As the sun dips behind the mountains in the Yunnan province of western China, the alluring clouds of the afternoon majestic light propel me frontward. A splendid day of pedaling over the charmed mountains down to the alluring Yangtze River and my first wide eyed glance at spacious snow capped mountains burst my vision with energetic exhilaration.
An enchanted spirited region at every turn, Pandemic the Magic Bicycle, an unforgettable companion and another beloved cycling experience embedded into memory. The rushing river echoes from the banks, ricochets from the surrounding hills and creates a harmonic percussion, a warm auditory delight that sparkles within my colossal beaming smile. The 5400m snow topped mountains stand watch as the afternoon begins to cool. The chilly air, darkening clouds and a 20 minute near bruising hail storm is quickly forgotten as Tibetan prayer flags flap in the breeze.
Please come to my Tibetan home for some butter tea? I like bicycle. A beautiful woman with a heart the size of the hills has adopted me and would like to warm me up. As we sit crossed legged by the rustic oven fire, Ms. Zhe Zhu Zhuo Ma and her son prepare butter tea. My new friend has taught herself English because while in the city she ate some western pizza and discovered that she loves pizza. She would like to turn her Tibetan home into a pizza restaurant some day. Her husband bought her a pizza maker/flat waffle iron and she now makes her Tibetan bread on her “pizza machine”. As I warm my tummy with butter tea which is closer in consistency to soup then tea, I enjoy a fire cooked meal of cabbage and Tibetan bread made on a pizza machine. My new friend tells me that the mountain, I have been grinning at all day is a very special mountain for the Tibetan people; it is a place of pilgrimage for many and mentioned in the seventh section of the Tibetan spiritual book.
4 pot traditional cook stove, one each for water, milk, yak butter and tea
As the fire cools, the afternoon slips by and with my belly full of butter tea; I am saddened to say good-bye. I tuck my departing gift, a piece of wolf fur into my pocket and continue to pedal the final 30km (about 19miles) through the chilly air into the city of Shangri-La. The pelting hail returns as I smile with gratitude and reminisce of a wonderful afternoon of Tibetan hospitality. I ponder whether this is Skalatitude or Shangri-La as I arrive into the town amidst smiles and warm welcomes to warm up with more butter tea and a stroll through the cobblestone streets of Shangri-La.