Friday, June 30, 2006

Herdin'

Found a map of the area around XiangCheng and noticed a group of lakes just north. We set off to find the lakes, and in the end spent four days getting there and back.

Once we found the trail leading the the lakes and stashed our bikes in the forest, it was pretty easy going. The trail was over a meter wide, and followed a river up into the mountains from the mainroad for about 25 km. We later learned that the trail had been a branch of the Cha Ma Gu Dao or "The Tea Horse Trail", the famed ancient trading route that runs from China into Tibet and Myanmar.

On the second day we neared the lakes and found grasslands full of yaks and Tibetan herders. Most were from the small villages down below along the road, and said that they spent about four months grazing animals before heading down. These kids where spending the summer with Grandma. I swear that the little girl looks a little Irish. (Brett's pic)

We were making our way up to the lakes that evening when I took this picture.

The next day we went to summit a mountain overlooking the lakes in the hopes of getting a fine view and breaking 5000 meters. Though the peak turned out to be 4950 meters (over 16000 feet), the view of the lakes and surrounding valleys was spectacular. The air was thin, and so the trick was to breath heavily through your mouth as you climbed. Every 20 or 30 steps up the mountain required a little rest to catch your breath. It was cold, but well worth it.

These are the top two lakes in a chain of seven that run down the valley. There were two huge waterfalls connecting the lakes, one of which you can just see here.

While heading back to camp later that afternoon we were caught in a thunder storm. By the time we got back to camp we were soaked and freezing cold, and so we decided to head to a nearby herder's house. They had suggested that we should sleep there the night before, and we finally took them up on it.

We warmed up quickly around their fire, and eventually feasted on momos (Tibetan steamed bread), hot butter tea, boiled yak's milk, yak cheese, yak yoghurt, and bai jiu. I like Yaks.

They were up at the crack of dawn to milk the yaks. Everything was fogged in and the air was biting.

A little while later the sun crested the peaks and began to burn off the fog. By this time the four had milked over one hundred yaks and were prepared to start churning the milk.

We left their shelter a while later, full after a breakfast of butter tea and tsampa - a delicious mixture of barley flour and sugar moistened with butter tea. We bought some cheese that I've been eating on the road during the past few days. Perfect to stuff in the local pan bread with some of the chives I've been finding on the high platues.

3 comments:

Frida said...

Astounding. Loved the pictures.

Sparks said...

is this real??

Thomas Dyck said...

marbles blown!