To The Valley's End (Part 3: Dimaluo)

 

Dimaluo, Yunnan, China

(A feature story on my time in Dimaluo is to be published soon.)

 Dimaluo from a distance. 

Dimaluo from a distance. 

 
 

 

To Dimaluo

I left Bingzhongluo for a small village about 20 kilometers to the south. I was unsure how to get to Dimaluo, but I'd heard interesting things: it was in this small village of Tibetan Catholcics that a dam was imposed just a few years back. 

The dam, I'd read, was highly controversial. The Chinese government have long had its eye on the Nujiang for hydro-power. Environmentalists have held back the state, somehow. In Dimaluo, those efforts appeared to have failed. I was keen to explore this tiny village and see what impact the encroaching Chinese development agenda had on a village some 3000 kilometers west of China's power center. 

A small bus departed Bingzhongluo, southbound. Dimaluo was a town about 12 kilometers east of the one main arterial running the length of the Nujiang. To get there, I had to jump off my rickety bus, and make a vain attempt at hitch hiking to the town. 

I stepped off the bus in the middle of nowhere, crossed the footbridge over the Nujiang river, and started walking east. 

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the road. While few travellers come to Dimaluo - English speaking ones, anyway - there are some blog posts floating around the ether that talk about the remoteness and lack of access to Dimaluo. This is just not the case, anymore at least. Along with the dam came the infrastructure to bring Chinese labourers in to both build it and staff if. Today, the road from the Nujiang river to Dimaluo is probably the best in the entire Nujiang Valley precinct.  

I walked along the road, vainly waiting for a friendly ride to take me to town. 

 Overlooking the village on a grim, drizzly day. Spirits still high. 

Overlooking the village on a grim, drizzly day. Spirits still high. 

After two kilometers, I rounded a bend and saw a police checkpoint. This struck me as slightly unusual. Though police checkpoints are common in China, they are usually located at the entrances of entire regions. I hadn't seen one positioned at the entrance of a single town. After some rigorous questioning through various internet translation sites, my assurances that I was just a tourist were believed. I kept walking. Two kilometers turned into five,  then ten. After two hours, a small car pulled over, mum and dad up front, a 12 year old riding in the back. The dad offered me a ride the last few kilometers. I was grateful. But then they didn't let me out until I paid them 10 yuan, or $2. My first foray into hitching in China, it turned out, was no more than the hailing of an unmarked taxi. 

 

A rainy stay

Dimaluo was cold. I had yet to be genuinely cold on this trip. A few chills had come my way in the early mornings in South East Asia. But they were rare. Dimaluo was cold. Maybe 5 to 10 degrees, blustery and rainy. 

I spent just two days and nights in this town, the entirety of which was rained out. The steep hiking trails nearby were muddy, slippery and univiting, though I did traipse around the hillside farms when I could. 

My main reason for being in Dimaluo, however, was to work on a piece about the dam, and the complicated nature of development in these remote communities that - through quirks of history - now find themselves subjugated by a distant, foreign power. 

I walked the town and spoke to my host about the change that was occurring there. After two days, it was time to begin the onerous journey back to Dali, from where I'd head northeast to China's megacities. 

What did I find in Dimaluo? A feature story, based around my stay in Dimaluo, will be released shortly. In the meantime, here are a few snaps of the town and its surroundings: 

 A road snakes up a hillside just outside of town. 

A road snakes up a hillside just outside of town. 

 The dam: a dramatic intervention in a hitherto unspoiled township. 

The dam: a dramatic intervention in a hitherto unspoiled township. 

 The isolating nature of the valley is compounded by the heavy cloud cover. It feels like you're enveloped by earth and weather. 

The isolating nature of the valley is compounded by the heavy cloud cover. It feels like you're enveloped by earth and weather. 

 
Edward Cavanoughchina