Lost on a Mountain

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
In the tent on a mountain

Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Saturday, January 22, 2011

We should have known that today was not going to go to plan. We had spent yesterday battling with town names and guessing somewhat at unmarked junctions but at least knew the names of the towns we were heading for and the 213 road number was still being marked on rocks along the roadside.  The map we had bought in Chendgu covered Szechwan province and stopped at the border we would shortly cross – it was therefore essential to buy another, something which was not proving to be easy.  

On the advice of a local, we cycled 2 miles back the way we had come last night to find a turning across a bridge.  The road was not great but it was still the 213 so we felt fairly relaxed about things.  Then came another bridge and a tricky choice of roads.  We found some policeman who directed us down what looked like the less likely option.  The language barrier continues to be a huge problem, we really cannot find anyone who speaks English and town names are obviously written in characters which mean nothing to us.  Several miles along a muddy track we were losing faith in the directions we had been given and were making very slow progress.  There was a much more established road running parallel on the other side of the river we were following but there was no way of getting to it.  So we persisted with the muddy track. 

Another few miles and we saw a town! In the distance it was draped in dense fog and looked really gloomy.  On arrival however, we did however find an excellent array of street snacks to munch on for lunch.  Deep fried patties filled with minced meat and a lady frying potato cubes spiced up with sprinklings from her mobile kitchen. People also happily confirmed this was TuoJiang the last town marked on our map, meaning the policemen had been correct.

We felt OK in this town, it was busy and we were sure we could find a good route out.  Battling through strangely built up traffic we looked up an internet café to confirm our location and route on Google maps. Again this was difficult, but thanks to the tireless help of the café owner, we emerged with a very poorly printed map and a list of towns we should pass on our road.

We found the 213 again, and it looked good and we were making better progress.  Unfortunately, then we came to another junction which required us to ask around.  A sweet little lady drew up in her car and insisted on taking photos of the 'beautiful' Polly.  Her directions suggested we continue straight.  We then double checked with a group of local workers.  They all had an opinion and the smell of booze on their breath suggested they were speaking much sense.  It proved to be one junction to many.  Looking back a couple of days later we have retraced our steps and established that it was this bridge which sent us into the wilderness. 

An hour later, having been going uphill, we passed through one of those towns where you know you are in trouble. We stopped to buy snacks and when e came out most of the town had gathered to have a look at us.  The people were mad, ‘mountain mad’ as we now call it after our experiences in the Palani Hills in Southern India.  Their stares are different to sea level altitude folk.  Nobody apart from a young girl spoke any English, but we approached a policeman with the phrasebook. Together they said we should turn back as it was not possible to get to Daguan this was and was too cold. We’d made too much of a commitment to turn back now, so just hoped they were wrong and set off.

On the way out of town,  one nutter even through a banger into the road as we passed scaring Pols into a wobble off her bike.  I lost the plot with him and the language barrier became less of a barrier as half the town watched me ‘make my point’.  We left him feeling quite embarrassed.  Not knowing where we were and sensing we had made an error was piling on the pressure.  A chance encounter with a fluffy little puppy eased the tension but only temporarily.

A couple of hours later and we were still going uphill into the unknown.  It was now snowy all around and there were very few people about.  With an hour or so of light ahead we met a couple of cars.  In between them taking our photos we tried to get some sense out of them as to where we were heading.  Translations of 20km to the nearest hotel did not settle our nerves but we knew we had to just keep going.  By  6.45  we could not go on.  We were exhausted by the continuing climb and the cold was getting to us and snow on the road made cycling impossible.  We had not seen anyone for a few miles and the only option was to set up camp.  We surveyed the area for a good spot, out of eyesight of any passer-by but also flat and safe enough away from any drops. 

We did really well, shifting into survival mode we unloaded the bikes, hid them in a dip and put up the tent in record time.  Pols worked inside getting the important insulated sleeping mats and bags ready and I cooked soup using the snow around us.  A lone farmer passed at one point, we blacked the lights and froze hoping he wouldn’t see us.  It would not have been a problem but drawing attention to ourselves would have triggered any local interest and been another hurdle.  He passed by, apparently missing us from our higher position.  The soup worked its magic and we snuggled up to battle the cold together.  There was not a sound anywhere.  The stillness of the mountain was eerie but we both got off to sleep.  Our first wild camp and what a place to do it.  

POLLY: I was a bit scared of noises outside when we were in the tent, but more nervous that we ate marshmallows before bed and didn’t brush our teeth. I suggested it, but Mikey said that Bear Grylls never brushes his teeth and we were in a survival only situation! Ait was a very, very cold night.

40 miles and lost on a mountain
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