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Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:37 pm
by dBrother
In the far far west of Yunnan, China, with Burma just over the 4km high mountains to the west, and Tibet at the head of the valley to the North, lies the long lost Nujiang Valley.
A Tibetan valley dotted with catholic churches in all the small villages, yep true, French missionarys made it here in the late 1800's and did a good job converting nearly the lot of them in the valley, and what with the wars and revolutions that followed they all lost contacts with the central church entirely over the following decades.
So this is indeed a true lost valley, in China, populated by Tibetans, who are all Catholic Christians
if you attend a church service on a Sunday, and i highly recommend it, what you hear is a village full if Tibetans chanting christian hymns Buddhist style and in Tibetan, to say its pretty unusual is understating it.
A dead end road of about 300km takes you from Liuku, a half day bus trip from Dali, at the bottom (south)end of the Valley, to Bingzjunglou up near the top, via the medium big sized towns of Fugong and Gongshan (very hard to tell in china, maybe 5-10,000 population in Liuku, Fugong and Gongshan, maybe less, maybe more)
Anyhow the road is relatively quiet for China, a narrow windy mountain contour road with the potential for a head on at every bend, but more likely for a boulder to land on you from above.
It will remain a dead end road until the tunnel they started building under the mountains to Zhongdian in the Maekong valley (shangri-la for china tourists)about 10 years ago is completed, the works, nearby to Dimelou, seemed to have been stopped for a number of years though, which is a good thing as making that narrow windy 300km dead end mountain road into a through road will be hell on the traffic if they ever do build the tunnel.
For tourists and travelers there is always the option of making a round trip of it by walking over the top to the Maekong valley, when the snow has melted ,so maybe May.
We were there in April and it was to early to walk over the top to the east (Maekong) then, I will go back.

I found my travel comrades at the train station in Dali one morning after getting off the overnight from Kunming, being the only white faces in the crowd I figured they were going to Old Dali and stuck to them like glue, the aussie in the group took us to the best hostel in Dali, run by an aussie fellow just outside the town walls, uphill.
That morning we were all discussing travel plans, an aussie, frenchman, and irish couple, all had just met in the days before apart from the irish couple, they were all heading to tiger leaping gorge and as i had allready picked the Nujiang Valley to visit I told them about what i had read of it.
By the end of the day they had all changed their plans and decided to come along for the ride to the Nujiang, we left a few days later. this saved alot on vehicle hire.

Get there by getting a bus from the Dali new city bus staion to Liuku, from then on go up the valley anyways you can, 5 of us in one of thos chinese mini-vans was a good way to go, public busses/mini vans are way to crowded, Hitching is easy in remote china, if i wasn't with the group this is the way i was planning to travel, a nice walk through scenic snow capped mountains, then simply hold out your arm, there's always a passing Truck, Bus, or Minivan that will take your RMB.

And never count on getting anywhere on time in this place, landslides are really quite common, they can block the one and only valley road for days, there is no airport up there, so if you are stuck then you are stuck.

Really don't be in a rush if you go to this place

The Wire Rope Bridges.
all along the valley you find these, follow the footsteps of the person in front and the harmonic resonance really kicks in, highly recommended with you travel partners, or just any random tourist, but the locals frown upon it and will stop walking until you break step with them..

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some are in worse shape than others..
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and some are downright deadly;
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:41 pm
by dBrother
These ramshackle things are the lifeline for any little village on the otherside of the river from the single main road, and there are many.
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This happens when you try and build things different..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:53 pm
by dBrother
All along the Valley you see these little villages, some high up the side of the mountains, there are places you can hike to on the western side of the valley where the locals will take you to the Burmese frontier on the top of the mountain.

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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:02 pm
by dBrother
The yellow flowers are a staple in the local diet, they taste something like a cross between brussel sprouts and turnip leaves, the locals will feed you this, you are expected to smile and say its lovely, they are very happy smiley people and you wouldn't really want to hurt their feelings, so this is indeed what you do.
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this is the yellow flowers served up at the top of the screen there, I think because we kept smiling and saying how delicious they were our host kept bringing them to us, the bowls are of YAK butter tea, you get used to that after a few days, nice stuff.

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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:15 pm
by dBrother
Going to Church

This is really a must do, don't be put off by any athiest or anti-papist predilections, this is a lost religion and has grown in a way of its own, really , the sound of singing these familiar Hymns but in a chanting Buddhist Tibetan style is really worth the while to attend.
This was in the village of Dimelou, home of Alou, a popular guide in the valley that can arrange hikes over the top to the Maekong Valley when the weather is right.
The whole village tends to show up to church on a Sunday, they are very devout, something like Tonga i guess.

all crowding in;
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all in
it was really crowded in there, after squeezing into the back row and staying for a few prayers and hymns we felt bad that there were still locals squeezing in through the doors, so we waited outside plus it was really claustrophobic .
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yep, basketball after church in tibet..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:23 pm
by dBrother
The Locals liked to have their picture taken..

And more of those yellow flowers
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:35 pm
by dBrother
The Dogs

these scare the shit out of me..
one minute you are walking through pristine mountain scenery, and the next a vicious snarling frothing mutt is coming running headlong towards you..

There is One good trick that works nearly everytime....

bend over and pick up a rock, then faint as if to throw it at them, this is all they know...
waving a stick does nothing, they have never been hit with a stick, but even bending over and pretending to pick up a rock, if non are available, will have them scampering off with tail between legs in no time..
remember this, as if you intend to walk anywhere you will run into vicious mutts..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:45 pm
by dBrother
farm animals

it's rural china; they're everywhere..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:52 pm
by dBrother
Oh, and the mountain scenery is pretty good too

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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:01 pm
by dBrother
Higher up the valley, above the town of Gongshan, the last big town before the road splits between the villages of Dimelou and Bingzjunglou, the river is quite a nice shade of turquoise.
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as you may have worked out by now i was traveling with some pretty keen amateur photographers who had some expensive pieces of kit..
it shows..
at my, um, suggestion we pooled the pictures
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:11 pm
by dBrother
This is an ancient "Tea Horse" route, they cut is right into the bare cliff face above the river in places, its quite very old .
Sorry i can't remember which way the trade was going, (wasn't there obviously) I presume taking tea up the valley from China to Tibet, not sure though.
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they still use caravans of pack ponys to get goods around today, roads don't go to many villages..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:16 pm
by Total Reject
Those are nice pictures, thanks for posting. How long did you stay in that area?

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:22 pm
by mad hatter
Cool trip report

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:27 pm
by dBrother
Our Host in Dimelou , Alou was his name, organised for us to hike 1 km up and 1km down again over the mountain to Bingjunglou, this avoided an RMB100 tourist tax the chinese impose at a roadblock that we evaded by walking, 1km up-1km down..
the locals don't get to see the toll money anyhow..

about 2 hours into the journey out of Dimelou going up the mountain we passed these kids skipping down the hill, to school in Dimelou, they were about halfway from their village up on the mountain by then.. they did this everyday.
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the dormroom upstairs at Alous place in Dimelou, good chance that is me
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The fire was the only place to be.. thats is me btw, and not the one doing the cooking..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:35 pm
by dBrother
Total Reject wrote:Those are nice pictures, thanks for posting. How long did you stay in that area?

two weeks, everyone else had planes to catch and ended up leaving at different times, i was the last..
I would like to go back again and Hike over the mountain from Dimelou to the Maekong Valley one day.
Apparently this is best done from the Nujiang Valley side into the Maekong valley as the Christian guides can then come straight back home.
If done in the opposite direction the Buddhist Guides from the Maekong Valley will have to then complete a seventeen day clockwise Kora around a particular sacred mountain many miles north, as they cannot go anticlockwise against the kora direction to go directly home, they will charge you for the extra time.

this could have been just a marketing story put forth by the Nujiang Valley tour Guides Guilde though..

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:42 pm
by dBrother
To Market to Market

Gongshan, the last main town in the valley..
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mad hatter wrote:Cool trip report

Thanks

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:05 pm
by dBrother
The Village of Dimelou, there is a hydro dam wall at the downstream side of town under construction, this was taken from there as far as i remember.
the central chinese are keen to finish building it, the locals are very much not..
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A mini Hydro power station outlet, downstream at the south of the valley, and yet another village clinging to the side of a mountain in the background..
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This is the one and only main road up the valley..
That's another hydro power station outlet on the right
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:19 pm
by dBrother
This is a mudmap stolen from chinabackpacker.com which is an excellent site for info on backpacking around south west china.

It starts only from gongshan to the south, (left hand side -west is up)
and shows the relationship between Dimelou and Bingjzunglou which we walked, over a mountain, between (it's pronounced Bing-Jung-loo, but has a Zed thrown there somewhere to confuse people)
Also shows the track from Dimalou to the Maekong valley.. (Deqin is a town there)
Foreigners cannot go past the Tibet border marked on the map.

A Chinese beijing backpacking comrade we met in Dimelou, who was an enviromentalist helping the locals fighting the Dam , went up to try to get to tibet proper one day, he was back that night as he said the road deteriorated terribly, like into a goat track, before the border.

Also the tourist tollgate, marked as 'ticket office', is shown on there.

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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:39 am
by andybox
Having never been to China, this has whet my appetite. Thanks Dbrother.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 1:45 pm
by dBrother
No worries Andy, the whole Chinese Himalaya region in Yunnan and Sichuan states is way underrated in my opinion, which is good for the casual tourist/backpacker.

Everywhere you go is smiling locals, mostly tibetans but lots of other non ethnic chinese minoritys,.
everywhere you look spectacular scenery ,
and on the whole the food is pretty good too, people that have been to both the indian and nepalese side of the Himalayas, and the chinese side, reckon the general hygiene is way better on this (chinese) side..

Tiger Leaping Gorge is another highlight, spectacular scenery, easier to get to as well, you can fly into lijiang or get the train there via Dali from kunming if you don't have the time to get here..

Ideally come to the Nujiang Valley, walk over the top to Deqin in the Maekong Valley, and get busses from there, via Zhongdian (aka shangri-la) to the Tiger leaping Gorge and go for a 3 day walk from there through arguably the most spectacular mountain scenery on earth..

that would be 3 major river valleys too btw

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:46 pm
by mad hatter
dBrother wrote:No worries Andy, the whole Chinese Himalaya region in Yunnan and Sichuan states is way underrated in my opinion, which is good for the casual tourist/backpacker.

Everywhere you go is smiling locals, mostly tibetans but lots of other non ethnic chinese minoritys,.
everywhere you look spectacular scenery ,
and on the whole the food is pretty good too, people that have been to both the indian and nepalese side of the Himalayas, and the chinese side, reckon the general hygiene is way better on this (chinese) side..

Tiger Leaping Gorge is another highlight, spectacular scenery, easier to get to as well, you can fly into lijiang or get the train there via Dali from kunming if you don't have the time to get here..

Ideally come to the Nujiang Valley, walk over the top to Deqin in the Maekong Valley, and get busses from there, via Zhongdian (aka shangri-la) to the Tiger leaping Gorge and go for a 3 day walk from there through arguably the most spectacular mountain scenery on earth..

that would be 3 major river valleys too btw

You may be interested in this

http://www.datasinica.com/the-oriental-list/

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:12 am
by egjeg
Great report. Nice photos. Thanks!

When did you make the trip? Did you spend any time in TAR, or just Sichuan & Yunnan? I wonder if this trip has gotten more difficult for foreigners since 2008.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:52 am
by Bill Barilko
mad hatter wrote:Cool trip report

Coolest since the Pilipino tattoo tribe in fact.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:21 am
by judik
Wow,impressive!
I feel like such a tourist now :oops:

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:41 am
by dBrother
judik wrote:Wow,impressive!
I feel like such a tourist now :oops:


I rate myself as a tourist backpacker, travellers are so overrated, by themselves, anyhow..

Bill Barilko wrote:
mad hatter wrote:Cool trip report

Coolest since the Pilipino tattoo tribe in fact.


Taco would love the next valley over to the west cuts a little enclave into Burma just west of Gongshan, an even more lost valley called the Derung, filled with Derung tribal people.
It has always been traditionally isolated for 6 months of the year and was only accessible from Gongshan, last main town in the Nujiang, by walking over the top of a 5000meter mountain pass to get there until a few years ago, there is a road now but it was still closed in the april when we were there due to snow. So we didn't go.
this is how the locals there traditionally decorate themselves..
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Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:11 am
by dBrother
egjeg wrote:Great report. Nice photos. Thanks!

When did you make the trip? Did you spend any time in TAR, or just Sichuan & Yunnan? I wonder if this trip has gotten more difficult for foreigners since 2008.


2011 this trip was , in 2004 i had gone to Dege, in far west sichuan just by the Tibet border, ended up hitch hiking there as i couldn't read chinese bus timetables or speak the language to ask (as i said above i'm a tourist not a traveller).
But in 2011 the road to Dege was off limits to white foreigners. (I say white ones because i had met a japanese dude on the way to Dege in 04 who was planning on continuing to Tibet from there as he could blend in with the locals better).

The Nujiang Valley is OK though, not a sensitive area, they have a checkpoint just before Liuko where the police (or army?) will record your passport details, but it's all no worries traveling there permit free.

Never been to the TAR, have heard from people that had seen both that the Tibetan regions of Sichuan and Yunnan are better to see as they suffered less during the cultural revolution and aren't being currently occupied by a foreign power anyhow..
Dege was a magic place too, had to cross a 5000 meter mountain pass to get there, and though is was listed in the LP i was definitely the only white ghost there at the time.. the Buddhist printing press monastery listed in the LP guide was worth the effort to get there..


mad hatter wrote:You may be interested in this

http://www.datasinica.com/the-oriental-list/


I'll have a good look before going next time, thanks

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:16 am
by dBrother
A little more on the Derung Valley next to Gongshan, and the tatooed women there-in..
defo similar to the place Taco went
(i didn't go here due to the road being blocked by snow, would like to go back and see it though)

http://english.cri.cn/7146/2013/11/14/2921s798442.htm

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:27 pm
by incognita
This is great dBro, thanks for posting :)

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:44 pm
by Lulu
Stunning, thank you.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:07 am
by Homerj
Fuckin' eh Db.
Excellent trip report.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:42 pm
by veronica_inheels
Great trip! And photos . You rock!

I am a tourist, eating flowers and drinking yak tea would not agree with me.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 3:36 pm
by Lost Soul
Fantastic!

I've always been fascinated by the area where all the great rivers of south Asia have been jammed next to each other thanks to India moving north.

Thank you very much. I hope to get there someday.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:53 pm
by rezuar
Amazing pics, and scenery. Thanks, dB!

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 3:12 pm
by dBrother
many thanks everyone for the compliments, this is quite unusual for the stew, for me at least....

For this I shall write another...

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 1:43 am
by Ignominy
Really good report. I enjoyed this.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu May 05, 2016 1:54 am
by adi
This was a really good report!

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 9:23 am
by DCComic
Looks great. Really good job. Nice pics.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 4:23 pm
by Steve_in_Exile
I regret not making it into that valley when I was in Yunnan in January. There is a road that heads over there from Xianggelila(Shangrila) but being at 3,000 meters elevation in January was a little hairy. I did cross that river on the way from Baoshan to Tengchong and I remember thinking about this post at the time and thinking I really would have liked to head up that valley, but just didn't have the time.

Re: Nujiang Valley, Himalayas

Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 2:36 pm
by dBrother
Steve_in_Exile wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 4:23 pm
I regret not making it into that valley when I was in Yunnan in January. There is a road that heads over there from Xianggelila(Shangrila) but being at 3,000 meters elevation in January was a little hairy. I did cross that river on the way from Baoshan to Tengchong and I remember thinking about this post at the time and thinking I really would have liked to head up that valley, but just didn't have the time.
there is a road over the hill to/from "shangrila" now???

really, for sure?

wow, that was some build then, it was on the cards in 2011 when I was there, but I thought they were going to tunnel it.

I'd been hoping one day to get back there and hike over the top, from the nujiang valley to the mekong, but I'd probably just get a bus if there's a road nowadays.

one reason I thought they maywell leave it as is without making it a loop trip is the single road that does go up the valley is narrow and over trafficked as it is, whether making it a through road to shangrilli exacerbates this or not I dunno..