2nd - 12th Feb 2004
With new front rims, our second attempt to leave Qingcheng Shan was successful. The ride to Leshan passed through pleasantly green scenery and the weather was relatively warm (10°C) although overcast. It seems that the Chengdu plain is almost permanently cloudy, perhaps this is one reason why watching the sun rise from Emei Shan is so popular.
Leshan is famous for one thing, the world's largest sitting Buddha, a phenomenal 71m high figure carved from a cliff overlooking the confluence of three rivers. It was carved to calm the turbulent waters at this point, and apparently the rubble resulting from this mammoth work had the desired effect!
From Leshan to Emei Town the road was four lanes wide, plus bike lanes on both sides. Western road planners have a lot to learn! The ubiquitous Chinese murk was such that even from a few kilometers away there was no clue to the presence of the 3099m peak of Emei Shan. We stopped in the backpacker hotel (The Teddy Bear Guesthouse) in the town at the foot of the mountain and left our bikes there for three days hiking.
The clouds were down on the first day but we saw some beautiful things in Wannian Temple on our way up, and met several cold and hungry monkeys (Tibetan Macaques). The path was roofed with snow covered trees. Stalls by the path sold snacks, tea and extremely useful instep crampons.
The second day we climbed to the top (too late for sunrise) in clear weather. Ju was outraged to discover that a monorail had been built between the summits and the path had been closed off. Undetered we slipped past the guards and the "No entry" sign and dived into the woods. We were able to follow the remains of the path and the few hours we spent walking through the snow in the sunshine were some of the best of the excursion.
The day we headed down was cloudy again, but this time we were soon below the clouds and had views of the mountain slopes and valleys. Lower down we passed the "Monkey Teasing Area" (we refrained) and the vegetation became greenly lush.
We descended by a circuitous route that led right to our guesthouse. We arrived in the dark and were rewarded with the sight of pagodas outlined with spectacular neon lighting, and a floodlit artifical waterfall. Remember that this is the land where classrooms go unheated at 5°C because there is a shortage of electricity.
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