Sunday, December 15, 2013
Below the surface, however, tensions remain. Outside the bus station I saw a dispute erupt between Tibetan van drivers and municipal cheng-guan inspectors over the issue of unofficial taxis plying for trade. It quickly escalated into a shouting and shoving match and drew a large crowd like a school playground fight, with onlookers jeering and goading for their respective sides. For a few minutes it seemed likely to turn into a riot, but the row then dissipated almost as quickly as it started when police hauled away the offending driver in a car.
But trucks only account for about half the traffic on Route 318 these days. The traffic jam I found myself in on the Kazi Pass was mostly made up of the new breed of Chinese tourist – the SUV adventurer. Clad in shiny new North Face gear and driving anything from a late model Land Rover Freelander to a Landcruiser, there are now huge numbers of newly-wealthy Chinese heading out into the hills wielding their DSLRs and walking poles. Kham is now prime vacation territory for many Chinese who are seeking an escape from the crowded and polluted lowland provinces. These are not the coach-bound tour groups with matching baseball caps following a leader with a flag and a megaphone. The new Chinese tourists have their own cars, and travel in small groups of family or friends. And more young Chinese now travel independently as backpackers, and can be seen on the outskirts of settlements along the Tibet highway trying to hitch lifts with their destination written on Chinese characters on a piece of cardboard. Cycling is also hugely popular, judging by the large numbers of Chinese cyclists to be seen sweating on mountain bikes with bulging panniers over the high passes on their way to Lhasa.
In despair, I fled the hustle of Yading and tried to find some tranquility in the more off-the-beaten-track region of Gongga Shan, near Kangding. But even in the remote Yulongxi valley adjacent to this 7600m peak we found the Tibetan houses had been converted into guesthouses and ‘adventure centres’. The local Minya Tibetans are turning from yak herding to tourism. Almost every house now offers accommodation, food and horse hire. Our young Tibetan guide for the hike over the pass to the remote Konka Gompa monastery was more interested in playing with his iPhone than talking about the local features and culture.
Monday, December 09, 2013
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Friday, December 06, 2013
Monday, November 25, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Resting at the "Eco Lodge" shelter below Yulongxi Pass, Gongga Shan trek, originally uploaded by jiulong.
After walking over the pass we descended in an increasingly heavy snow fall to the Buchu river. On the way we came across an empty stone hut that was optimistically labelled an "Eco Lodge". On the way back up to the pass two days later we rested here for lunch. I think it was colder in the hut than outside!
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Monday, November 04, 2013
By the way, that's not me on the horse - it's Monica, an intrepid Polish traveller who foolishly took me up on the offer of a trek to the Gongga monastery based on the prospect of wonderful views (that never materialised).
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Just back from Sichuan where I spent three weeks doing not very much and seeing even less. I'd planned to do the outer kora around the three peaks at Yading but unfortunately the weather was poor and the guides refused to even try go out. They said the snow was too deep on the passes and they would not risk their horses or themselves. I then reverted to Plan B, to re-visit the Gongga Shan range. Again the weather was poor - as you can see from this pic taken at the Gongga gompa. Heavy snow and no views due to the weather being socked in by cloud and mist. I did prove one thing, however - Joseph Rock's claim that this monastery is cut off from the outside world for six months of the year due to heavy snow is just rubbish. We made it over one of the less know passes (Yulongxi Yakou, due east of the usual Tsemi La) in deep snow - no probs. Ah well - lesson learnt: don't go trekking to Sichuan after Golden Week!
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
I've taken my Rolleiflex and a few rolls of 120 film to Yading. Hoping to do the outer kora again - this time in autumn (nicer colours, more people?) and at a more relaxed pace. See you there!
Friday, October 04, 2013
These two ladies were at the tiny Renjom Gompa monastery, which is located half way between Yongning and Muli monastery. The monastery sits atop a hill just down the river from Wujiao, which is actually a settlement of 'Mongolian' descendents of the Genghis Khan invasion of Yunnan many centuries ago. I stayed here overnight while walking from Lugu Lake to the old monastery at Muli (Wachang town) in 1998. This photo was taken with my treasured Leica M3 camera with a slightly foggy Summicron 50mm lens.
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
I came across this engraved stone on a high ridge above the Yulong Xi valley while trekking from Kangding to the monastery below Gongga Shan in 1996. It was with a pile of mani stones, but I don't think many people would ever come across it as this was in a very remote, unvisited spot, literally very much off the beaten track. We only came across it because one of our horses had wandered off and we climbed the hillside in search of it. Not sure why it was put there. I wonder if it is still there?
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
This is a picture taken looking back from 'the shoulder' - the pass that skirts around the cliffs below the south side of Jambeyang. It was a steep and fraught scramble up a scree and snow slope - I didn't like it! It felt a lot steeper than it looks on this photo and I was petrified that I would lose my footing and slide/roll down the mountainside and over the edge (not shown) into the abyss. Glutton for punishment that I am, I will be facing this again in a few days when i return to Yading for a second time, to do the kora in a more leisurely fashion.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Friday, September 20, 2013
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Back in 1995 or thereabouts I took off from Kangding on a four-day trek to the Konka Gompa, the little monastery near the glacier emanating from Gongga Shan. It was a pretty remote spot back then - no bike track over the Tsemi La. I went in October and as you can see the weather was pretty cold. I hired a guide in Laoyulin and he took me on horseback to the monastery via the Djesi La pass and Yulongxi valley before crossing the Tsemi La. A very interesting trip and one that I hope to repeat next month if I have the time after doing the circuit of the Yading three peaks.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Friday, September 13, 2013
This is Rock with Chote Chaba, the lama king of Muli. Not sure who the other European is, but it may be William E. Simpson, a missionary who acted as Rock's translator for a brief period. They parted ways when Rock found him to be too much of a do-gooder.
Lesson learnt: don't visit this region in early spring - wait until May!
Thursday, September 12, 2013
As you can see, building styles hadn't changed much when I first visited the area in 1990:
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
A missal on a pew at the Catholic church in Kangding. Meanwhile, across the street ...
Bells and chanting texts at the Anjue Si Buddhist temple in the centre of Kangding
Monday, September 09, 2013
This was taken on day 3 - crossing the fifth pass on over Yetchetsura valley towards the lake Russo Tso. Contrary to appearances this was one of the easiest sections - compared to the 'hell' of the cliffs!
Baihanluo (formerly known as Peihanlo and Bahang) is a former French Catholic mission station in the valley of the Nu river (Nujiang or Salween) in NW Yunnan, China. The local people are Nu minority and a few Tibetans, and most are devout Catholics. At Christmas 2008 they were celebrating by drinking corn liquor (shuijiu), dancing and singing.