The conductor announces our arrival. I wait for some people to leave before climbing down the bunk. The sun is rising.
The hostel’s directions are clear and I hop on Bus 8 till the end of the line. The new town melts away to reveal more of the mountains and the lake on the opposite side. Old town isn’t exactly petite but none of the buildings are tall.
I check in and the woman is very friendly. She’s surprised by my lack of ten year visa. All the Americans have one she tells me. Ugh, don’t remind me. I ask about hiking and the lake but decide a shower and food is more important.
I walk up to the second floor cafe and take a chance on apple pancakes. I notice breakfast usually lists a lot of western food. It’s a meal that varies wildly across cultures and sometimes you just need to start with the usual. Grilled cheese where are you?!
Some people show up and sit at the table. Two Brits and an Israeli. We talk about the area and make introductions. They are going bike riding around the lake and I agree to join them.
My pancake arrives but I’m not sure by whose definition. My optimism fades. I eat it anyways.
A group of us set off but it’s not for bikes. It’s mopeds. I hesitate because I’ve never driven one before and believe it’s complicated. Also I’m a terrible driver. The Brit goes over the controls and my first test is to drive out of old town onto the highway. Eep! I’m slow but I don’t hit anyone. I relax as the day goes on and more confident with controlling it. It’s not as complicated as I thought (I was thinking more like a motorcycle).
The day is unbelievably beautiful and I’m annoyed that we’re not stopping enough for epic photos! If only I wasn’t driving! We eventually stop and at the start of the path are large spiders in a huge web. Gross. We climb over rusted row boats to walk onto a ledge in the lake. There’s a couple taking wedding photos. The dress hides her sneakers.
The Spaniard and Taiwanese couple are excited to find pot growing and bag some leaves. I’ll find out later that people get excited about this and is a main attraction of Yunnan. Cue the eye rolling. I’m too old for this shit.
We start riding again toward one of the villages near the lake. I can’t get over how great the weather and surroundings are. It’s so bright I’ve never had to set the shutter speed so high before.
The village is okay. We sit and snack on savory bread and ice pops. Everyone is talking about their amazing travels and where they are going next. Just starting out I have nothing to add.
We start heading back. Some people’s batteries are low so we look for a shortcut back to the highway. The map says there’s a road… But it’s really a muddy, rocky, overgrown path. We go anyways. I lift my legs to keep them away from the tall grass and mud. One couple tips over.
We make it to the highway but there’s still a ways to go. Two people barely make it back but it worked out. I’m glad I decided to drive. It was so much fun! Plus my legs really needed a rest.
Some of us decide to go out for dinner together. One woman knows some Chinese and the dishes are delicious except for the pork one. I could have just ate the eggplant and mashed potatoes (potatoes surprisingly are local here).
We head back to the hostel. The Brit and I plan to go hiking tomorrow morning.