Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gongga Shan trek, autumn 2013: the invasion of the 4WD

When I first visited Gongga Shan in 1995 it was a fairly remote and untravelled region. As I describe in my long chapter of that first visit, I set off from Kangding and hired a couple of horses and a guide in Laoyulin to take me on a four day trek to the monastery. During all that time I didn't see one other vehicle and no other travellers. In fact, for most of the trip through the Yulongxi valley I didn't see any other people at all, except in the villages or encampments we stayed in each night. Of course everything has changed now. Gongga Shan is a major tourist attraction and the Yulongxi valley now has a road running up and down it carrying a fair bit of traffic - mostly 4WDs like those seen in the picture. There are many more Tibetan houses, many of which have signs outside advertising them as guesthouses. There is even a road over the Tsemi La pass all the way to the village of Tsemi, though this is really only open to serious off road vehicles and motorbikes/tuolaji. Progress is inevitable, and I don't begrudge the locals their chance of making a living from the visitors. Nevertheless, it's a shame that this once peaceful and isolated spot is now just another stop on the tourist itinerary.