Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day 3 Road to Lugu Lake @ Women's Kingdom

22 October 2014 (Wednesday)

Yesterday morning, before departing for Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, I had asked Mama Naxi receptionist about taking the bus to Lugu Lake. On returning to the hostel from Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, she told me that there was a private van going to Lugu Lake the following day.

The van was hired by someone in Kunming. He wanted to share the hiring cost and could take one or two additional passengers. This would be very convenient for me and I was interested. She called him on the mobile phone. He was in his dorm room and he came down to see me. We introduced ourselves. He was a young man who could speak English and his plan was to stay for one night at Lugu Lake. This was perfect for my plan. He invited me to his dorm room to meet with the rest of the group. They were all young and English speaking, with two young men and a young lady who was not feeling well that night. They did not give me their real names, just some fancy names. It was agreed that we would depart at 8:00 a.m the following morning.

I first learnt of Lugu Lake on TV many years back. It is the land where Mosuo women rules. It is also the land where women decide how many men they want and who they want to sleep with. There are no marriage contracts to bind men and women together. This is where true men wish to be, with the secret hope that they are chosen and invited into different women's harems. It is where they will die happy. It fired up my imagination and my curiosity. I have decided to come here to see the Mosuo women myself, with the secret wish of every true man ... or at least find a Mosuo mei nv to be photographed with ... 

They were late. I had my breakfast already and was waiting for them by 8:00 a.m. Joshua and Hagrid came down before 8:00 a.m. and went to buy breakfast. Bruce (the one who hired the van and the leader) and Dr. An Ming came down later. They had breakfast together with the food brought back by Joshua and Hagrid. I was talking to the Spanish girl who recognised me as the guy with the camera taking photos in the train. I recalled seeing her at the train station buying tickets and also in the train. She and her boyfriend were going trekking to Tiger Leaping Gorge that morning and were waiting at the hostel courtyard for the guide to arrive.

After breakfast, we walked to the parking lot at 8:10 a.m. The hired vehicle was a Kia motorcar, not a van. We left the parking lot at about 8:30 a.m. A short-cut we took was in a bad state, being under construction. The road which led to Lugu Lake was closed, about 30 minutes out of the Lijiang. It was under construction and we took the only alternative road there.

Several sections of the road to Lugu Lake were dirt road and in poor condition. The road was switching back and forth, up and down mountains, narrow and with many sharp bends. We had at least four near misses. An Ming repeatedly advised Bruce to drive carefully whenever we encountered the near misses. Along the way, Bruce mobile phone gps lost its signal. Although my Garmin eTrex had no problem with the satellite signal, the accompanying OSM map was incomplete and did not show the road we were taking. We just continued on the only road and asking for direction when we encountered road intersections. Close to Lugu Lake, the route reappeared on my gps unit and we drove to Lige. We arrived there at 4 p.m., after 7 1/2 hours and 250 km on the road.

The routes taken by us to Lugu Lake and back (on OpenStreetMap in Garmin Basecamp)
The mountains that we climbed, driving from Lijiang (2,296 m) to Lugu Lake (2,700 m), passing through a valley of a low 1,434 m to a mountain as high as 3,659 m
We went to look for accommodation. After checking three hostels, we returned to International Youth Hostel Lugu Lake, being the most affordable. The single rooms at CNY78 were all taken, so were the double ensuite rooms and I had to settle for a double room with shared bathroom for CNY98. Hostels located just beside the shore were very expensive, particularly the rooms with the lake view.

We had not had lunch and were all famished. After checking in, we went to look for an early dinner. It was during dinner that I saw how playful An Ming was. She was really adorable and making everyone laughed with her antics.

Up until now, we have not encountered any women in traditional Mosuo garb. Where were they hiding? There were none on the street and none at the lake. In fact, I did not see any boat out in the lake with the Mosuo women singing their hearts out. Umm! Then, I thought maybe, there could be some cultural performances somewhere where Mosuo women in traditional costumes could be seen. So I suggested that idea to my new Chinese friends.

We were told that at another hostel, there could be a night performance. The performance for the previous night was cancelled due to a lack of audience as this was the low season. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, we were told it had been cancelled for the night too. I was disappointed.

Having nothing to do, we strolled to Lige Island. There was no street light along the way. The small torchlight that I carried with me when travelling proved very useful.

On our way back to our hostel, An Ming got separated from us when we made a detour to the other side of the 'island'. I went back to let her know that the guys were strolling around but then decided to stay with her too. After waiting for them for a while, Bruce appeared and said he found a bar where people were singing. An Ming was not interested and Bruce had to explain to her that it was not actually a bar but a hostel where a group of people with shared interest in music and singing were gathered. We joined them.

We left the music gathering after 10 p.m. to return to our hostel. We would gather at our hostel lobby by 6:40 a.m the following morning to take a boat out to see the sunrise.

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