Thursday, April 27, 2006

Back in Jiulong

What a strange couple of days its been. I've just got off a tuolaji (tractor) that brought me about 16km down the road from Wuxu Hai (lake) where I spent last night feeliing very sick. It was a rough ride, I was stood behind the driver, on the connecting rod between tractor and trailer. A rough ride, and I was covered in dust and his cogarette ash when I climbed off just outside Jiulong. When I walked into town I was almost immediately accosted by the local government's head of propaganda, who remembered me from my visit two years ago. I was his big "Foreign Friend" and he made a big fuss of me in front of all the other local government officials who were hanging about in the main street to oversee a new Law and Order campaign launch (I signed the banner). He ushered me into a restaurant for what seemed like a bowl of intestines and chilli, and fired questions about all the articles he thinks I have written about Jiulong (actually only two). He then organised a TV crew from the local TV station to come along to the town square where they did a quick interview with me - all in Chinese of course. Remember, I had only an hour ago stepped off a tractor, and now I seemed to be the toast of the town. And yet I was filthy, unshaven and had dust all over my clothes.

But maybe I should go back and explain what I'm doing back in town. Basically, I got very bad altitude sickness on my way up to Sanyanlong, so I diverted to the tourist log cabins at Wuxu Hai to try acclimatise first. Bad idea. At 3700 metres, th log cabins at Wuxu Hai are enough to give you a cracking headache and more if you go straight up there (as I pretty much did) from sea level.

I got up there va a falling to bits jeep carrying a motley bunch of young Tibetan punks. The last 4km I got a Tibetan lady to carry my bag, a job she quickly delegated to her son, who drove me up on the back of his motorbike.

Wuxu Hai was great scenery, but to me it seems a bit touristy - even though I was the only tourist there! They're expecting a few more guests for their four cabin rooms during Golden Week, starting May 1.

I spent the evening sat round the fire with the blind kid with one hand missing. I felt OK sitting round the fire, though I was disappointed they only had one botle of ber in the whole camp. They cooked me up a meal of stir fried ham, chillis and potato and I retired to the cabin in the feezing cold. It was then that the altitude sickness hit: I was kept awake by a combination of breathlessness, pounding heart and uncontrollable shivering - even though I had two quilts.

Spent a miserable nught with little sleep, and cancelled my plans to visit some of the other lakes in the area (Like Qise Hai) - it would have been difficult anyway because there had been snowfall on the higher slopes that night, and anyway, I was still feeling terrible.

The weather was socked in - no views this morning, and there was no transport out, either. By 9am, after taking some snaps of the local girls (at their request) dressed up in their Tibetan Sunday Best, I headed off with ny backpck, to try find some transport down at the main village, some 4km below the lake. It was a nice walk, despite the heavy pack, and I soon got down to the village with its swastika embalazoned black limestone Tibetan houses.
But there was no car or even a motorbike to be had. So I kep on walking, and walking, until around midday I was feeling like I would just die on the side of this road that followed the path of the river.

It was then I got picked up by the tractor guy. I was his only passenger (he'd been ferrying rocks up and down the road, which is being impoved by a few gangs of Tibetan locals). And so it was that I rode home, tired, thirsty and feeling like shit. But it beat walking.

So now I am back to square one in Jiulong: I have lost my watch and broken my best Rolleflex camera when I dropped it on the ground at Wuxu Hai. Not happy, and I've also been invited out tonight for a banquet by yhr local government officials. They have put me up for free at the "Education Hotel" whichy is a nice gesture. The only problem is that the hotel is curently being rebuilt and 80% of it is a building site: I had peasant constructon workers leaving footprints on the chairs of my room and thy hope in and out of the open window bringing dement and stuuf to their workmates outside.
And since I don't want to spend the night on a building ite, I have booked discretely inoto the Bus Station Hotel, where I get a nice clean and quiet room for 40 kuai. As to what to do next ... watch this space.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jiulong again

I've just arrived in Jiulong from Kangding by bus this afternoon. The trip wasn't so good as last time as most of the mountain passes were in cloud and there wasn't much to see. I'm now staying at the Gao'ed Bingguan and hoping to go toSanyanlonmg tomorrow. Jiulong hasn't changed much. The town square has been spruced up a bit and there are tourist advisopry posters about the place, but it's still fairly quiet. It does look like they're putting in a bigger road to Wuxu Hai, though.
Pity I can't post any pictures, but blogger is bloccked here in China.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Day 1: I'm in Chengdu. Arrived fom Sydney this morning to a nice sunny day and 21 degrees. I've got my ticket to Kangding tomorrow, and i have far too much gear. I suspect I will jettison a lot when I arrive in Jiulong.In the meantime i am enjoying a pizza and beer in Pete's Oasis, across from the Trafic Hotel.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Back to Maidi Gangga

me mk2, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

A week on Friday I will be setting off with my trusty Leica to go to the sacred mountain Muti Konka (Maidi Gangga) again. My plan is to cross the Yalong river canyon into Muli and visit the three temples that were once home to the Muli king. I have visited the restored main Muli monastery several times but have not yet seen the ruins of either Kulu or Waerdje monasteries.
My itinerary is to go Chengdu - Kangding -Jiulong - Sanyanlong - Mundon - Chang Haizi (Muti Konka) - Wadzanran pass - Maidilong - Waerdje - Muli monastery - Kulu/Kopati monasteries - Muli county town then bus to Xichang/Chengdu.

I will be updating on a daily basis when I can during my travels, but obviously there aren't many internet cafes beyond Jiulong [nor any electricity for that matter).

At the moment I'm just sorting out the kit I will be taking. My main aim is to travel light. From previous experience in travelling in Kham I have found it to be a waste of time taking tents and cooking gear, unless planning a specific trek. I invariably end up staying in the houses of local people, so this time I will just be taking a simple small sleeping bag and an emergency silver "space blanket" to keep it clean and flea-free when kipping on the floor of Tibetan houses.

My other main items will be a food bag, containing mainly crackers and packet soups (I will try get by on tsampa and roast spuds) , and a film bag containing about 70 rolls of 400 ASA film and a bit of outdated Kodachrome for some classic looking slides. The other essential item is a bag full of cheap paperbacks I bought at an Op shop for $1 each, to relieve the monotony while sitting on buses/planes for days on end.

As I'm travelling in late April I'm not expecting any harsh weather. I'll be taking a raincoat, but otherwise will just have the usual trekking gear of fleece jacket, shirt, couple of t-shirts, lightweight trekking pants and of course hiking boots.

The only difficulty I'm having is in deciding what photo and video gear to take. At the moment I'm commited to taking my two Leica cameras: a Leica R3 SLR with a Summicron 50mm lens, plus an old Leica IIIa with a wide angle (Color Skopar) 28mm lens. I am undecided as to whether to take along my Rolleflex medium format camera. It would be nice for portraits and some serious landscape work, but it weighs a lot. Likewise, I am in two minds whether to take my video camera. I have done this on previous trips, but I want to concentrate on doing one form of photography right, rather than swapping between still and movie phtography.

The other essential item I will be taking is a folder containing copies of Joseph Rock's old photographs of the area - always good for breaking the ice with the locals. Oh, and some copies of portraits I took before - to give back as gifts.

More updates, next week.

Tsemi Pass in Snow

Tsemi Pass in Snow, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

From an hikers blog by 雨涵 at:

Monday, April 03, 2006

Konkaling Kora: Lloyd Raleigh in Yading

Lloyd Raleigh in Yading, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

I've just come across this interesting account of the full kora (circuit) of the three peaks of Yading, by a guy called Lloyd Raleigh. He has posted some great photos of his epic trek, as well as a great account - and even a very helpful map. To say I'm jealous is an understatement. But he sounds a lot tougher and fitter than me - I would have given up before half way - he seems to have trekked on a diet of Snickers bars!
Anyway, check out his great travelogue

Lloyd Raleigh, Yading

Lloyd Raleigh, Yading, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

Lloyd Raleigh's pic of Chanadorje, Yading

Lloyd Raleigh's pic of Yading, originally uploaded by mutikonka1.

See the full story of these pics by Lloyd Raleigh here.