Lugu Lake, bordering northwest Yunnan and southern Sichuan provinces of China, is known for its clean waters, amazing views and as the land of the matriarchs. In addition to being home to the Mosuo, a unique matriarchal ethnic minority, Lugu Lake is the second deepest lake in China. I had first learned about the lake in 2010, while I was living in Yunnan, but never had the time for a visit. On my most recent trip to the province – this time with my husband in tow and reunited with an old friend who had been living near the lake for a while – I decided that it was time to make the trip. I was already daydreaming of Dali beer and tea-flavoured sunflower seeds – but first we had to somehow get to there.

Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian

We began our journey by flying from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, to the Lijiang Airport. We stayed outside of the touristy Lijiang Old Town for a few nights, which gave us plenty of time to purchase tickets and prepare for the long trip ahead. The next step of our journey was an incredibly long and confusing bus journey. Luckily though, after 12 hours, three different buses and a car, we made it to Lige Village, which is one of the villages around the lake that has recently been built up for tourism. After a well-deserved rest we woke to a stunning view of the lake from our room at the Suimeng Garden Guest House that made us excited to begin the day. There are many options of accommodation in the village, a youth hostel and plenty of hotels. You can book online or just upon arrival – it’s really easy. ATMs are virtually non-existent and cards are not accepted anywhere so be sure to bring plenty of cash.

Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian

Let me tell you, images can’t do Lugu Lake any justice – it is way too beautiful. The day began a bit rainy, but we decided to make the most of it by popping on our rain gear and heading out to rent some motorbikes. We successfully negotiated for two electric motor bikes for 100 Yuan each per day (about 16 US$). We set out on the rain-slick roads with the goal of circling the 48.5 km2 lake. My friend zoomed off, leading the way on her bike while my husband was steering the second with me on the backseat. From my vantage point in the back I had the perfect place to take videos and photos. We bumped along on the cobblestone path, weaving our way between moving cars, roaming pigs and goats, people heading to work, and tourists. Although we lost side of our friend in the front every now and then, there was no way of getting lost – there is only road leading around the lake. As we switched from cobblestone to paved roads the journey became more pleasant and the sun began to shine. Too bad we left the sun block in the hotel…

As the lake borders two provinces, Yunnan and Sichuan, there are a lot of different things to explore. Yunnan is increasingly being built up for tourism, while Sichuan is more rural. We parked our bikes to visit several Buddhist temples and learn about how the Mosuo ethnic minority incorporated their worship of the Gemu Goddess into Buddhism. Buddhism is a typically male dominated religion, thus the worship of the Gemu Goddess is quite significant. We came by the Walking Marriage Bridge. Mosuo practice a form of marriage termed the ‘walking marriage,’ which means that couples do not live together; the men visit their wives at night and leave again in the morning. Children born out of these marriages live with their mother. Along the way we also saw the ski lift, which takes you to a cave and temple on Lion Mountain. If you’re lucky you’ll see macaques relaxing in the treetops.

Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian

In addition to learning about an interesting culture we enjoyed viewing the lush environment surrounding Lugu Lake. To the left Lion Mountain rises high above, its top shrouded in clouds. I could see blossoming white flowers adorning scraggly rhododendron shrubs. Looking towards the water, away from the Lion Mountain, I could see vast farmland, tall sunflowers and a double rainbow forming from the rainstorm we just drove through. The only traffic we hit was when we came across a herder and his flock of goats crossing the road. Everyday life should be that relaxed everywhere.

Batteries running low we decided to drive back to Lige Village. Our bike struggled over a remaining hill and we were thankful that the remainder of our ride was downhill. It was incredibly thrilling to ride around the lake, to feel the air and experience everything the lake and its people had to offer.

Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian Lugu Lake, China / Elizabeth Georgian

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Georgian. You can find more of her stories on her blog.

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