In the absence of a proper access road to upper and lower Yubeng villages, a capturing charm resonates in the valleys where they reside. At the foot of the year round snowcapped Meili mountains, a forested valley houses several traditional Tibetan dwellings. These days almost every house functions as a humble, though character full, guest house. Roads? Null. Only paths, muddy ones, with donkey convoys and hundreds of pigs. In the villages – the shower is solar (i.e. incidental). Heating? by wooden stoves only. And only fresh water, flows from the snowed peaks in pipes and channels straight to the houses. All the food supply is carried to the villages with the help of donkeys struggling up the range that separates modern Chinese civilization and the peaceful serenity that can be found in this place.
So what did we do here 8 days?
It all started with the warnings about the national Chinese holiday which takes place on the 1st of October and lasts a week. “You will not be able to find any vacant rooms, neither bus tickets”, we were told, and “The prices will soar by 300% and more”. We were prepared for the worst: a billion Chinese who decide that their destination for this year’s national holiday is the north Yunnan district. That is why we decided to slide under the radar; We heard about the Yubeng villages many weeks ago and decided to head for the mountains for a period of time.
Getting to the villages is a long and exhausting day’s climb, which takes you to a mountain pass, decorated with prayer flags, and later winds down steep paths to the villages. We stopped to catch our breath for a moment during the ascent and then a young tall and handsome guy, not Chinese looking, with a mischievous look, going the other direction, stopped by us and said: ” Are you on your way to upper Yubeng? I have a hostel there. You can stay with me… I saw 6 other Caucasians on the way to our village and they will stay with us as well”. Except for the CSI description he had for tourists, he seemed nice and his merry manner convinced us to search for his sister Monica in upper Yubeng.
There are several fun day hikes around the villages; one climbs to a frozen lake, a second ascends to a sacred waterfall – through a gorgeous forest and all in typical Tibetan quiescent. Prayer wheels and prayer flags and a holy mountain that has fountain water so holy, that Tibetan pilgrims fill bottles with its water to take back to their families who live hundreds of kilometers away. On the day we set foot atop the holy waterfall basin the sky was clear and the sun was shining. We saw several locals and tourists shed their clothing and circle the freezing waterfall. They must know what they are doing, we thought, and joined them.
After two sunny days, clouds swaddled the valley and a constant, annoying drizzle began. It rained for three days straight! On the fourth day we decided we want to take a chance, so we headed out to a steep 3.5 hours of climbing up over 1000 (vertical) meters, through very dense forest vegetation. At the end of the ascent we were awarded with a good leg stretch while the clouds began to fade. We climbed a further 400 (vertical) meters to God’s lake, an alpine lake with fresh-holy water. A beautiful rainbow shined bright over the Yubeng villages below us in the valley.
On the last day we had a hard time saying goodbye.
We left with a heavy heart. Not like leaving a beautiful place that you hope to see again one day, someday in the future. But like leaving a place that you know will not look the same the next time you will see it. This we heard: the Chinese are planning to provide accessibility for all tourists to this small piece of heaven. In the near future it is possible that the 5 hours climb over the mountain pass will not be needed and a road or cable way will help visitors easily arrive to the villages.
We hope you will succeed to see Yubeng and the Meili mountains on time, before this happens.
About the Authors– Oran and Lihi: We are an enthusiastic Israeli couple bitten by the travel bug. After previous individual travels to many countries, we set out together last spring to a yearlong adventure in Asia. Please visit our travel blog at: www.lihiandoran.com for many more stories, pictures and helpful info for visiting China, Mongolia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Thank you!