Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Muli monastery - then and now

When I first visited Muli monastery in the mid 90s it was a very remote and unspoilt place. I had to hike over the mountains from Yongning, and it took me two very tough days to get there (I was fit enough and stupid enough to do it solo in those days). I had no proper maps other than Joseph Rock's sketches, and yet I made it in one piece. The huge monastery complex housing thousands of monks that was photographed by Rock was gone, and only a single temple hall had been rebuilt. The setting was still quite spectacular, and I enjoyed my stay there, even though it did have a bit of a tragic and abandoned air about it. I have not been back since, but the recent Google Earth images suggest that more monastery buildings have been rebuilt and there is now a flashy road to the monastery, replacing the primitive gravel track that existed in 1995. There's not much reason to go to Muli - it's a fairly unremarkable monastery in a  dead-end valley. Perhaps that's why it has remained a relatively unspoiled place. You can read about my trip here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Yongning then and now

Here's a picture of the Zhamei Si monastery at Yongning, just north of Lugu lake. When I visited in the 1990s the monastery had been rebuilt after being destroyed. Most  of the buildings that Rock photographed were gone, but if you look carefully in the picture you can see one of the main temple halls had still survived. I took this picture from the top of a nearby hill that I had climbed out of curiosity - it was only when I later looked at my photo that I realised it had been taken from the same place as Rock's - great minds think alike! This photo was taken en route to Muli monastery, you can read about that trip here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Konka Gompa then and now

When I went there in 1991, the monastery at Gonga Shan hadn't changed much since Joseph Rock visited it in the late 1920s. The monastery had been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution but had been rebuilt in much the same style and in the same spot. These days (2014) there has been a lot more work done on the Gompa and it looks a bit more flash.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Yading then and now #2

The photo on the left was taken by Joseph Rock in the late 1920s. It shows a Tibetan shrine in the cliffs beneath Mt Chanadorje on a very remote section of the kora (circuit) around the three sacred Konkaling mountains. We stumbled across the same shrine on about the third day of doing the kora in 2011. It is truly in a very remote location, below one of the most difficult pass crossings. It used to be a resting place for Tibetan pilgrims doing the 5-6 day circuit of the mountains. As you can see some of the shrines have been destroyed but others rebuilt in a more haphazard way.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Yading then and now

I'm trying to get a full account published of all my journeys in Rock's footsteps. I have a manuscript that is being edited with a view to online publication as an e-book and available through sources such as Amazon. It would be nice to include some then-and-now photos to compare how the Tibetan borderlands have changed since Rock's visits in 1927. Here's one example:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ragya monastery then and now

Here are pictures taken by Joseph Rock in 1926 and my own follow-up taken in 2012, of the Ragya (Lajia) monastery in Qinghai, on the banks of the Yellow river. As you can see - not much has changed.

The Mekong, just south of Deqin

This is the view of the river on the road down from Deqin to Cizhong, taken in October 2014. There used to be a very crude and dangerous unsurfaced road cut into the hillside. This has now been replaced with a new two-lane highway, complete with bridges and tunnels. Odd, because there is very little traffic on this road, which eventually goes all the way south to Weixi. Perhaps it will get busier when the short cut to the Nujiang over the Gaoliging mountains is completed.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Kawakarpo Kora: the WiChu (Yuqu, 玉曲) valley

This photo was taken with my Rolleicord and Kodak Ektachrome transparency film on the penultimate day of my trek. This is the view of the descent in to the Yuqu valley from the "Gebu pass", en route to Laide, which is located up a side valley on the other side of the river. Kawakarpo (Meili Xueshan) can be seen at the head of this valley.