Thursday, May 7, 2009

Songpan Horse Trek part 4 Erdaohai

Like one of the websites say, Erdaohai is a place of "small miracles". Here the surrounding forest is mirrored in the turquoise waters of Erdao Lake. Few tourists come here and compared to the absolutely stunning, almost overwhelming beauty of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong which consequently attracts thousands of tourists each day, Erdaohai is intimate, cosy, magical and wonderously quiet. Truly a small gem in itself. 
The entire Munigou Valley is about 160 square km large and has two major scenic areas: Erdao Lake (Erdaohai) and Zhaga Waterfall (Zhaga Pubu) situated in two small parallel valleys. The waters of these two areas gather together and drain into the Min River (Minjiang). It is now listed as a World Biosphere Reserve, World Natural Heritage as well as Green Globe 21 by the United Nations. We made camp about 1 km below the entrance to Erdaohai Scenic Area which is a 3-4 km long chain of beautiful seasonal lakes with wondrous turquoise waters and marshland located at the top of Munigou Valley. The lake in this picture (Lover's Emerald Pool, elev. 3404 m) at the beginning of May still doesn't have much water. It is made up of nine dissolved, fallen lakes and is a typical seasonal lake. Even though this was the May 1st holiday we only met one small party of four Chinese tourists leaving the park as we were going in. It was completely quiet and pristine, utterly perfect and magical.
Spanish Moss dripping with moisture from the recent snowfall. 
Erdao Lake (Erdaohai) is a "fallen lake", one of over 400 mineral lakes in this area. It is surrounded by sunken pits, deep cravasses, hidden caves and the largest outdoor stalactites in China. Luckily these dangerous holes are surrounded by wooden railings so you don't inadvertently fall in. 
Lhatses, large wooden arrows collected into clusters and tied together by white silk khatas  and prayer flags, evidence of the Tibetan and Bön religion that is predominant in the Munigou Valley.  Erdaohai is sacred to local Tibetans and they come here twice annually to put up new flags, arrows and khatas, paying tribute to the lake. 
Light bottle green. Gradually, as the weather warms up and the lakes slowly fill with water the colours will shift in shade and hue. The colours are very different than at Huanglong or Jiuzhaigou. 

Wooden walkways (about 2.5 - 3 km up and same down again) connect the lakes in a loop. 
Roots calcified in the mineral rich water. 
Erdao Lake (Erdaohai) with large cave and overhang. Erdao means "two eyes" and the color of this lake is the strangest green-blue. It is around this lake that you see most of the sink-holes, caves and crevasses. In the autumn this lake will have filled almost to the top of the cavern.

Entrance fee to Erdaohai is 50 yuan or 70 yuan for Erdaohai and Zhaga Pubu together. Children over 130 cm are half-price. Foreign pensioners over 65 half-price. Children under 130 cm free. You can visit both areas easily in one day by car or bus but the horse trekking company no longer has horse treks to both areas due to disputes between villagers in the Zhaga Pubu area and the horse trekking company in Songpan (it all boils down to a question of money and who isn't getting a piece of the tourist pie). 20 years ago I rode to Erdaohai, camped by the lake itself and then rode over the mountain between Zhaga Pubu and Erdaohai, trekked down to the waterfall, then continued by horse back to Songpan in the same day. No longer. 

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

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