Monday, May 21, 2012

SICHUAN

China Alive is the title of the week long excursions that each 9th and 10th grader attends in May.  There are adventure trips in Hong Kong, Surfing in Hainan, Sailing, Hiking, and much more all over the country.  Quinn and I ended up on the Sichuan high mountain trip.

Our crew at 13,000 feet in wet snow.  Unfortunately we were socked in.  The lake ahead is surrounded by snow-capped peaks that would be much more inviting in prettier weather.
Quinn gets some yummy tuna pasta at camp
We flew to Chengdu, political capital of Sichuan and the cuisine capital of china.  Food was hot, spicy and tasty.  From Chengdu we took a long bus ride to Ya'an, stayed overnight, and then an even longer bus ride through the mountains into Tibetan Sichuan to the city of Kangding at the base of the Gongga Snow Peak, 24,700 feet.

Rob with the caterpillar fungus gathering family outside their tent at 4,150 meters.
There was an unsuspected snow storm that forced us to change our route a bit.  After packing all of our gear up a valley for a night's camp, we were met be a group of small vans that carted us up to the top of a pass at 4,150 meters to begin the next days hike through a ravine to a lake.  This is tundra, above the timberline and it was cold, snowy, and windy.  About a mile into the hike, we see a "village" of a tents.  People are living up here.  Many of the dwellers come out to visit us.  They are a family, kids, parents, grandparents, who come up here for a few months each year during this season to harvest the "caterpillar fungus."  This is a chinese medicine that brings about $50,000 per pound on the market (That's more than gold, by the way.)  Check it out: NPR Story on Caterpillar Fungus: Click Here.  I ended up buying two of the little critters for about 7 bucks.  I plan to cook a healthy meal for the family....mmm mmmm good for ya!
although we were at the base of the tibetan plateau and the Himalayas, we were still a mere 15 day walk to Lassa. 
We stayed in a hotel at the green dot, park head quarters was the blue dot, and you can see the lake, at 4,100 meters at the end of the road.  



Trip to Tibetan Sichuan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring Time in Shanghai

It is surprising how cold and chilling the winter was.  Colorado's dry cold winter is expected, welcomed and comes with the benefit of skiing.  Shanghai's wet cold winter is a surprise as you walk among the palm trees and other tropical flora, and surprising because it really is very cold.  So as Spring Break rolled around and we returned from Yunnan (where it is south enough that it was plenty warm) we find a lovely spring in Shanghai.  Everything is blossoming, people are everywhere, (well, people are everywhere in Shanghai anytime of the year) and there are seeming even more activities to take advantage of.

Last weekend, for example, we had a great a number of wonderful outings.  Nar is a great cafe walking distance from our house.  However, this location is new, not even a year old.  The original location is about 6 miles west.  We've patronized Nar enough to know it relatively well.  We received an email last week explaining that Nar was having to close their original location due to a lease dispute, and they were inviting the mailing list to come celebrate the farewell.  The day was planned.  The Shanghai zoo witht he girls and Nar in the evening.

The Shanghai zoo is really a very large and well kept park with animal attractions every so often.  It's not very far from where we live, and we made a great day of it. We saw the king cobra, lizards - a monitor, Komodo Dragon, gold fish, frogs, a massive white Rhino, black swan, feeding hippo, meandering elephants, COMPLETELY bored giant panda with no room, fascinating red pandas, white Siberian tigers, beautiful lions, and, as usual, a plethora of Chinese people.

We returned home, showered, refreshed, and bridget and I headed out on bikes to Nar.  We chose the more direct of the routes which proved to be the less desirable due to massive Shanghai traffic.  Yes, we were on bikes, but the car traffic was so intense that we became part of it.  Traffic going all ways on roads, it seems so chaotic.  However, there is a rhythm to the Shanghai traffic and it is pretty simple.  Whoever gets there first has the right of way.  Once you understand this, this and "do not make any sudden movements, and continue going on your path" it somehow seems to make sense.  Then coupled with tons of cars, bikes, scooters, everywhere, at a major intersection, a market appears.  The market consists of hundreds of people using tents, tables, or just the street to lay out their goods, clothes, vegetables, what not and offer them for sale.

Somehow we make it to Nar and Huiping, and Dan, owners were wonderful Hosts.  We had a great night meeting new people and hearing new stories.  Point is, none of this, the Zoo, the long bike ride, the evening outdoor dinner, would have been very enjoyable in the cold.  The spring just adds so much.