Yu Beng Trek in Northwestern Yunnan

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May 31st 2012
Published: May 31st 2012
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The bus ride from Shangri La to Deqin was probably one of the worst I have ever been on mainly due to construction along the road, the way the drivers pass or go around blind bends on the wrong side of the road, and the dangerous mountain roads where you are surely dead if you go off the edge. Our 6 hour trip turned out to be 7 and a half hours so we arrived at 7.30pm and then stood around for a while before a minibus driver told us that he would take us to Feilai Si (3,360metres) for $1 each. About 15 minutes later we arrived at the temple where there are quite a few hotels and restaurants and a great view of the mountains including the 6,740 metre high Kawa Karpo. Aleksei and I shared a room for $6 each and then had some terrible fried rice for dinner.

The following day we recruited another 4 travelers to share a minivan ride ($3.50 each) down and across the river to Xidang village (2560 metres) where we heard it was the best place to start the 3 day Yu Beng trek. After paying the $14 entry fee for the national park the minibus dropped us off in the centre of the village where there was a basic guesthouse with expensive rooms at $10 for a twin. The next morning 4 of us ( 2 young Dutch guys, Aleksei, and myself) headed out for the walk to Lower Yu Beng village which we hoped was about 8 hours away. The first few hours we walked along the Mekong about a hundred metres up along a sometimes very narrow and dangerous path. At one spot we were taking a rest when we heard a noise and looked back to see a rock the size of a television hit the ground where we had just walked about 30 seconds earlier. We passed a few very small villages where we stocked up with drinks and after about 4 hours we left the Mekong and started walking up a very pretty valley. The walking became a lot more difficult here but the scenery of the valley and a raging river next to us made up for the hardship. We stopped at a small guesthouse for some lunch and ended up staying for about an hour before continuing the trek. After a little more walking we crossed the river and took a route that looked like a short cut towards Upper Yu Beng village up the mountainside. We were a bit worried after about 30 minutes because the paths were very small and looked like animal tracks and not wide enough for hikers. So we backtracked about 20 minutes and after asking a local we found a bridge to the other side of the valley where the path was a lot wider and obviously used by trekkers. It was getting quite late and we were worried we were going too high up but we eventually came to a bridge with the small Lower Yu Beng village (3050 metres) on the other side. The 4 of us shared a very basic room for $4 each and had a very filling meal of beef and onions with rice.

The following day Aleksei and I slept in feeling quite sore from the day before and about 11am we finally ventured out to walk the 3 hours to a waterfall. This time the path was pretty flat with some very nice scenery for an hour before it started to head uphill towards the waterfalls. After a little while we had some great views of the snow and ice covered mountains and we were in sight of the waterfall. Although we could see the waterfall it took us about an hour and a half to get there. Not long before we reached the waterfall I heard a cracking sound and when I looked up the mountain I could see a very large chunk of ice had broken off and was coming down the mountain. My first avalanche, and I was impressed mainly due to the fact I was in a safe position on a small hill. The avalanche ended up stopping about 200 metres before us. Once I was up at the waterfall (3400 metres) I took a couple photos and had a short chat with some very wet and stupid Chinese tourists who had put on their wet weather gear and ran under it for what I assume were photo opportunites. We then made our way back to Lower Yu Beng where Aleksei picked up his pack and we headed up the hill for Upper Yu Beng (3,200 metres). This walk up the hill was a lot more strenuous than I had anticipated and after 45 minutes we had made it but we were very tired. We found a basic room which the 2 of us shared for $4 each and then met up with the others who had walked to the ice lake that day for some dinner. Originally I had planned to walk to the ice lake but I was pretty tired and didn't want to spend any more days in the villages.

The dutch guys left very early the next morning, so it was just me and Aleksei for the trek back to Xidang. We new the hardest part was going to be the first hour or so because the mountain pass was above 3700 metres which meant a gain of over 500 metres in a relatively short distance. I have to take my hat off to Aleksei because he made it to the pass in just over an hour without stopping carrying a 15kg pack, whilst I stopped for a few short breaks carrying a 4kg daypack. At the top we chatted with a Polish guy for a while before starting the long descent to Xidang. It took us another 2 and a half hours to make it to the small carpark and the road that led to the village. The walk itself was quite pretty going through the pine forest but I found it a little boring compared to the first days trek which had a lot more variety. We passed many Chinese going up to Yu Beng on horseback and I thought if I was to do the trek again I would take a horse up this route and walk down the way we came on the first day. We ran into the Polish guy again and the 3 of us started the walk along the road to Xidang estimating that it would be 2 or 3 kilometres. After a few minutes I flagged down an empty van and asked how much it would cost for a ride back to Felai Si figuring that was probably where they were headed. The driver told us $8.50 each so we waved them off and continued walking. About 500 metres later we came around the bend and the van was parked beside the road with the driver and his friend stretching their legs. They motioned for us to get in the van, we asked how much, they said $8.50, I said $3.50, and they agreed. The ride was a bargain at the price because I had underestimated the distance to Xidang and it also meant that we didn't have to wait around for the slow public bus. On the way through Xidang I grabbed my big pack from the guesthouse and then another 45 minutes later we were back in Feilai Si where Aleksei and I grabbed the same room we had a few nights earlier. That afternoon and night we just rested and had a large dinner, and with the help of a Chinese tourist we found out that there were minivans going back to Shangri La the next morning for a little bit more than the bus.

The next day we hopped in our minivan at 9am for the trip back to Shangri La and were very surprised to find out we were the only passengers. The trip felt a lot more comfortable and safer than the bus until we got high in the mountains and found ourselves in heavy fog and some light rain on very treacherous roads. Thankfully our driver took it slowly and we arrived back in Shangri La safe and sound at about 3pm. I checked into the same place I had stayed previously then quickly had a look at the museum before having penne with yak meat for dinner. That night I said goodbye to Aleksei who was headed north, whilst the next morning I was going to catch a bus south to Old Dali.

I found this trek a lot more challenging and scenic than the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek, the downside being that it is a little out of the way and you have to allow 5 or 6 days from Shangri La to do it properly.

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 27


3rd June 2012
View from Feilai Si

Great photo
3rd June 2012

Gotta love Yunnan...breathtaking...wish I was there!

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