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Off the Beaten Path in China – Lugu Lake

With Comments By Dave In Bold And Italics

Canoe by the lake

With Comments By Dave In Bold And Italics

After hearing from Dave’s former colleague that Lugu Lake was an absolute must-see, we made sure to pencil it into our itinerary. Definitely off the beaten path – there’s isn’t even that much information available about it.

From Chengdu we hopped on a night train to Xichang (aka random via point). As we arrive in Xichang in the dead of night we realized the bus station would not be within walking distance. We’d have to deal with the dreaded cabs. The moment you walk out they encircle you; a pack of lions going in for the kill. Intimidating to say the least.

And then it turns out neither you nor they understand the word for bus station.

Thankfully right behind us we saw the first internet cafe we had seen right next to the train station. With minor difficulty I was able to copy down the Chinese characters for train station and Lugu Lake – Google translate – our savior (Amen).

After some minor haggling we were on our way. With bus tickets purchased I was eyeing any other foreigners to befriend on our long bus journey. None in sight. In typical Chinese fashion some helpful Chinese men pushed us along showing us where to go. What would we do without them (probably would have ended up in Tibet)?

We were in for quite the ride. Being the only foreigners on the bus we set off, whizzing past beautiful scenery; farm animals scattered along the road and the occasional traffic jam. The roads, only one lane wide, were winding around mountains sides . Rampant construction even in the most South-Western province of China (you can’t escape it) caused us to frequently stop.

Calmly without a word of protest and sigh of frustration our fellow Chinese passengers eagerly hopped off the bus, lit up a smoke, went for a bathroom squat (and we’re talking male squats here) or just got a breathe of fresh air. They must be used to this (would love to see how this would play out on the Mega Bus).

And so the bus ride continued, on and off, stop and go. Then there was lunch. The buses in China never have bathrooms so the bus driver stops frequently for bathroom or food breaks. As I made my way for the bathroom I heard a strange sound and foul smell.

huge pigs

Pigs I tell you. In a room next door to the toilet. And not just regular pigs. 2 massive cow pigs (as I call them). They looked too big to stand on their little feet and seemed to be heavily sedated. (We did not order pork that day)

In the meantime, Dave was tackling the ordering of lunch. With a swift move we called over the waiter and strictly in Chinese ordered rice, tofu, and requested the tofu to be non spicy. The waitress almost fell out of her chair (little did she know we had exhausted our entire vocabulary).

It’s nice to impress someone with your limited language skills sometimes.

After what was our most interesting bus ride in China (which even Dave admitted – though he’s usually hard to impress) we made it to the Lugu Lake town. With Dave itching to check his email we rushed to our hostel room flipping open the laptops.

winds guesthouse

Uh -oh. No electricity, and hence no wi-fi, hence no dinner at the hotel. Possibly Dave’s worst nightmare (indeed). Thankfully the blackout only lasted a couple hours and we were able to get online just in time to call family back home and wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving (no turkey dinner for us).

The next day we rented mountain bikes and set out for a leisurely bike ride around the lake. 60 kilometers? No problem. We hiked around Japan, South Korea and China, this should be a breeze.

lugu lake 2

A warning from the hostel – the bike ride would be “hilly”

It started off perfectly flat. The sun shining above us, beautiful lake views on one side, small local villages with freely roaming farm animals on the other – this was awesome. We even got to witness a pig fight. Word of advice – do not try to dig in the same dirt as your fellow pig – you could lose an ear (I think Ben Franklin said the same thing once?).

pig fight

We passed by many small communities, one of which houses the only matriarchal society left in the world. Imagine that – the women push the men out and insist on running the household and raising all children on their own (sounds familiar).

And then the “hilly” part began.

This was not hilly. Hilly is walking up one side and down the other in a flash. This was mountainous. Combined with the high elevation of 2000 meters and you find yourself out of breath after climbing one “hill”.

Definitely not enough energy or oxygen supply for me to bike up a mountain side. At times I felt like I just might suffocate and keel over (slight exaggeration here).

lugu lake w boat

And there wasn’t just one uphill part. It went back and forth between downhill and uphill (as it usually does in full circle trips). Downhill was thrilling yet the uphill was pure torture.

After 50 km I was done. I had gotten my exercise for the day and was ready to fall flat on my face. Yet we had 10 more kilometers to go. The strip would never end. My back was throbbing from leaning over an improperly sized steering wheels for hours and my legs were pure jelly. The minutes dragged on and on.

overlooking the lugu lake

Eventually almost 7 hours after we started we made it back. Success.

Overall, the lake itself is gorgeous and made for an awesome bike ride, which at times tested both my perseverance and Dave’s patience (yes I am a huge whiner).

lugu lake 12

Oh and the best part – in our 2 days at Lugu Lake we did not see a single foreigner. Not one. I guess we finally made it off the beaten path.

overlooking the lugu lake dave

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2 Responses to Off the Beaten Path in China – Lugu Lake

  1. Wow. Sounds like a great experience. I actually can’t get over how much the lake area looks like the Canterbury plains here in Nz.

    Well done on the hiking and Chinese language skills!!!

    Bethaney December 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM Reply
    • Thanks Beth, we almost didn’t go since it’s somewhat out of the way but are very glad we did!

      Dave and Vicky December 16, 2012 at 9:13 AM Reply

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