After two days in Shangri-La, we took a bus to Deqin and then on to Feilaisi to begin a four-day series of treks around Meili Xueshan (also known as Kawa Karpo), Yunnan’s highest peak. The mountain sits on the Yunnan-Tibet border at 6740m high, and is a pilgrimage site for many practicing Tibetan Buddhists.
We spent one night in Feilaisi to acclimate to the altitude and prepare for our trek to Yubeng the next day, which would serve as our base camp for other hikes. The town of Feilaisi is essentially a small strip of hotels and restaurants catering mainly to hikers getting ready to head unto the mountains, but has beautiful panoramic views of the mountain range.
After some wonderful hot showers and repacking of bags, we departed Feilaisi with just our day packs, sending our larger backpacks straight to Hongpo, our homestay village. We spent our first day hiking into Yubeng, a day-long hike of about 14 kilometers. We began on the banks of the Mekong river, then hiked up the mountains towards Meili Xueshan. Though it was long and mainly uphill, the group was in high spirits, singing songs, playing games, and admiring the views before us. We stopped for lunch at a station along the way and ate at picnic tables overlooking a vast canyon whose river flowed straight into the Mekong. In the late afternoon, we finally arrived at Lower Yubeng village, ate a huge dinner of fourteen dishes, and settled into our hotel.
The next morning after a large breakfast of noodles, we hiked 5.6 kilometers up to the Yubeng Waterfall, another pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. The water is said to be holy; legend has it that a Buddhist man meditated in a cave nearby for six-years and propagated the formation of the falls. At a station on the way up, we meet a Tibetan Yogi who led us in a Tibetan Buddhist chant and meditation, and told us about his life living in India for fifteen years. When we arrived at the falls, we pulled on our raincoats and circumambulated the falls clockwise three times to pay our respects and be showered by the holy water. We returned to Lower Yubeng cold and wet but excited for another delicious dinner.
After the waterfall hike, we took a day off in Yubeng village, stretching, doing Zumba, playing games, and preparing for our host families in Hongpo with a variety of activities. We had the chance to explore the village, and by the end of the day we all felt well-rested and energized for another day of hiking.
For our final hike from Yubeng, we moved to Upper Village and set out on a hike to Glacier Lake, a challenging fourteen-kilometer hike. Michal had researched the hike and kept us going by calling out various checkpoints along the way, and Jesse provided plenty of riddles as well. The hike was incredibly scenic, climbing through forests of mossy trees and crossing rushing rivers. We stopped for lunch in Xiaonong Base Camp, the valley just below Glacier Lake, and drank yak milk and salty butter tea while we ate. Then we continued up the hills to Glacier Lake. The emerald water is the source of the Mekong river, which goes on to form the borders of Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. We returned to Upper Yubeng Village and ate yet another giant dinner.
Today we will hike back through the Ninong Valley the way we came, heading to our homestay village this evening.