Monday, May 11, 2009

High altitude free form ballet

©Heidi Wasch

This is a new art form created by Bob Leversee and Paddy Booz, two distinguished members of our recent pony trek to high altitudes. Mr Booz has incorporated elements of Tibetan ritualistic/tantric tongue-protrusion into the elegant ballet and Mr Leversee seems to be looking towards the sky for divine inspiration. Such grace, such style, such dedication to their inner selves...Or maybe they're just about to collide in a seismic game of jianzi.

Huanglong 黄龙 and Xuebaoding

Charles, Isaac and Burton having a snowball fight at the pass overlooking Xuebaoding in the far distance. 
Lungta, "wind horses": small paper offerings that Tibetans through into the winds whenever crossing a pass. 
5588 m high Xuebaoding seen from the 4007 m high pass overlooking Huanglong Valley. 
Xuebaoding in the background and the roof of the highest temple (Huanglong Si), a Daoist temple, silhouetted in the foreground. The original temple was built in the Ming Dynasty. It is heavily reconstructed today and was not open to visitors. It is also here that the annual festival Huanglong festival is held in spring.
Incredibly hardworking "beifus" carrying up to 100 kilos of wooden planks to the upper reaches of Huanglong Park to construct new walkways for park visitors. They make on an average 40 yuan a day. If they start very early in the morning and carry two loads a day they can make double. It is extremely hard work at this altitude (many of the tourists were sucking on oxygen bottles and all they had to carry was one small bottle of water). Many of them come from the earthquake areas and are desperate to find work anywhere they can. Every one of them met us with a smile as they were walking up and some of them asked for water to drink. Everytime I visit a scenic area or famous mountain in China I think of the enormous amount of work put into constructing the thousands and thousands of stone and wood steps and walkways. Truly coolie labor at its worst in my opinion, I think these workers deserve much better. 
The stone pagodas in the foreground are said to be the tomb of a Tang Dynasty general and his wife.  At this time of year the pools were the most beautiful powdery blue.
The classic postcard view of the upper pools of Huanglong.

All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

After we left Songpan we headed back to Chengdu via Huánglóng and Píngwǔ. Huanglong is only 90 minutes by car from Songpan and one of the world's most stunning nature areas. Over 3,000 pools of incredible shades of powdery turquoise blue cascade down the mountain side beneath Xuebaoding Mountain (5588 m). Xuebaoding is the highest mountain in the Minshan Mountain Range, located only 300 km north-northwest of Chengdu as the crows flies. The pools are made from calcite deposits and have taken thousands and thousands of years to create. We visited Huanglong on May 5th, an absolutely brilliant day but still quite early in the season. The surrounding vegetation was brown and the rhododendrons were still only fat buds, almost ready to unfurl their beauty. At this time of year there is only water in the uppermost pools behind the highest temple. End of summer (lush green vegetation) and autumn (yellow, red and green leaves) are the very best times to visit Huanglong with all the pools and waterfalls bursting with water. If you are lucky to visit just after a heavy snowfall in winter everything will be blanketed in white snow, only the turquoise water of the upper pools showing. In winter the park can however sometimes be closed. 

There is a cable car at Huanglong that I highly recommend all to take. The entrance is located down the road from the main entrance. The Swiss made cable car takes you up to a high altitude viewing platform with views over the entire valley. From here it is a one hour walk on a basically level walkway straight to where the path connects with the main gate path just beneath the upper temple. From this point it is a short walk up to the upper pools. Down again to the main gate is an almost 5 km walk over planked paths and steps. Believe me, it is much easier going down than up and if you want to fully enjoy all the areas of Huanglong with ample time to truly enjoy the scenery - spend the money on the cable car. 

Huanglong means "Yellow Dragon" and takes its name from how the pools ripple down the mountain side, just like the scales of an enormous dragon. No other place in the world has such a large collection of pools as here, it is truly unique. 

Entrance fee: 
200 y full adult price/150 y for children over 1.30 m (under 1.30 free) and anyone over 65 yrs old. Cable car up is 80 y and down 40 y. 

Swine flu and Jiuzhaigou

I have just noted two things: we now have our first case of swine flu in Chengdu and the National Geographic published a photographic article on Jiuzhaigou (photographer Mike Yamashita) in the March issue of the magazine. No one that I know in Chengdu has commented on the swine flu or the Jiuzhaigou article that is now two months old. Are we that blaisé? 

By the way, nice pictures Mike!

Songpan Horse Trek part 14 Last post...

©Catherine Platt

Catherine Platt was kind to send me these pictures of me and my family (Paddy, Burton and Emy). They are really nice, thanks so much! We had such a good time :-)

It's funny, I seldom see myself because I am always behind the camera (even the picture here is of me taking a picture). Maybe I should take a closer look at myself every now and then, I look hilarious! Like a housewife from the burbs heading off from a dude ranch dresses as a red tomato....LOL. But I do ride a mean saddle however frumpy I look....

By the way, fellow Songpan Horse Trekker Cheng"dude"lians: Thanks for the great cowboy hat and envelope of Peter Pan treats, I was really touched by your generosity. 

What will our next adventure be???

Songpan Horse Trek part 13 Songpan Town 松潘

Central covered Bridge on Main Street, looking south.
South Gate, looking south from central covered bridge.
Tibetan shopkeeper with amber hair decorations and turquoise and coral silver jewelry.
Red coral and amber hair decorations and a traditional friendly greeting - sticking your tongue out.
Even monks like a little walkabout to check out the action and shop a little. 
Sonpgan is about 20-30% muslim.
Teahouses along the Min River are as much for drinking tea as for playing mahjong. 
Bread! A delicacy in China.
On the way to school - a baozi a day keeps the doctor away.
Yinyue Bridge, renovated with kind donations from local Songpaners in 1986.

The Chinese princess Wencheng (Wénchéng Gōngzhǔ 文成公主, Tib. Mung-chang Kungco) passed through Songpan during the Tang Dynasty (ca year 640 or 641) when she was travelling to Lhasa to wed the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in a peace agreement between the two nations. She was a niece of Emperor Taizong and died in 680. I must admit I am not sure who is the man beside her, surely not Songtsen Gampo as Wencheng was transported to Lhasa by a high official and was rumored to actually be pregnant with his child by the time she arrived in Lhasa almost a year later.