The next morning, we woke up and decided to make our decent into Xidang, the starting off point of hiking trails in Meili Xueshan National Park. Before leaving Feilaisi, we got some breakfast of dumplings and Tibetan butter tea. I was very excited about drinking this tea, as it is a staple in the Tibetan diet. I was a little disappointed by the taste. It is very strong.. it tastes... just about how you would expect butter tea to taste. Not great. But, I forced myself to drink it down and head out for the National Park.
From there, we had to find a minivan (called Baoche 包车）to take us down to Xidang. We thought we would have to hire one on our own, as we got a later start than most hikers in the area, but then we bumped into a group of five Chinese tourists who also were heading to the same place and we were able to share the minivan with them.
In order to enter the national park, you need to have a ticket like this. Actually, the price is quite high, but it includes entry into the park, Feilaisi, YuPeng, and another location we never found. You can buy this ticket either at the gate to the park or near Feilaisi and the cost is 230 Yuen ($38). Considering that once you are in the park, you can eat and sleep for $5-10 USD/ day per person, it's worth spending the money.
Finally we arrived in Xidang and were brought to the starting point of the hiking area. In order to go further into the National Park, one must go either on foot or by mule as there are no roads that lead in to the towns deep in the mountains. We didn't stop to rest here but made our way straight to the trail and started our upward climb.
About an hour or two into our climb we happened upon our first rest stop. Here you could buy all manner of things, the most popular being a Chinese form of Red Bull (see the yellow cans piled high), Snikers, Dove Bars, and ramen.
We wanted the local cuisine, however and opted for more butter tea and some sort of fried bread. Then we continued on our hike up the mountain.
About four hours or so into our hike, we made it to our next rest stop and got ourselves some lunch. Here, the most popular fare was by far the ramen, so we figured there was no point in being different and bought two cups of ramen noodles. Just to prove the popularity of the ramen here, if you see in the background of the photo above, there are towers of something red in the background. It's hard to tell in the photo, however those are actually piles and piles and piles of used ramen cups. As it can be difficult to dispose of waste up here, the locals have started using the waste as decoration rather than tossing it into the environment around them. Unfortunately, the hoards of Chinese tourists continue to treat the mountain like their own trash barrel and there is trash strewn everywhere, undoubtedly 98% of which comes from tourists (of which probably another 98% happen to be Chinese).
After another hour or so of hiking, we finally reached the top of the mountain, a holy place for the local Tibetan population. While I expected the summit to be a little more exciting, with breathtaking views, those were to come later on the decent on the other side. For now, we had to be satisfied by the prayer flags which covered the summit.
As I said, the real views were for the hike down the other side, once we reached the inner side of the mountain. The whole hike down afforded us views like this with the snow capped mountains and glacier looming in the distance.
It was also not uncommon to find collections of objects like this concentrated in one area. I'm not sure yet about the significance here, but I imagine it would be akin to the prayer flags. A way to make a prayer in a holy place.
Finally, after six hours or so of hiking up and down a large mountain at a relatively high elevation (I think it was 3600 at the peak, but I could be wrong), we finally caught sight of Upper Yu Peng 雨崩村. I can't say I wasn't excited to be done with the hiking (especially with my huge backpack!). We settled down here in Upper Yu Peng for the next two nights to continue our exploration of Meili Xueshan National Park. More on that later.