The Route

The Route
It is a very long way.....

Thursday, 30 June 2011

27th June - Juizhaigou Nature Reserve

Woke up at 7.30 feeling so much better than yesterday. I had slept for 11 hours straight and obviously needed it. I looked out of the window and it was the most beautiful sunny day. I did not know what to do as I do not have much time to get to Xian but I yesterday I was disappointed not to see Juizhaigou in all its glory... I contemplated it for a bit and then decided that as I had come all this way to see the nature reserve I could not do anything but visit again. This time I knew exactly how to.get there and I could hike a part of it away from all the tourists and see different sections from those I saw yesterday. It was the right decision.

As I was up early and my energy had returned I was dressed, fed, packed and ready to catch the bus at 9 and in the park on the walking trails by 10. It was a beautiful morning with blue.skies and the scenery was fantastic. It was much.easier going there for a second day as I knew what all of the really great parts were to make sure I went back to see in the sunshine and also I could walk the paths that I did not walk yesterday. For most of the lakes the bus runs on one side and the walkway on the opposite. It means that when you are on the walkway you can not see or heard the buses and it gives you the illusion of just walking in nature rather than in the middle of a major tourist site. In fact for the 8 hours that I spent on the park today only about 1.5 hours were with crowds of other tourists. Most of the time I was walking on my own with my headphones on listening to war and peace, taking photos, appreciating the scenery and generally being in my element. :)

This photo looks like I have been photoshopped in! I really was there.... honest. And it is that beautiful. Like a fairytale land.....

See through blue lakes - 108 of them!

Lovely flowers everywhere.

This spiders web was HUGE!

This is a photo of the path through the forest. Really easy walking and well maintained.

As usual in China, the flag was ever present.

Tweety Pie enjoyed himself as usual.

This is an example of the path through the forest.

I saw 4 other people walking for the first 2 hours. The buses take people past all of the sites on the way up and then you can get on and off on the.way down. This meant that most tourists were in the upper parts of the park as I has walking in from the entrance and so I had some of the most beautiful parts (the bits most tourists get to in late afternoon) all to myself.

The place really is like a fairy land. The land that they showed.on lord or the rings for the elvan home world could really have been here. Some of look like pictures but it is actually like that. The waters are completely clear and blue.

It was almost too beautiful today and too perfect! Yesterday there were clouds and mists and contrast between the clear blue waters and the gray skies. Today it was almost too quaint. I am really glad.that I spent 2 days in the park and saw it in both lights. Today was much better for me though as I could see it on foot away from all of the tourists. Much more.natural I did not have time to go all the way to long lake and the primeval forests but having seen them yesterday I was not so bothered about seeing them again and they are not the highlights of the park anyway.

I had a late lunch at the restaurant at the tourist center. The center is huge with a massive shopping area and 5 huge restaurants. I went to the cheapest place but they did not have any food left at all so I ended up getting a buffet for £6. It really was very bad food served on plastic plates.

Today I walked 37km and as I was running out of time to.get back I caught a bus for the section back to the entrance (a bit naughty as I had not paid.for a £9 ticket but I only did one short journey and had paid yesterday so I did not feel too guilty).

I was back at the entrance in time to catch the 5:00 bus but it had still not arrived by 5.15 so I caught a taxi back to town with some other people - only £1.

I bought some noodles to go from the same little stall that I had bought lunch from yesterday. The noodles with a spicy sauce and bean spouts are a local dish and are very tasty and only 40p for a huge bowl full.

I treated myself this evening. I found CHOCOLATE! I was no longer craving it (like I had been 1 week ago) but I really just fancied some. Occasionally it is nice to have something that is not noodles, rice, veg or meat. I have to say I am not very impressed with Chinese food. In general it is very bland.

I also bought a bottle of red wine for £1. I had to see what it tasted like! It was sweet and fruity. Not the best wine I have ever had - far to sweet for me but not horrendous.

I bought a large bottle of clear liquid thinking that it was water. When I got back I found out that it was in fact a Chinese spirit - only £2 for a huge bottle - about the same amount as water for that amount of mineral water.

I spent the evening having a long bath and organising my photos from today.

26th June - Juizhagou Nature Reserve

I was disappointed when I woke up today to see that the weather had really turned and it was raining heavily. Although I did not go to bed late last night I was still tired when I woke up at 7.30. I have been running on adrenaline and fitting in too much over the last few days and I feel like I am coming down with something. I decided that I really needed not to push again today and so I went back to bed until 9. I need to pay back the sleep to my poor deprived body!

Unfortunately, by the time I had packed up, got some breakfast and bought some lunch for the day and found the bus stop I just missed the bus at 10.30 and had to wait for 30 mins for the bus at 11. It was a nice ride to the park and I chatted with a girl that speaks English along the way. She let me know that the last bus back was at 6 and where to get off for the park etc. Although only a small percentage of the population speak English it is just enough to get by in China. With gestures, a translator on my phone and the odd very helpful Chinese English speaker on the way it is no problem to get by. I have not had any serious issues caused by translation problems, things just take longer to plan and organise. It is difficult to do anything in a hurry in China.

I got my ticket for entry by 12ish and by the time I had faffed buying a cheap jacket at the shops (it was cold for the first time ever in China and I had not planned accordingly - I had forgotten about the high altitude etc), I was on a bus traveling into the park by 12.30. The ticket itself is expensive at £22 and then the bus ticket for the day is another £9.

With focused planning and catching the right buses etc there was enough time to see most of the park in the afternoon. I was not doing a relaxed tour and having a leisurely lunch but then I don't tend to do that when on my own anyway.

The park is in a Y shape, with the bottom of the Y being the park entrance. Each leg of the Y has a separate bus route. The buses do not stop at all on the outward journey leaving you to walk all the way back or to hop on and off on the way back. I took the first bus to the visitor center in the middle of the Y and then immediately jumped on another bus to go to Long Lake at one end of the Y. The views on the ride from the Park Entrance to Long Lake made me really appreciate why this place is so special and why it is such a tourist hot spot. The water is completely clear and you can see all the way to the bottom through the blue/emerald green waters to fallen trees at the bottom. The waterfalls are just amazing. They flow through trees like I have never seen before into blue clear lakes. The scenery is like that made up in films of Elvan lands where every thing is sparkling and magical.

When I got off at Long Lake I found it very funny to see so many tourists had rented (for £2-£3) the traditional customs so that they could have their photos taken with the lake behind.

Long lake is pretty but it is by no means the highlight of the park. It is beautiful like any lake is when surrounded by forested mountains. You have to walk, rather than catch the bus, to the next site - the five coloured pool. This was very impressive. It is only a small lake but the colours are awesome.

To get back to the center of the park I popped on and off the bus and walked some sections and then jumped on another bus to the other furthest leg of the Y, to the Virgin Forest. I loved the fact that this elderly Chinese man was walking along with loud Chinese pop music blaring out from the radio around his neck. It was so incongruous. I was surprised that the route went all the way out to here as the forest there was pretty much the same as the rest of the park.

On the way back I then had 4 hours until the park shut and so I took my time to see the best sites of the park.

There are 9 Tibetan villages in the park that have been there for centuries. The houses are decorated beautifully and there are flags everywhere. The local people sell their handy crafts and food and drinks. I am not too sure if I lived in such an amazing place that I would want to share it with all of these thousands of people on a daily basis. I am sure that the wealth of the people has increased significantly but I wonder what the old people thing about this change to their home land?

The Park organisers/owners have done an excellent job of all of the walkways between the different view points and scenic spots. You never have to wait more than 2 minutes for a bus and they have provided really good walk ways throughout the 140km of the park. The place is spotlessly clean with loads of people picking up rubbish. The toilet facilities are also really good. I can understand why the ticket cost is so high. However, it is very touristy. If you want to get away from this the option is there to just walk in the park in which case you can very much get away from the buses and all of the people. In fact some sections of track there were very few people and if I had more time today I would have hiked an much greater area.

History of the Park: Jiuzhaigou was inhabited by Tibetans and Qiangs for centuries but had not been disturbed until the end of the 1960s when large groups of lumber workers arrived there. In 1975, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry sent a team to Jiuzhaigou to investigate the field. The team were extremely impressed by its natural beauty and immediately published their surveys and comments: Jiuzhaigou has rare animals and rich plant resources, and most of all, it is a beautiful "fairyland valley".

In December 1978, the State Council promulgated a document (Code No. 256), officially announcing that four belts of Jiuzhaigou are listed as the National Nature Reserve, and any lumbering activities within the valleys are strictly prohibited. In 1979, the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve Administration was officially established. In 1984, the State Council listed Jiuzhaigou as the National Key Place of Scenic Interest. In 1992, it was included by the UNESCO in the World Natural Heritage list.

Legend has it that long long ago, a beautiful Goddess received a mirror from her lover. The goddess was so excited that she dropped the mirror, smashing it into 108 small pieces. Over the centuries those pieces gave birth to 108 wonderful lakes.

I think that many of the people on the coach tours had not had very much sleep recently. On the beautiful bus rides through some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen about 3/4 of the Chinese tourists were napping rather than looking out of the window. Bless.

I did spot one Panda. It is rare to spot them but they are there if you are observant.

Most of the time water is too fast flowing and forceful for there to be trees growing in the way. I am not sure what is so different about this area but it is the only place that I have seen where the water flows over such huge area rather than forming a narrow channel. Maybe the rock is really hard and so not as easily worn down as in other area. The river flowing from one lake to another are literally kilometers across forming hundreds of little water falls.

Now that I have been to the park I understand how it all works far more. I could just not find out this information on the internet though. I did not know before I arrived in Juizhagou town that the town is in fact 45km away from the park.

There is loads of information on the internet about Juizhagou Park but no information about the location of the actual Park itself (in terms of the entrance) in relation to Juizhagou Town and how you get from one to the other. Most people do a coach tour and stay in accommodation right outside the park or within 10km of it. I could not find this area on Google maps or any other map.

I am not sure what the accommodation is like right outside the park but I image that it is very expensive and touristy. Juizhagou town I found a nice alternative to stay. It was only 45mins to the park and cost 50p on the bus each way. I suppose if you only have one day at the park having that extra time in the park might be worth it rather than going by bus.

If I had known that I would end up going back and forth twice and stay for 2 days then I would have just stayed at the park entrance area - hindsight is a marvelous thing.

It was a good day regardless of the gray weather. The valley really is amazing - a magical place.

I got back to Juizhagou town about 7 and have a great meal in a local restaurant. There were many meals on display for £1 each with as much rice as you could eat. I had a couple of different dishes to try. I spent the evening writing my blog and had an early night.