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Published: October 30th 2010
15/7/10: We were up at 6:00am in the morning; this was hard for us as we were used to sleeping in. We rushed to the bus station to secure a seat, within minutes of getting our tickets we were in the bus cruising up the Sichuan Hwy. Nat and Dan were able to communicate in Chinese somewhat so it made it easier to get our tickets. The bus had ended up having six other westerners that were all doing some part of the highway.
It was clear from the very beginning that we had made the right decision to not return to the gorge, the Sichuan Highway was incredible, it was the most outstanding scenery I had seen since trekking Everest, and the most beautiful mixed terrain I have seen yet; it was only day one. The vast mountains were incredibly rich in forest. There were rivers after rivers, I’m yet to see the Rocky Mountains in America but I would imagine they would be very similar. Once again there was Limestone Mountains perched on top of higher mountains that were over 4500m high making for incredible viewing. It rained the whole journey and when we crossed from freshly
laid bitumen onto dirt road it made for a real slippery trip; sometime we slid sideways until the bus found traction again. It was five hours of the most winding roads imaginable and three and a half hours of gravel road. There was a lot of landslides that had released huge rocks onto to road, our bus driver had to negotiate most of them on blind corners. The villages slowly turned more Tibetan, the houses change from concrete to mud brick and heavy timber, the architecture and wood decorative carvings were amazingly detailed. The 600mm thick tapered walls increased strength to protect them from devastating earthquakes. We arrived at Xiangcheng around 4:00pm and had to seek shelter from the drizzling rain. An older man approached us hold a sign advertising a guest house, we really didn't have much choice except to go and have a look as his prices were quiet cheap. We followed him up a short cut while we dodged puddles and mud. We arrived only 50m later to a huge Tibetan style building. The rooms were basic with share bathrooms costing 50yuan/night. Nat and Dan secured one room and Jacinta and I secured the other. The upstairs
entertainment rooms were incredible; they had paintings on all four corners including the ceiling. It was like looking up at the Sistine Chapel only Tibetan style. Every single room was painted in a different style and with different painting; it would have taken years to paint. There were a few other westerners in the hotel so we all had a few beers together. Later we all decided to go out for dinner. Martin who was the main guy that could speak fluent Mandarin took care of the food orders. Before we had arrived he had been turned away from four restaurants because they didn't want to serve westerners. They all said they had no food left even though they were still serving the locals. One restaurant was recommended to him by the guest house owners so that was the one we went too. We all picked a selection of kebabs, including quail eggs, vegetables, pork, chicken and mushrooms to cook on the hot coals. It wasn't over done with MSG either so we really enjoyed it.
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