To the home of the pandas via the mountains.
Sunday 5 November 2006 - Tuesday 7 November 2006
Sunday 5 November - On the road at last. We packed up everything into the truck and by 7:30 am we were on our way towards Chengdu. The first 100 km or so were flat and boring. Then we turned off the main road for a long (250 km), winding and very scenic drive through the Qinling Mountains. We were supposed to camp but given that every piece of flat land is either growing vegetables or has a building on it we could not find anywhere at all. So, as it was getting dark, we decided to stop at a truck stop in a town. Andy checked the rooms and stated that we should really use our sleeping bags as the beds left a bit to desired.
We ate downstairs in the small restaurant, no English menu of course and I suspect we were the first foreign people these guys had seen. It is not everyday that a white truck with 22 Westerners and one Chinese guide turn up and want beds for the night and dinner. The food was very good. Our British/Chinese girl was the centre of attention yet again with the local truck drivers wanting to know why she was travelling with these foreigners and how much did she charge. All fun and games.
A smoke and toilet break in the mountains.
A farm perched on the hillside.
Monday 6 November - An early start and another long drive to Chengdu, via more mountains and a brand new motorway, arriving late afternoon. Dinner was in the Thai restaurant on the roof of the hotel and was very nice indeed.
The scenery can get a bit boring, Ben and Kevin catching up on their reading.
Another farm in the mountains.
Tuesday 7 November - Very slow breakfast from the café next to the hotel. It finally arrived at 7:55am and we were leaving at 8:00am to go out to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. We saw lots of giant pandas (the black and white fellows) and the smaller red panda (um, the red ones). All they do is eat, sleep and look cute for the cameras and occasionally breed. There were baby pandas in the incubators (everyone go aahh) and a very good movie outlining what they are doing to help them.
More red pandas.
Baby pandas in the incubators.
Tourists in the fog.
All they do is eat ...
... and eat ...
... and eat.
We had a free afternoon, spent updating diary, postcards and mucking around.
In the evening, we went to the Sichuan Opera. This is very entertaining with lots of juggling of ceramic pots and tables (not at the same time), a face changing dance, fire breathing, hand shadows, puppets, a lamp show with a hen pecked husband, musicians, and lots of Chinese opera. Like an idiot I forgot my camera which is why there are no photos.