I delayed the start one more day... not feeling mentally ready and continuously undecided about a route to take since arriving to Dali. Starting in Yunnan instead of Kham has thrown me off, because I'm completely unfamiliar with the terrain and towns and people here. In Kham, I would have started started walking across any random field and mountain following a compass course; I've studies the ranges there and that's my comfort zone. My Kham Khomfort Zone! I will start in Eryuan, a village north of Dali, to reach Lijian. I'm following a river course well off main roads. If I left directly from Dali, I would have faced an immediate steep climb up the Changsan range, which hovers over Dali like a Tim Burton nightmare mountain, ascending 2000m over 7km... no thank you! That's too much the first day out! Plus, on the other side of Tim Burton's nightmare is an ugly highway to clump along; I'll say it again: No thank you!
Above, you can see the overall Phase I course of my 215km trek (starting at the small lake, and heading west toward blue and white icon). I cover one shallow range that barely reaches 3500m and is only 15km (8mi) wide, heading due west from Eryaun. This is The Beginning of the UltimateKhamTrek2019 and will count as Day One. I expect this portion will lack arduousness as I follow tributaries and ridgelines. There are several backcountry homes on top of ridges along the way. Once I reach the bifurcation of the Heihui River, I'll head northwest.
Although I'm not hiking along main roads, I'll pass many small villages along the way. Of course, I reserve the right to change course at anytime, being Invictus, the captain of my fate. My desire is to hike in the mountains, not along roads of drudgery and cars. But, I want to make the first phase very, very, very easy! I will veer as far away from main roads as possible, but I also need to be close to a water source. Since there is a complete lack of emission controls here, I'll be breathing puffs of black truck deisel fumes on main roads, ugh. No thank you! If I want to breathe 100% pure cancer, I'll move back to Chengdu. No thank you!
Right now, I'm on the west side of Erhai lake, slightly south of the West Gate of Dali Ancient Town. I leave manana, after taking a week to figure out my route; well to be honest, that and figure out the GaiaGPS app I'm using to map it out. Tomorrow morning, after SF Express picks up my carry-on for shipment to Lijiang , I'll endure a 1 1/2 hour long bus ride to Eryuan, then a taxi west to the non-existent trailhead, otherwise known as Gina's Entry Point Trailhead Mile 0. Most of the range crossing will be at 2500m if I stay in the valleys.
Friends and Fam, please remember how entirely safe I am in China, whether in the wilds or the among Beijing's 20-30mil people. I do NOT, I repeat, I do NOT have to worry about being attacked, raped, or murdered. This is not the US where everyone wants to rape and kill people. My biggest fear is being cold at night and the damn popo saying I can't camp somewhere because I'm a helpless foreigner. For the first, I have seriously warm jammies, a silk sleeping bag liner, a -5 to -23C rated down sleeping bag, an inflatable air mattress, a closed-cell foam sleeping pad to go under those, a 3-season tent, and a tent pad. I may actually get too warm! As far as popo, well that's why I want to avoid big towns and main roads. Besides, I didn't come out here to walk on effing roads! I came to traverse mountains. So once I'm in a groove and go my confidence, I will literally take to the hills. Oh, I suppose there's a Number Three: rain. It's monsoon season in Asia, and damnit, I only had a few days of rain last summer, but it is raining HARD every single dang day here in Dali and Kunming! Hard rain, for hours! I have an excellent rain jacket, but I may have to set up tent mid-morning for a few hours and wait it out. I didn't come out here to be miserable 1/4 of each day either. I believe that once I reach Kham, I'll be beyond the daily rain boundary.
So once again, Peeps, I will not be interned in a post-Mao work camp nor will I be attacked by insane Tibetan nomads. The worse they'll do to me is invite me into their yak hair tent and make me drink too much butter tea and eat tsampa. Did I mention how much I LOVE yak butter tea and tsampa!!!! After Phase I, I'll buy some for the next leg of my trip. Oh, the other horrible thing that might happen is that I meet one of these gorgeous, tall Khampa men and we get married and live in the mountains. Darn! Okay, I'll admit, I don't know how to work around the lack of wifi, but with a gorgeous Khampa man, I may not need it.
I promise to listen to my instincts and remain safe. I will check in when I am able. Rest assured, I'll be having the time of my life... again! Or I'll be wet, cold, and miserable, having the time of my life... again!