Hiking Tour along Yunnan – Tibet Road from Nujiang to Chamdo
Access: Cawarong: See getting there and away. Zogong is in the east of Tibtet, on the Sichuan-Tibet highway.
Accommodations: We stayed in local Tibetan homes at night as well as joining them for some meals. People are very friendly. It was a good chance to observe their beautiful house and their life. We carried some food supplies including the highly filling slab stone pancake made of wheat, which is a Tibetan/Nu staple. Electricity is still not available in any of the villages yet.
Costs: We paid a total of Y700.- for the guide and his two horses including his return journey. We trekked for three and a half days. The guide needed at least another two days to return his home.
Stages Walking time Difficulty
1. Cawarong-Zhana-Longpu-Tondula Pass 4 hours Moderate Ascent (1300M)
2. Tondula Pass-Tondui-Zagu-Lada 2.5 hours Easy Descent (1000M)
3. Lada-Gebu-Wabu 4.5 hours Moderate up/down
4. Wabu-Lazong 5 hours Moderate with many ups and downs
5. Lazong-Zalang 2.5 hours Easy Ascent 400m, Descent.
6. Zalang – Bitu 3 hours Easy, Flat
7. Bitu* – Diba 4 hours Easy, Flat
8. Diba – Zuogong 140km by truck
Cawarong’s elevation is around 1900 meters. The trail passes though the beautiful Zhana village and winds up to Longpu (2300M) through golden terrace fields dotted by whitewashed fortress-like Tibeten houses. There are many Mani piles and praying flags along the trail as it is part of the sacred Kawa Karpo Kora.
After Longpu Village, the switchback path rises steadily to the Tondula Pass. Walking to the pass on a hot day can be challenging. Views back across the Nujiang valley enclosed by two high mountain ranges with snow peaks are panoramic.
The Tondula Pass is covered by flamboyant Tibetan praying flags. On the north side, the trail first descends gently through pine forest.
In 20 minutes you pass through a surprisingly beautiful hamlet Tondui, with green fields and meadows rolling in graceful forms, fringed by trees in marvelous autumn-like colors. Several mud-brick houses having big wooden pillars, delicate Swiss-chalet style roof are scattered in this idyllic scene.
Walking further down, the vegetated slopes are gradually replaced by barren gravel surface. In 1 hour, the Yuchu River and Zagu hamlet come into sight.
The wild, overwhelming landscape here is utterly unlike anywhere else that I have seen in China. Bare mountains, sheer and vertical as walls, rise a thousand meters from both banks of the Yuchu, forming a deep canyon as narrow as a stupendous crevice. Almost impervious to the sunshine in the canyon, the Yuchu River makes two dramatic bends at a distance less than 10km, and flows sharply northward parallel with its upstream running southward from the east Tibetan plateau. Amazingly, the mountain crests often wrapped in clouds are crowned by green vegetation.
On the west shore of the river bend, about 500 meters below our track, Zagu hamlet is tucked on a piece of tiny flat land. Its vivid green terrace fields contrast starkly with the surrounding desolate mountains.
From Lada village, walking 1 hour along the west river bank, and crossing a wooden bridge, you will pass through Gebu village. The trail then snakes gently up on the east side of the Yuchu River. The view back towards Gebu is stupendous. The village is a patch of green in the centre of brownish moon-like landscape. Before Wabu, the sacred Kawa Karpo Kora turns to the east.
With many ups and downs, the trek from Wabu to Lazong is long and tough, although there are no dramatic elevations. On the half way, the Yuchu River turns to the west and then south again. It converges later into the Nujiang.
From Lazong, it takes one hour to walk up to the crossing point of two valleys where the same river (the Yuchu) flows. We followed the path down to the upper Yuchu valley in the east. This valley is more vegetated than its lower west valley which we passed through before. The slopes here are dotted by enchanting terrace fields. Nearly every speck of arable land is cultivated.
In Zalang, the footpath ends. Crossing the bridge, on the east bank of the Yuchu, there is a gravel dirt road that leads to Bitu and Diba. But it was blocked by landslides when we arrived there – we were told to be able to catch a transport from here. We had to continue walking to Diba where we were supposed to find trucks heading for Zogong. Bitu is a county seat.
Alternative treks from Bitu (See Map): 1) It’s possible to trek from Bitu eastwards to Yanjing from June to October. The local people can make it in one day (9-10hours). The ascent takes 4 hours. The highest pass is over 4000meters. 2) One can also trek southwards along the east bank of Yuchu river to Jialang and Laide. (8 hours). Laide is on the Kawa Karpo pilgrimage route.
When we arrived in Diba, the truck for Zogong had left in the early morning. We managed to catch a truck to Zogong the next day. The road winds along the Yuchu river. The Yuchu gorge deepens here and there are beautiful river vistas, forests as well as dramatically beautiful rocky snow peaks. The environment is pristine and wild while the scenery is simply splendid. The road is mainly a single-track gravel dirt road with many very narrow segments as well as landslides. The dirt road is only passable by trucks or jeeps. A very strong heart is needed to travel some parts of this road.