Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back of Jambeyang, then and now

Just came across this unpublished pic taken by Joseph Rock on his circuit around the Konkaling (Yading) peaks. This was taken round the back of Jambeyang. I know exactly where he took it because we had great difficulty reaching the same spot! It's on the steep sides of the upper Lawatong valley. Looking back at the way we came, you can see the valley on the right from which we descended the Yaka pass. Note how the glacier below Jambeyang as receded in the 'ampitheatre'. Rock obviously had less clear weather than when we did the kora - in my picture you can see Chanadorje in the distance at upper right.

Random picture: Muti Konka

This is the mountain Rock called Muti Konka - now transcribed as Maidi Gangga. Adjacent to the Yalong river, about two day's journey west of Jiulong. The farmhouse where we stayed can be seen bottom centre.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Joseph Rock's Yunnan map of Deqin from 1946

As prepared by US army cartographers based on Rock's surveys and hand-drawn maps. I've checked the details - they're pretty accurate. This covers the area I'll be traversing next week - from Cizhong to Baihanluo. Click to magnify for detail.

Random photo: the lamasery at Ragya, Qinghai

As visited by Rock in 1924-5

Monday, September 15, 2014

Return to Cizhong

I'll be starting my next walk from Cizhong, the village by the Mekong river (Lancang) with the famous Catholic church. Here I am in 2002 with some of the local 'outpatients'  sat outside the village clinic. From Cizhong I plan to walk up to the Sela Pass (overnighting at a log cabin on the way) which is at about 4300m. After that I have to cross a high valley and crest the Balagong Pass before descending to Baihanluo - another "Catholic' village but this time on the banks of the Salween (Nu) river.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Random picture from the Kawa Karpo kora

Day Two: after emerging from the forest you walk up a beautiful open valley to the base of the Doker-La.

Abing (Aben) - the beginning and the end (梅里雪山外转)

Isn't that an OMD tune, the Beginning and the End? I met Andy McCluskey once in some crappy bar on Bold Street, might have been the Raz. Really embarrassed myself, gushing about how I liked the first album but spouting my opinions about music in general. Just like I did at the Ministry in 84 with some bloke out of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Ah, the 80s. You had to be there.

Meanwhile, this is Abing - the premature end of my trek with the kids a couple of years ago, but now I've got to work out  away of getting there and beyond to Chawalong, to start my next trek. It's just over the border in Tibet and there are prominent signs at the border along the scary road from Bingzhongluo saying "Foreigners Strictly Forbidden". According to the Chinese blogs I've read, there's a police checkpoint just beyond Abing at a place called Quzhu, just before the big landslide next to the Nujiang  river. The usual plan is to sneak past it at night. Hope I can find someone to give me a lift past the place on my trip. If you're looking for a blog that documents every single step on the way of the Kawa Karpo outer kora (waizhuang, 梅里雪山外转), here you go ... (it's in Chinese)

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Doker-La

Not doing it on this trip, but here's a previously unpublished pic of the pass from below the western, Tibetan, side (see red arrow). The pass marks the border between Yunnan and Tibet, and is also a very sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists. As you can see it is very steep near the top (I freaked out) and has a track of 108 zig zags down to the valley basin. There is also a rope in place for pilgrims to hang on to during icy/snowy weather.
And here is a view of the Doker La looking down (after the worst bit over). If you look carefully at bottom right you can see the rope and my two son plus guide descending:

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rest stops on the Kawa Karpo kora

One of the good (or bad) things about the Kawa Karpo kora is that you don't need to be self sufficient and pack a load of food and camping gear. It is quite possible to do the circuit with just a minimum of gear (a sleeping bag and your toothbrush) if you're prepared to doss down with the masses in the sheds at the rest stops. These are dotted along the way at regular intervals - usually four or so hours between each one, some are closer together. They usually have a little store like the one pictured here where you can buy a limited selection of drinks and noodles. I reckon they're only open during the pilgrimage season  don't blame if you turn up in February and find they're all shut.
(PS Like the Rolleiflex?)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Pilgrims on the Kawa Karpo Kora

In a few weeks I will be joining the likes of this family group on a walk around the mountains range of Kawa Karpo in NW Yunnan. The Chinese call it Meili Xueshan, but you don't see any Chinese doing the circuit.

The 10-12 day pilgrimage is an almost wholly (holy?) Tibetan event. It's quite amazing how many groups you see doing the kora - whole extended families from far and wide, mums, dads, kids, daughters, nieces, grandparents, cousins, uncles and other hangers on.  And not just locals. We met young guys from faraway places like Yushu, and quite a few people who had done the kora several times previously.

One of the most memorable groups was a group of three young men, one of whom had a bad leg and could not walk on it. He didn't have crutches - he was just kind of hopping and limping the whole way, supported the whole way round (as far as we could see) by his mates. It was hard enough for us fit and healthy westerners to do this 10-day trek up and down six or so 4000-metre mountain passes - what this guy did was just just amazing - or insane, depending on your point of view.

Back in the 1920s, Joseph Rock was very dismissive of the Tibetan devotion to religion and pilgrimages. He thought they were stupid and mindlessly superstitious. But you can't help being impressed by their faith and dedication. Most of the pilgrims we saw were friendly - some were a bit reserved, but none were unfriendly or hostile. There was an amazing feeling of camaraderie and shared experience. On one section of the trail I came across a small makeshift store, unattended. Anyone passing by could have stolen the goods, but I saw wads of notes stuffed under bottles, left by honest customers. You don't usually see that kind of trust in China.

In the picture above you can see the typical sleeping arrangements for the pilgrimage - just a makeshift wooden shack or a few poles holding up some plastic sheeting over a dirt floor and some grass or straw if you're lucky. God knows what it's like it it rains. There's usually a fire with a big cauldron of water on it for making butter tea and noodles. And that's about it.  Anyhow, I am looking forward to going back to the Kawa Karpo in about three weeks time. All I need to do now is get a bit fitter.