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Day 82: Lugu Lake to Lijiang

Michael Palin - HimalayaThere's a cockerel somewhere close by that wakes me every morning, long before it's light. Today I time its first call at 3.29. To make matters worse, it crows only on one note, a monotone cry like someone pretending to be a ghost.

It gives me plenty of time to get my head together and prepare for an early start. Breakfast is basic and heavy. Noodles, hot, spicy cabbage and coils of pudgy, white, steamed bread, washed down with butter tea, made, of course, by Namu's mother. Our drivers, like most other working people in China, carry plastic flasks of green tea at all times, wedging them perilously on the dashboard. Soon we're packed, have said our farewells and are making our way on a slow loop round the lake, passing the Coca Cola Hope School, proof that Namu is not the only philanthropist in Lugu Lake. The red soil has turned to mud with recent rain, and the 12,000-foot (3660 m) summit of the Gemu Goddess Peak is lost in the clouds. Compared to where we've been, Gemu seems no more than a foothill, but we are still above 8000 feet (2440 m) and, even here, the snow will soon come and shut the passes and Lugu Lake will be cut off for three months of the winter.

This has been the easternmost point of our journey. We are some 2000 miles (3200 km) from the Khyber Pass, as the crow flies, and now we must turn back toward the Himalaya and follow the mountains as they make their great southern arc towards India and Burma.

Within a few hours we are riding into the Yangtze gorges again, this time on the other side of the Jade Dragon Snow range from Tiger Leaping, but into canyons just as stomach-tighteningly spectacular.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 82: Lugu Lake to Lijiang
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Lugu Lake
  • Book page no: 192

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