The journey from Shangri-la to Kangding gave us dirt roads, amazing views, cold camping, and one blizzard but the best part of the road was all the yaks!!! Neither one of us had ever seen yaks much less so many yaks, so up close, and so hairy!
Yaks are native to the Himalayas, Tibetan Plateau, and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. Historically, wild yaks were found in Nepal and Bhutan but they are now extinct in both countries. Domesticated yaks are still around and have been kept for thousands of years. They are used primarily for their milk and meat but their droppings are also important. It is used for fuel in the high, treeless Tibetan plateau.
Yaks are now one of my favorite animals. They live in the treeless uplands between 3,000 and 5,500 meters (9,800-18,000 ft). Since they spend their whole life at altitude, they have larger lungs and heart than cattle found at lower altitudes. They do not do well at lower altitudes and will start getting heat exhaustion at 15 degrees C (60F).
Yaks are not aggressive animals and will let you come quite close before getting scared away. We had to cycle around a number of yaks crossing the road and they would let us get close enough for some great shots. I almost hit one when I was going down a hill but he got off the road just in time.
We have both really enjoyed seeing all the yaks as we cycled at altitude and will miss seeing those furry creatures as we venture on to different parts of China.