way from the city. overall, well worth yesterday’s long haul, to be able to wake up in shaxi.
on the road over the mountains from jianchuang, i scoped out the route i planned to skate, and the minibus followed the awesome mountain road i skated twice last year. measured by the kilometer markers on the roadside, its a good 8km uphill from shaxi, and an awesome 12km downhill back to the crossroads, where i head on towards the yangtze river. i realized that is going to be a hardcore first day out, the very first leg several hours of extremely steep mountain road up! but i would like to set out from shaxi on my skate, and return to shaxi from the other direction, so that’s how it is.
this afternoon i skated 6km up that road and back, got winded awfully soon on the first ascent, and burned up my left shoe footbrakeing on the way down. but i went halfway up the mountain with a couple of short breaks, and felt pretty good after that. on the way down i practiced pendy slides, which i still cant do very well, it always turns into a frontside shutdown slide or with me highsiding on the backside. that’s not on with a backpack though, so footbrakeing it is.
tomorrow i must search the village for a shoe repair guy, an auto workshop, or a tyre dealer, and sort myself some kind of strap-on brake pad. i’ll eventually wear down my shoes, but i ought to prolong that. without my sail in action, my soles wont last long with me dragging them to the bottom of the mountain. the downhill here is always extremely steep, its rediculously fast, and of course, exhileratingly fun. i’m getting stoked to set out after tomorrow!
- stage 1，yangtze river (5/17/2012)
the first day and a half, my road was quite bad, for skating. for trucks and minivans quite ok, and there were a lot of those. after the initial climb out of the shaxi valley, i skated all afternoon in a light drizzle. not enough rain to get me soaked, but enough to make the road slick. i camped out at the edge of a field
and was on the road again early, skating up up to the junction of the lijiang road. from there, it was an awesome downhill to the yangtze river, a brown, swiftly flowing snake of river slithering along a flatland between higher ranges, though not quite high mountains. i averaged 50km the first two days, then it seems i found my stride, and after camping the second night directly beside the river, i continued along the flats.
the road did roll up and down the edge of the mountains, following the river west, but i kept on at a good clip. day four was also more mountainous, but with equal uphills ands downhills, passing into the tibetain areas in the afternoon. this was clear from the architectures, the people, different from the flat along the river.
suprising myself, i made it to the bridge where i would cross over the yangtze and head up into the high mountains. that day i skated 70km and spent the night in a nice lodge at the top of the bridge. next morning, well rested, shaved and fed (on oats with milk and nescafe) i skated my base 50km, to the start of the first real climb of this trip. after a break, i charged on up, pushing, pushing, and in some spots walking it was so steep. up, up out of the gorge, i passed the 3000m mark i would guess, in the early evening.
all the villagers i asked on the way laughed at me, that i was afraid, when i asked about bears in the area. they said, only in the high forests…which incedentally i was passing through at dusk. the road went through really steep gorges, with no flat spot to camp to be seen, except for in thicket beside a running stream. as per bear-protection advice, not a good spot.
sketching out a bit, i kept it up, and was rewarded almost at nightfall, as i rounded one bend 21km up the mountain, finding a little rest area restaurant majong camp, with little cabins. awesome! lucky! and the folks there fed me and quartered me in one of the little cabins, and laughed i should fear the bears. there are no bears in these parts.
in the night, i heard the wolves howling, which made the dogs in the yard go crazy barking and charging on their chains. so, no bears, but aparantly wolves. not so many, jusrt a small pack, by the sounds of them, with a higher pitched wail than north american wolves, a bit more like coyote, but with the same, forlorn, creepy “i’m gonna eat you, skater” feel, i was so glad to be in a cabin!
next day, i skated to the crossroads, another 5km straight up, and arrived less winded than i expected i would. this was my break spot, from here i caught a ride to shangrila, where i will rest for two nights. i need to get off the board and chill some, before heading back out to the crossroads to continue my journey on the skate.
here in shangrila (zhong dian) i was met by friends of friends, who stashed me in their guesthouse, and graciously allowed me to write a bit online. i await the use of the washing machine, oh, fresh socks and undies! strangely excited for that.
in the piazza, waiting for my friends, i met a couple of vermont guys, on their way back to beijing. i asked had they seen any camping gear store, where i might find some light sweater, as its a bit colder than i thought it would be at night. one guy, who also lives in beijing, and knew of penghao theatre, offered to loan me his down jacket, which stuffs down to a tiny package. incidentally, a patagonia nano puff jacket, exactly the thing i thought i might acquire before my trek, but funds prohibited. crazy cool, i’ll return it to him when back in beijing, and he was stoked, to art once have a bit more room in his backpack. am very thankful for that, and find it funny, how always i am reminded, so small the world is, that neighbors meet, far from home.