Our next stop was Zhonglu village. Our driver took us further down the road, which wound along the river underneath the steep mountain ranges. Turning off from the main road, he drove up an incredibly steep, switchbacked path. After about ten minutes of blasting up this road, the vertical climb gives way to a large bowl, halfway up the mountain. From below you wouldn't even see the place, but Zhonglu is actually pretty huge. Here's one random corner:
The view from the edge of the road up to the village, across to other mountains and villages:
The driver said he would give us about two hours to wander around, and then make our way back to the center. Truth be told, you could easily wander around Zhonglu for days. We struck out along a random path, working our way up past fields of corn, stone houses and yet more towers:
Like Hangzhou's West Lake, it was an almost unbearably pleasant place. Idyllic, even.
We didn't see any other tourists the entire time we were there- just locals, who were picking sichuan peppercorns from bushes on that day. I'd never seen them fresh here, as they're normally sold dried. We each ate one, learning that their numbing properties are much stronger when they're fresh. I couldn't feel the left side of my mouth for 10 minutes.
The path between the fields, temporarily blocked by this bull:
It's pretty easy to set up homestays in Zhonglu, where local families will give you a bed and a few meals for very low prices. I was really tempted, but unfortunately we couldn't figure out any way to do that which wouldn't also entail spending another night in awful Danba town, from where buses only leave very early in the morning. The hostel we stayed at in Danba was the worst place I've ever stayed in China, with no AC or fans to help with the heat. We ended up leaving the door and window open to get some air flow, but that in turn gave us mosquitos and the sounds of Chinese highway traffic blasting into our room all night. On to Chengdu!
Next time: some more pictures from all over.