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Published: March 22nd 2018
These men have already travelled many miles and have another twenty to go, fully prostrating themselves at each step.
Day 26: Driving to Lang Mu si
Well, here we are in Langmusi, pretty high up. We are in a nice hotel, will find out the name eventually, although we are the only guests and, indeed, the only visitors in this mountain village which has been improved and extended for what must be a massive tourist influx in summer. It seems the visitors are Chinese nationals who arrive in throngs by the coachload, plus a sprinkling of what would once have been hippies, nowadays backpackers or possibly New Age? The effect is rather like being on the former set of a major Wild West movie, watching the tumbleweed roll through town.
All the same, we are privileged to be here out of season, in glorious sunshine, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and at liberty to wander at will through the two very extensive monasteries and, indeed, to have a look perhaps at the sky-burial arrangements. So far we have inspected one monastery and all of the town, also scoped a possible ascent route of a neighbouring peak; if there is good weather tomorrow, maybe one if us will check it out.
out after an OK breakfast, and for many miles passed pilgrims making their way on foot to Xiahe; a few of them were engaged in measuring their lengths the whole way, prostrating themselves, then moving forward six feet, and doing it again…. They must have already covered many miles in this way. The terrain was mostly like Rannoch Moor or parts of Jura, almost heather clad, frequently in a great plain, but very heavily stocked with yaks, cattle, sheep and in some places, pigs. There were some sheltered and isolated wee butt-and-ben houses in favoured glens, and in various places we passed significant model villages, quite extensive, which have been provided and funded by central government to upgrade living conditions. These houses seemed to be first class in every way and, although they were obviously of modern construction and design, they did echo the main elements of traditional design and mass.
At Fenshuiling View Point, we were at the watershed between the Yellow River and the Yangtze, in Huage Grassland, 3615 metres. At 3562m above sea level, we were at a wetland nature reserve and Maghnus elected to run more than 500 metres each way to a
pinnacle on which there were giant statues of swan-like birds. At such an altitude it was quite a test – the air is icy cold into your throat and lungs, and of course the reduced oxygen means you have to gulp a great deal of that air! Anyway, a stout effort and he seems none the worse for it.
We passed numerous summer tourism sites, an area where the locals race horses in August, some possible vultures, and one or two stone or sod walls. This is (for hundreds of kilometres) a brilliant road running through a “Garbage Free Demonstration Area”; absolutely beautiful in every way. It seems that 10 years ago it was littered with plastic bottles and rubbish and this is just one part of the massive effort being made to enhance the environment throughout China.
We had lunch at Langmusi, jolly good, then explored the first monastery. It is a huge complex in a beautiful setting, many hundreds of prayer wheels etc. One of the highlights for us was to follow a natural ravine to the source of the White Dragon River, a tributary of the Yangtze. This ravine runs about
Horizontal mill wheel
These are used for milling, but also to operate prayer wheels
a kilometre into the hills as part of the monastery, and there are numerous little water-powered prayer wheels along its length; there are also innumerable cairns, chortens and special sites – it is the practice to throw stones up onto the cliff face, hoping that they will lodge in a fissure; and of course there are prayer flags to beat the band, plus many, many little balancing-sculptures of natural stones.
The other highlight, as we circumnavigated the entire site, was to be able to see and admire those buildings that were not damaged during the Cultural Revolution. They were, of course, the “minor” ones and were simply abandoned; in the subsequent revival period the main effort has concentrated on rebuilding and recreating what was lost, so the abandoned buildings have not been touched in sixty years and are now ruinous. Despite their condition, they have a charm and authenticity which is very appealing.
In one way and another we have had a splendid day, and even had a beer in an internet-café sort of place. As the first westerners (or indeed visitors) this year we have attracted a lot of attention, but everyone is
Wattle and daub
Nice example of a traditional building technique of worldwide application.
very friendly. Out attire has had to be modified – we are wandering around like the Michelin man, with double socks, long johns, scarf, hat, gloves, thermal linings and proper walking boots. Anyway, this entry must cease now, Kevin is definitely aware of the altitude and planning to take things easy.
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