Monday, April 14, 2008

Siguniang Shan

Two weekends ago we had an extra-long weekend since the students had some sort of sports day on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday was Grave Sweeping Day, one of the "new" national holidays introduced by the government this year, though in fact it goes way back. As I'm sure you can guess, I didn't stay in town. We don't get 5-day weekends that often, so this definitely called for a trip. Matt, another teacher here, drove Stacy, Tarn, and I (all teachers here as well) in his little hatchback all the way up windy, potholed roads to Siguniang Shan, a 5000+ meter 4-peaked mountain about 7 hours west of Chengdu. It took us 11 to get there. Reason 1: flat tire.

Reason 2: dirt roads inside clouds turn into mud.

The pass the road goes through is at 4523 meters (14,839 feet), which is higher than Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental US, so we were all a bit winded after throwing just a few snowballs.

Just down from the pass and around 30 or so bends, Siguniang Shan, often translated as Four Girls Mountain) came into view.

The next day we went for a hike in one of the three valleys surrounding the mountain. The scenery was breathtaking, and I don't think it was just the altitude. It was also nice to be out of the city, enjoying the sun.

There were a number of frozen waterfalls in the valley, some of which had melted on the inside but were still frozen on most of the outside.

Almost all of the trees were covered with moss, either a long stringy kind or this dense fur coat.

Since it's called Four Girls Mountain, we dressed up in "traditional" Chinese dresses.

As we were finishing our walk, it started to snow, but not light, flaky snow. Instead it came down in little balls like Dippin' Dots.

Fortunately, the next day was clear. Not a cloud in the sky.

From the ridge we walked along you could see Rilong, the town where we were staying,

and many Tibetan houses on the hillside above it.

Every year there is a Tibetan pilgrimage to pay respects to the god of the mountain.

On the way back, the blanket of clouds had disappeared and, unlike on the way up, we could see the road and all the surrounding mountains.

We stopped at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Centre on the way home.

And now, for the main event: panda wrestling.

So cute you almost forget they're wild animals.

Snack time.

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