All photos©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
This is a continuation of my series of postings on Western Sichuan (see Feb 4, 2009)
During the summer of 2007 (late July) we made a week long trip to Tagong via Danba, visiting the incredibly beautiful Qiang and Tibetan villages in the area before heading up over onto the Tibetan Plateau to Tagong via Hongshi (Red Stones). Large quantities of rain had recently fallen on the area leading up to Danba and both roads and bridges had washed away or been damaged by falling rocks. We rented a van in Chengdu and headed NW via Dujiangyan and Wolong and onward through the tight, deeply shaded, slightly ominous, misty valleys that make up the border area between the Chinese world and the Tibetan in western Sichuan.
This is panda, golden monkey, red panda and in the not so distant past tiger country. Lush bamboo forests and dense evergreens. The road skirts roaring rivers and small roadside habitations, hardly large enough to be called villages, many of them existing solely to maintain the road or serve food to passersby. At this time of year corn was drying from the eaves and large, meaty fuschia-coloured dahlias and brilliant nasturtiums were in profusion, giving me a hint of the maybe merry nature of the people who spent their lives here. I often marvel at the resilience of those who can exist all their days in dark, wet valleys, waiting for a ray of sunlight to pierce the gloom and lighten their hearts (or dry the wash hanging everywhere). If this were Scandinavian my mind would turn to tales of loneliness, depression and suicide, and maybe that same sad story is true here too.
The road over the Balangshan was horrendously bumpy, full of potholes and slithery, gooey mud. We made it over the pass (4523 m) at sunset just in time to catch the last rays of daylight illuminate the Four Sisters Mountain (Siguniangshan, 6250 m) before it was sucked into the night. Beneath us we could see the valley of Rilongguan. After about 14 hours of almost straight driving we pulled into the town of Danba: five adults (including the driver) and two children tumbled out with sore joints and headaches. We had hoped to make it all the way to Jiaju but the driver was exhausted, it was pitch black outside and simply too dangerous to continue. A clean, little guesthouse near the big bridge swallowed us up for the night, all of us falling asleep to the sounds of the roaring river below. The next day we awoke to glorious sunshine and entered the magical world of Danba, a microcosm of sun, flowers, stone houses, high skies and singing villages.