I was sitting in the bar right downstairs from our office one day when an old friend walked in with his girlfriend. It was way too early for a beer so I decided to join him with a glass of water. I knew he had just gotten back from a trip to the Three Gorges Dam from his Facebook pics, so I was interested in what he saw. He said that they had been on a whitewater rafting expedition and that it was exhilarating to say the least. This old seasoned man of Africa mentioned that he had never seen anything like the surroundings he had encountered on his four day trip. He spoke about how he had been to the site twelve years ago before they started to flood the gorges, and that now it was all gone underwater: simply amazing. All this talk about travelling got me thinking about all the times I have been in wonderful, off the beaten track places.
It was in 2002, when a few friends of mine from high school came out to visit me. I had just read an article in National Geographic about Shangri-La, and I thought I would put together a trip down in the area. So we got the long train down to Chengdu, and decided to set off somehow eventually making our way down to Yunnan. After a couple of well spent days in Chengdu, of course staying in the Traffic Hotel, we made it on our way to the bus station getting ready to first head out to the “Snow Mountain” when we stumbled into a lady from Hong Kong who asked if we were going to the horse races too. What horse races? We knew nothing of the sort, but were immediately convinced to change our whole itinerary. We would now go to the horse races in an unheard of place called Litang, and see if we could make our way down to Yunnan from there. Two weeks later, after having burned my head so badly under the near-by sun, after nearly getting crushed in a landslide, after fighting with some wild mushroom pickers, after experiencing some of the most intense horseback riding we’d ever seen, and we’d finally made it to Zhongdian which is now called Shangri-La, and was that first cup of coffee nice or what? Then after staying with a Tibetan family somewhere in the countryside, we’d gotten down to Lijiang. Now since then, I’ve heard lots of bad things about Lijiang; about it being a tourist trap, and the like, but I do have to say that I really enjoyed the place. The rush of ice cold mountain-fed water cruising through the city is simply unbeatable. And compared to those two wild mushroom pickers we’d hired to drive us to Zhongdian, the people of Lijiang were calm to say the least. Now seven years later, and I’m thinking about where I can go next. Only there are so many places to go.
By Tim Hoerle