Heather and Gary in China 2011 travel blog

The massage parlour where everybody got a foot massage last night and...

A local group in costume

Philomena, Rose, Nancy, Tony, Heather and Ray at the entrance to the...

Ray on big chair at giant Chinese chess game on the mountain

Ray, Gary, Tony, Rose, Philomena and Heather on footbridge on creek

Lunch at the turnaround point of our walk; pretty basic cafe, but...

A view of Dali from the trail on Changshan Mountain

According to literature, Dali Ancient City was a gateway to the Silk Road in Southwest China, and also served as a seat of government and a major military barracks for Yunnan Province in ancient times. Dali is located on a fertile plateau between the Cangshan (also seen written as Changshan) Range to the west and Erhai Lake to the east. It has traditionally been settled by the Bai and Yi minorities. It is the capital of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. Dali is also well known for its marble and the name for marble is actually 'Dali marble' in Chinese. Originally, there were four city gates facing West, East, North and South, upon which a gate tower sat and four further towers were placed at the four corners of the city wall. Only the city base remains today; the North and the South Towers were restored in 1982.

We woke quite early and went for a leisurely breakfast at one of the 'western' restaurants (Gary had Bai pancakes -- pancakes with the centre stuffed with goat cheese and a 'sweet' bean paste) before getting ourselves ready for a day of hiking on the Cangshan Mountains.

The Cangshan Mountains are only two kilometres west of Dali and the backdrop of Dali City. The range has 19 major summits most of which have an altitude of over 3,500 metres, the highest being Malong (4,122 metres). The mountains are noted for a very rich diverse flora, first scientifically documented by Pierre Jean Marie Delavay in 1882. In 1991, construction began on a paved walkway running north and south from the top chairlift station near ancient Dali. This walkway passes several waterfalls, and overlooks Erhai Lake and the ancient city itself. The walkway is named Jade-Cloud Road after the cloud formations that appear over the Cangshan peaks. Construction was completed in 1992 and in 2004 the road was widened and increased in length.

We took a mini-van to the base of the mountains at the Gantong Tourist Service Centre where we took a cable car to the top. We started by hiking up part of the Qinbi Stream Gorge and then descended again to the paved walkway that skirts the side of the mountain. We walked along to the Seven Dragon Maidens Pools where we stopped for lunch and then turned around and walked back to the cable car. We had intended to keep going further to the gondola a few miles away but there had been a landslide that had taken out part of the path so we had to retrace our steps. It was a cloudy day and it was a very pleasant walk; not at all the rugged footpath that we had imagined but a paved walkway that was quite wide. The walkway hugged the side of the mountain more or less at the same level all the way. We spent over five hours walking and we took many photographs of flowers along the way.

In the evening, we headed out for dinner to a local hotpot restaurant; not individual hotpots but one large one that was split into two sides. Although the main meat was chicken, it was only barely recognizable as chicken; the pieces that emerged from the broth were feet, neck (with very dark skin still attached) and other parts that we normally use only for making gravy broth! Some of us did not eat much of the chicken though the vegetables and the broth that were also in the pot were fine. Afterwards we walked back to the massage parlour and had another foot massage; much welcomed after over five hours of walking on pavement.

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