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Mike's China


The track had been gouged into the cliff face many centuries earlier.
Suddenly it narrowed and there was barely room for a man, let alone a pony.
I'd been concerned for my safety on the scree slopes. Now, I was seriously
worried.
I'm used to looking after myself. I like to be in control when I'm on a rock
face and that wasn't happening . Just staying on the pony was difficult
enough. My injured foot was throbbing and the stupid animal was lurching
around. I looked for something to hang onto and there wasn't anything.
At one point, I thought my end had come . The pony spied a tuft of grass
and bent over to munch it. I slid forward and found myself clinging to its neck,
staring down an indescribable drop that ended in a thread of white water far
below. The cliff above went on forever. I was balanced between heaven and
hell on the back of a three-year-old with scant respect for heights.
If you decide to take the exciting route along the Leaping Tiger Gorge, wear
climbing boots and keep well clear of ponies.
8 Shangri-La
Okay. Its real name is Zhongdian. The China Tourist Board renamed it
Shangri-La for the benefit of Western tourists who have read James
Hilton's novel "Lost Horizons" and want to visit a mountain utopia where
they can escape the troubles of everyday life. Hilton placed his Shangri-
La in Tibet. The Tourist Board located theirs over the border in Yunnan
province.
I went there with a mountaineering party and injured my foot so I saw more
of the town than the mountains. Apart from the discomfort, I wasn't greatly put
out. There is a huge amount to see in and around Zhongdian.
The town is essentially Tibetan. Most of the people are Tibetan and the
monasteries are Tibetan. We stayed in a clean and comfortable guesthouse.
The facilities were basic but well up to the standard that mountaineers expect .
The cost per night was a fraction of what I was charging my guests in my
backpacker hostel in Australia. The guesthouse served meals and had an
Internet cafe.
One of the advantages of being injured and separated from your climbing
friends soon became apparent. The Tibetans take pity on climbers in
distress. I soon had people inviting me to go places. One was an Internet
user with a brother in a monastery. He put through a call to the monastery
and arranged a visit.
 
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