Tour Dates are 8 August 2011 (Day 1) to 19 August 2011 (Day 12)
Day 1: Shangri-La (Zhongdian)
Today is arrival day. You will be met by your Grasshopper leader in the evening to go
over some of the trip formalities followed by dinner at one of the local restaurants.
Should you arrive early in the day there is plenty to see and do around the town.
Zhongdian town retains its old world charm with plenty of alleys and street life to
explore on foot.
Day 2: Shangri-La (Zhongdian) to Jiu Long – camp 49km
We cannot pretend this is an easy day, but the spectacular scenery should keep your
mind distracted from the pain in your legs and there are some extraordinary long
and fast downhills on smooth paved roads with hardly a car in sight, you might see
the odd motorbike but that’s about it. There are no restaurants along this stretch of
road so we will organise a picnic lunch with plenty of tasty foods to keep you fuelled
up for the big climbs. This ride is varied and spectacular as we wind our way up
through valleys and across mountain sides completely covered with wild camellias,
rhododendrons, azaleas and osmanthus trees and bushes… it is an amazing sight
when blooming in season.
Day 3: White Water Terrace – Cycling 54km
We continue cycling to the White Water Terrace with two big climbs before our long
descent into the small town of Sanba. We should arrive in the afternoon with just
enough time to visit the spiritual heart of the Naxi Minority people; the ‘White Water
Terrace’ rock formatation that sits above the town of Sanba. It was created over
millions of years by underground aquifers of running water saturated with calcium
carbonate depositing minerals as the water meets the atmospheres oxygen. They
have the shape of the local rice terraces but made of calcified minerals with pools of
clean water flowing over the surface.
Day 4: Tiger Leaping Gorge – Cycling 69kms
In the morning we have a few more smaller climbs and coasting sections as we watch
the sun rise up from behind the mountain range and into our valley. Hold on tight
though at the top for another massive descent winding down towards the small town
of Haba where we will have lunch. The owner of the restaurant here is one of the
nicest and most energetic women we know … and her cooking is great too! After lunch
we’ll get back on the bikes for seven kilometre climb followed by another downhill –
this one is 25km! We enter the gorge and cycle to our lodgings for the night. Riding
in the gorge is a highlight for many people on this trip with its overhangs, steep walls
and waterfalls. We cycle halfway through the gorge to our guesthouse at Walnut
Grove; the guesthouse with possibly the most spectacular view in all of China.
Day 5: Tiger Leaping Gorge – Free day
There is no place more fitting to spend a day of rest and relaxation than immersed
in the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge. For the energetic there are plenty of hiking
opportunities; walk the plunging forest tracks to the gorge itself or venture off on the
high trail to plunge yourself into a gushing waterfall. Otherwise sit back, relax and
soak in the truly awe inspiring views of this remarkable natural wonder.
Day 6: Shigu – Cycling 75kms
We meander our way out of the gorge and along the Yangtze River passing mud brick
villages on quaint tree-lined, tar-sealed roads. This area is home to many minority
groups including Dai, Yi and Naxi people. We get up close and personal with rural
China as we see people going about their daily lives. We stay overnight in the tiny
historical town of Shigu, known for its location on the ‘first bend in the Yangtze River’.
Though popular with local Chinese, prepare to be the centre of attention as it’s likely
we will be the only foreigners there! A wander about this small town will take you
back into the past as many old courtyard houses, cobblestone streets and temples
remain as they have been for ages.
Day 7: Shaxi – Cycling 93kms
There is a sense of timelessness as we cycle through villages whose cultural traditions
and simple life-styles have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. Often
we’ll come across a local market bustling with activity and blocking off the road.
This is a great chance to mingle with locals of differing ethnicities, all sporting their
own particular traditional clothing, bargaining for and selling local produce and the
necessities of life. This is our longest days cycling of the trip and we start with 16 km
of uphill! We’ll ride through the town of Jianchuan before heading off to Shaxi. If our
pace has been good then we may get a chance to stop at “Shibaoshan Shiku” Stone
Treasure Buddhist Grottoes. These are old Buddhist shrines carved into the mountain
rock, some still carrying the last of fading pigments. These are a legacy of the trade
route which, although it was designed to carry tea, also spread Buddhism throughout
the region. One last big uphill and a bumpy downhill before a long flat cobblestone
run into Shaxi, a historic town that was once a hub on the Tea Horse route.
Day 8: Shaxi – Free day
This is a free day for you to wander around Shaxi town and see the old architecture –
untouched by modernity and new construction (a rarity in China today!). This is the
perfect place to get yourself lost in the narrow, cobblestone alleyways of the town, get
a close look at intricately carved wooden entrances and hopefully catch glimpses of
the well-fenced and attractive courtyards of many of the homes in Shaxi.
Day 9: Er Yuan – Cycling 63kms
We hit the road with a big, steep climb on cobbles before we hit dirt to the top, all
the way cycling through a heavily wooded forest of pine trees. We’ve been warned
by locals to keep a close eye out for ghosts in this area! The view is spectacular,
overlooking the valley all the way to Jianchuan. The road down is endless hairpins
on a rutted road. Rough stuff, but it’s a good way to work up an appetite for lunch.
The afternoon ride is a nice flat run through endless rice fields which change with the
seasons. We cycle down through a ravine into Er Yuan, the location of our hotel for
the night and their relaxing hot springs …so bring your bathers!
Day 10: Dali – 53kms
Today we share our cycling with bell-laden horses and carts as we continue travelling
on the Old Tibet Road to Dali. We follow a circuitous route that takes us to Er Hai
Lake. We skirt the shores of this huge inland sea, passing through fishing villages and
farming communities. This is a spectacular finale as we head up the hill toward the
ancient walled capital, Dali. The Cang Shan Mountains rise behind Dali as we cycle our
last few kilometres to our finishing point! We’ll feast and celebrate the completion of
our ride with a beer or two!
Day 11: Free Day – Dali
Dali is home to over 1.5 million Bai minority people whose culture, crafts and warm
hospitality create its renowned laid-back atmosphere. You are spoilt for choice with
things to do and see. You can visit the colourful Shaping Markets, see the preserved
architecture of Xizhou village, hike up to Zhonghe Si temple or just do a good day’s
shopping! The morning and afternoon is yours to do as you like. In the late afternoon
we transfer to Lijiang by bus.
Today is departure day and you are free to leave at any time.