Monday, December 22nd, 2003 – Day 307

Monday, December 22nd, 2003 – Day 307

I was in bed by 11/45pm last night. Luckily all beds in the Tibet Hostel/Hotel have electric blankets. Very cozy during a very cold night. There was snow a few days ago and there is some still on the ground. At least its dry.

I only got up at 10.30am as I have decided to take the day off. Well, that’s an excuse. I was just cold and lazy. I walked around to the various markets. For a small town, there are about half a dozen big markets.

I walked to the bus station (new and very clean and efficient) and purchased a ticket to Benzilan. Its a small Tibetean town intend to spend one night there. It cost 15.40 Yuan (1.50 Euro). Its about 3 hours to get there.

Benzilan , two hours by car from Zhongdian , is a pleasant town standing at 1968 metres on a narrow strip of land on the right bank of the Upper Yanthzi RIV , tucked between water and sharply rising hills . It is a way station on the main road north , halfway between Zhongdian and Deqen ; the road passed above the farms , wooden houses and small temples of the town . The busy strip of Sichuan style restaurants is constantly visited by cars , trucks and buses . Sichuan province and the village of Wake (Dongfent ) lie just across the water but can only be reached by a ferry .

Near the south of town , below the road , is Gochen Gompa , a small Tibetan temple with pretty murals . Walking north through the fields and lanes brings one to a stupa , always visited by old men and pious women , and another gompa .

I had some dinner in a backpackers cafe. It was OK and I had a great breakfast and lunch today in the markets. I had pancakes (1 Yuan) but they were like bread and I had steamed buns with vegetables inside (two for 1 Yuan). For lunch I had great steaming hot noodle soup for 2 Yuan.

I walked to a stupa called Guishan Gongyuan which had good views over the town. I was pretty bored by 4.00pm and decided to get a taxi to Napa Lake 7km from town.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian – Market (22-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian – Market (22-12-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian – Monastery (22-12-2003)

Napahai Nature Reserve is situated 8 km (5 mi) north of Zhongdian County, in northwestern Yunnan, with grasslands and lakes which attract many bird species that winter here, including the endangered Black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis). Black-necked cranes, of which only 6,000 remain in the world, usually breed in high-altitude wetlands but spend the winter at lower altitudes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau or on the Yunnan-Guizou Plateau, of which, Napahai is the main wintering spot. The breeding population of these exquisite birds, however, is in rapid decline due to habitat loss and changing agricultural practices which have affected the availability of food.

I spoke to a nice (theres one) taxi lady who said she would take me there and back for 20 Yuan (2 Euro). It was a nice journey. At the entrance (free) locals would bring you to the lake on top of a YAK.

The wild yak weighs up to 1000 kg (2200 lb). It occurs in treeless uplands, including plains, hills, and mountains, from as low as 3200 m (10,500 ft) up to the limit of vegetation at about 5400 m (18,000 ft). The wild yak was once numerous and widespread on the entire Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas. Currently it is found in remote areas of the Tibetan plateau and adjacent highlands, including Gansu Province, China, with a few having been observed in the Chang Chenmo Valley of Ladakh (eastern Kashmir, India). Most are now domestic yaks. The yak was probably domesticated in Tibet during the first millennium B.C., and domesticated animals now occur throughout the high plateaus and mountains of Central Asia, in association with people. There are now more than 12 million domestic yaks in the highlands of Central Asia. The yak is supremely well adapted to the harsh highlands with its thick coat, great lung capacity, and ability to clamber nimbly over rough terrain. Even its blood cells are designed for high elevations – they are about half the size of those of cattle and are at least three times more numerous, thus increasing its blood?‚’s capacity to carry oxygen. Its thick coat and low number of sweat glands are also efficient adaptations for conserving heat. In winter the yak survives temperatures as low as – 40 deg C (- 40 deg F).

I declined but what I did not know is that the lake its seasonal and is now (December) just a big swamp. I made the sorry mistake to walk. If you walk directly to the swamp/small lake, you will ahve to pass swampy land. So swampy, I took off my trainers and walked on. I walked through cold mud up to my knees (my trousers were now rolled up). It was cold stuff but once you hit grass, it dried in seconds. It was bad stuff and I walked trought the stuff half a dozen times before I could go no further.

There was nothing good about the swamp but I saw cranes (frightened them away). I walked back via the boundary and to the road. This bypassed most of the wet ground and there were some logs thrown over wet spots. The best part was the long shadow the sun conjourned up.

When I got back to the entrance, (maybe 1 hour later) the taxi driver was gone. She had given me her mobile but the office was closed. It was 5.00pm and beginning to get dark and cold. I hitched for 30 minutes but no car came. After I walked about 2 km back to town, a taxi approached. I was happy to pay him 10 Yuan (1 Euro) to take me back to the hotel.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Zhongian – Nature Reserve (22-12-2003)

It took the shower a long time to get going. Water is only available between 8.00-12.00. When I was there naked scrubing the filth and mud off from my feet to my knees, a worker came it to make the shower hoter. There is only a knee high wall separating the showers so its very public. He must have wondered what the hell I was up too with all the mud. Anyway the shower was good.

I also purchased a pair of thernal long Johns (pants) and vest early this morning. They cost 65 Yuan (6.50 Euro) and I put them on after the shower. They were hella warm. I went to a pub accross the way for 2 nice Lan Chang beers while my electric blanket heated up.