Plan for the Day
Our plan was to spend the whole day at Dagu Glacier. We planned to go up to the glacier on a ropeway/cable car and stayed warm and cosy in “The World Highest Cafe” at altitude 4860 metres above sea level. From our hotel to the main entrance of Dagu Glacier Scenic Reserve was about 9 km and we would have to get there by a taxis.
We would have preferred a hotel nearer to the scenic reserve, unfortunately on the internet there were just a couple of hotels available for reservation in HeiShui. We thought this was a relatively unknown area, it was only upon arriving at HeiShui the day before that we found this place packed with hotels, big and small, simple and luxurious!
By the end of the day
To our surprise, DaGu Glacier Reserve had many scenic stops besides the glacier stop. From the entrance to the lower station of the cable car that brought us up the glacier was about 32 km. In this 32 km there were many scenic stops, five of which the tourist-buses stopped for visitors to explore. All in we spent about 8 hours in DaGu Glacier Reserve.
Unlike the day before, today the weather was cloudy, misty and gloomy. There were no blue sky so the coloring of the landscape was not as vibrant as it would be on a good fine day.
DaGu Glacier Scenic Reserve
At our hotel we saw a small notice offering discounted entrance tickets for guests visiting DaGu Glacier Scenic Reserve. The usual ticket prices for a person were RMB¥120 for entry, RMB¥180 for cable car and RMB¥70 for tourist bus which added up to a total of RMB¥740 for two. As for the discounted tickets we paid RMB¥670 (entry, cable car and tourist bus) for two giving us about a 10% discount. After the purchase I was issued a confirmation code. The hotel manager told me to pick up the actual tickets at the ticketing counter of DaGu Glacier Scenic Reserve using my passport and the confirmation code.
In the morning the hotel manager arranged for a driver to pick us up from the hotel doorstep and send us to the main entrance of DaGu Glacier Scenic Reserve. The one way transfer was RMB¥40 for two. We were surprised that it was an unlicensed taxis/cab. We could have just hopped into one of the taxis parked at taxis-stand outside our hotel, but it was too late to do that since the unlicensed driver had arrived. The driver got us to the ticketing counter of the scenic reserve in just 15 minutes.
Though we arrived early at 8.50 am we did not manage to get our tickets till 30 minutes later. The ticketing staff just could not find in their computer systems the tickets that were issued to us. We showed them the ticket confirmation code, our passport documents but the systems had no records of our purchase!
Though there were many people in the queue, the ticketing staff were very patient and polite in handling our “problematic” situation. They spent much time communicating with our hotel manager to understand the issue of the missing records in the system. Apparently our tickets were purchased online by some third-party in ChengDu and the information was not updated into the systems. It was a relief when we finally received our tickets.
Once we got our tickets we followed the crowd to another building where the tourist buses were parked. There were many buses, big and small mini buses. Whenever a bus was filled it would move off, driving inland. On the bus there was a mini TV screen in front introducing the scenic sights coming ahead. Our first scenic sight was Golden Monkey Lake.
The lake was large and the water was very still. Most of the trees on the hills that bordered the lake had not changed into their autumn colors. HeiShui County had a huge “Colored Leaves” celebration the day before to welcome the autumn season. Unfortunately autumn seemed to be ten days late in coming, sigh….
At Golden Monkey Lake, our driver told us to alight, explore the lake then walk forward a bit and till we see a group of parked buses. From there we could board a bus and move to the next scenic spot. It was only when we reached the parked buses that we saw “monkeys” though not of the golden type.
On the way to the second scenic site we passed a Tibetan village. A Tibetan villager flagged at down our bus and came on board. She was thumbing a ride up the road. It seemed that only villagers were allowed to stay overnight in the reserve and not tourists.
The second scenic site where the tourist-bus stopped again was a waterfall, a low straight water fall. It looked more like a man-made fall than a natural one, the fall was created by the overflowing water of Zena Lake into the river below.
Looking through my camera lens, I could see a Tibetan village on the mid hill of a mountain at the far end of Zena Lake. The place looked so serene and so ethereal. We could only imagine the beautiful sight (lake) that these villages saw every day and minutes of their lives.
Apparently there were three Tibetan Villages in the Scenic Reserve, those that we had passed were Dagu Lower Village and Dagu Mid Village and the one up on the mid hill at the end of Lake Zena was Dagu Upper Village.
The third scenic sight was Red Army Bridge. A historical artifact, left behind by the Red Army when they passed this place. On July 7, 1935 the Red Army had a fierce battle here against the local reactionary forces and wiped them out.
At the Red Army Bridge we found out from a signboard that we were about 19.5 km from the main entrance and at about 2949 m above sea level. There was nothing much to see at the bridge so after about 10 minutes we were back on the bus again. The fourth scenic sight was a “Red Rocks Slope”. According to the documentary playing on the mini TV screen on the bus, the red color of the rocks was natural not painted.
Our driver told us to take the boardwalk that was built beside the river full of red rocks. The board walk was about 1 km long and at the end of the walk we could continue our journey on any of the parked buses that was already waiting there.
So far at the earlier three stops we did not wander far because we had no idea where was the next stop to board a bus so we sort of circled around the place until we were ready to leave. This 1 km walk was a great change, it was so pleasant and nice to see the changing scenery as we strolled on. The scene of the red rocks by the river bank was very pretty.
Near the end of the boardwalk was a lake. A very tranquil and beautiful lake. The water was so still acting like a mirror reflecting the scenery above it. We found this fourth scenic sight the best among those we had visited so far. We looked around but could not find a signboard that would tell us the name of this lake. What a shame, a beautiful nameless lake.
Finally we were on our way to the Lower Cable Car Station of the Dagu Glacier which was also our fifth scenic stop! When we arrived, there were already many tourist buses parked at a huge car park just in front of the cable car station.
The scene of the autumn trees surrounding the valley was very beautiful. Though the weather was gloomy and a thick layer of white mist blocked out the view of the upper mountains, the sight of this valley was still undeniably lovely.
The cable car was the hop-in-and-out type, basically it did not stop. Once the door opened we had to walk right in. Each cable car could take up to 8 persons. Whether going up or down I always chose to look downhill as it gave the height dimension to the scenery around me.
Looking down on the mountain we saw a path (walking) directly below the cable car line. So there was an alternative way up the mountain for those who preferred to trek.
The stairs looked pretty well built and it zigzag up the slope. It would be a long way up to the glacier probably that was the reason we did not spot a single soul taking the stairs.
As our cable car went up the mountain the landscape changed soon the yellow forest below us disappeared and barren land full of rocks came into view. The nice walking path that trailed below the cable line became treacherous.
We changed our mind, no “life loving person” should attempt to trek up to the glacier!
After what seemed like a long time we reached the top station building and the cable car pulled into the exit bay. Upon getting out of the cable car, on our way to the inner hall of the building we saw a long queue of tourists waiting to go down the mountain. Among them was a woman lying on the floor with a staff administering a plastic funnel connected to a small can of oxygen over her nose. The thin air at this high altitude had a bad effect on her. It was an instant reminder to us to do everything slowly at this high altitude to avoid fainting.
The inner hall was like a “mad” house, full of tourists jamming into a limited space. There were a few tables and chairs and everyone of them were occupied. The tables were cluttered with food, leftover, cups etc. Many tourists had brought their own food and beverages, all having the same idea of enjoying a “hot cup of coffee” in such a cold place. This was not the relaxing cafe I had in mind! There was no place to sit or to stand or to move! Our only choice was to head out to the open space outside.
The outdoor was misty and very cold. All around were thick white snow and the heavy mist in the air limited our view to not more than 10 feet ahead. We could not see the surrounding snow mountains (if they existed) or the snow slopes . All around us were tourists and there was a constant buzz of noises/voices in the air. We figured that the place was crowded because today was a weekend and the glacier stop being the final stop most tourists were staying longer here before heading out of the scenic reserve. If we were here very early or very late in the day the crowd might not be as big.
Standing on top of this glacier we were supposed to appreciate its massive size unfortunately with the limited view we did not sense its grandiose at all.
This morning we did think of making DaGu Glacier as our first stop to avoid a crowd. But on checking with a staff at the ticketing office we were advised to adhere to their programme. The staff told us that the purpose of putting DaGu Glacier as the final stop was to give visitors time to climatise to a higher altitude at each intermediate stop before the final highest stop at DaGu Glacier.
We did not stay long in the outdoor because there was nothing much to see. After 30 minutes we headed back into the building. We found “The World Highest Cafe”, it was at the 2nd level. Unlike the hall on the first level, the cafe was not crowded. It still had some empty tables and chairs, too bad of us all the tables by the windows (with view) were already taken up. We sat somewhere in the center of the cafe and ordered two cups of coffee. The coffees were pretty expensive and they costed RMB¥96. Sitting at this cafe had a minimum charge of at least RMB¥20 per person even if you did not drink anything. Now we knew why this cafe was not like the “mad house” on the first level!.
After about an hour later we left the cafe and took the cable car back to the lower station. At the lower station as we were heading towards the tourist buses we came upon a signboard showing information of the LingYun Waterfall, it sounded interesting so we followed trail (boardwalk) that would lead us to the fall.
Most visitors after coming down from the cable cars headed straight for the tourist buses and left. Not many were interested to explore the land around the cable car station. We seemed to be the only ones on the boardwalk. The boardwalk led us into a forest of “yellow” trees and brooks. The scenery was stunning and having the place to ourselves was a bonus. We could enjoy this lovely place leisurely without having to constantly “skip” out of the ways of others.
All along the boardwalk were signs that reminded visitors to stay on the boardwalk and not to step onto the forest ground. That was probably the reason the yellow mossy ground looked so thick and untouched. The walk was very pleasant and we seemed to have stumbled into a magical forest in a fairy tale.
We were so captivated by our beautiful surrounding that we forgot our original purpose of going on this boardwalk. We were supposed to look for LingYun waterfall! Time was running short and we were still pretty far away from the fall. We had to be back to the tourist-bus bay by 5 pm for the last bus of the day.
Before reaching the fall we came upon a signboard stating that this place was “China Top Azalea wood”. As far as we knew, azalea was a flower, but there was no flower at this place, so probably during the right time of the year this place was a flower paradise too?
We passed LingYun Waterfall without noticing it. It was when we reached the Fortuna Hillside that we knew we must had walked past LingYun Waterfall. We backtracked and finally found LingYun Waterfall. The fall was quite dry and two narrow trickles of water could be seen at the top part of the fall, definitely very unspectacular at this time of the year.
Yat Thong thought he saw a similar waterfall when we on the cable car so he pulled out the photos that he had taken to confirm his suspicion. Yes, he was right.
LingYun waterfall definitely looked better when viewed from the top!
Fortuna Hillside was a massive slope of rocks. It was the last scenic stop on this boardwalk before the walk looped back to join its original route.
It was a long, tiring but enjoyable day at DaGu Glacier Scenic Reserve so when it came to dinner time we just wanted to eat at a restaurant near to the hotel, where we did not have to walk far. The hotel receptionist recommended a beef hotpot dinner 200 metres away. Though we had the beef hotpot the day before we did not mind eating the same stuff again.
The hotpot beef dinner was very different from the hotpot beef dinner the day before. The soup base tasted very different. It was a beef stock with tons of mushroom. Yummy!