An epic Sichuan road trip – Chengdu, Dujiangyang, Maerkang, Seda, Lu Huo, Ba Mei, Ta Gong, Kangding.

The covered bridge at  the Dujiangyang Weir gardens

The covered bridge at the Dujiangyang Weir gardens

Day 1   About 256 BC Li Bing, a governor of the Qin Dynasty led people to construct a water conservancy project. It is the world’s only ancient water diversionary project not using a dam and formed Sichuan’s  “land of abundance”.

Dujiangyang - the Town Court and Temple

Dujiangyang – the Town Court and Temple

This is the court where Town God tries cases, sends devils to arrest criminals’ spirits for trial every dawn and then pardons or sentences them, or transfers them to Lord Yama. Couplets on the hall’s front door say – “Be down to earth and don’t be involved in class struggles”. Surprised the place survived the attention of the Red Guards.

The road to Maerkang

The road to Maerkang

Day 2   An eight hour bus journey to Maerkang up the Min and Suomo Rivers and past Wenchuan, site of the 8.0 magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2008, with the bus driving through maybe as many as a dozen tunnels through the mountains.

 Maerkang - Tibetan women off to the a wedding

Maerkang – Tibetan women off to the a wedding

This entire area is part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, of which part is Tibet and part is in Sichuan Province. Maerkang is  also the location of the Poling Jiasa ancient ruins comprising 27 rammed wood and earth castles covering an area of 60,000 square metres. The castles were strategically located to provide military protection to both ends of the gorge and the river.

Zhuokeji Chieftain's house, Maerkang

Zhuokeji Chieftain’s house, Maerkang

Day 3   Most of the day was spent in the preserved former Chieftain’s house and the adjoining Tibetan Village.  Zhuokeji Chieftain’s house and village was built in 1286 but was ruined in a fire in 1936. The house contains 63 rooms on 5 storeys. The village and house were rebuilt in 1938 by the 16th Chieftain. Zhuokeji means supremacy in the Tibetan language.

Zhuokeji Chieftain's house and village

Zhuokeji Chieftain’s house and village

 

The village, built on a steep hillside contains many beautifully decorated houses, a 600 year old temple, a museum, a Thangka painting loft, and a brewery.

The road from Maerkang to Seda

The road from Maerkang to Seda

Day 4  An eleven hour bus journey (it was meant to be seven), up a glacier fed river valley, over the worst continuous stretch of road I’ve ever experienced, to Seda at 4,100 metres above sea level and a distinctly difficult breathing place.  They are building a river embankment to support the new road so both the construction work and traffic have to share the same space. Sometimes, as here, landslips engulf both.

Seda, Sichuan Province, China, over 4,100 metres. The largest Buddhist academy in the world. September 2014.

Seda, Sichuan Province, China, over 4,100 metres. The largest Buddhist academy in the world. September 2014.

Day 5   Forty kilometres outside Seda is the world’s largest Buddhist academy, with temples, a sky burial site (which I declined to visit) and accommodation for monks and nuns, tiered around a natural bowl in the mountains.

The town centre monument in Lu Huo,  another town in a steep sided mountain valley.

The town centre monument in Lu Huo, another town in a steep sided mountain valley.

Day 6   A short six hour bus journey to Lu Huo, leaving at 6.30am, in pouring rain, with most unusually, the bus half empty.  But 40 minutes later when it stopped at the Buddhist Academy, it was all but mobbed by nuns and monks who took the remaining seats and all the floor space.

The temple at Lu Huo

The temple at Lu Huo

Almost at the top of the hill is the temple, approached by a series of tracks winding through the houses. The amplified sound of monks chanting could be heard from a distance.  Up the final steps to the courtyard and here were hundreds of people celebrating Moon Cake Day.

Outside Ba Mei town - the 5,800 metre Yala Snow Mountain

Outside Ba Mei town – the 5,800 metre Yala Snow Mountain

Day 7    Ba Mei and a local driver provided transport to view the 5,800 metre Yala Mountain, the metamorphic Stone Forest and a 700 year old temple, one of the oldest buildings in this part of China.

The Ba Mei metamorphic Stone Forest

The Ba Mei metamorphic Stone Forest

They are in the final stages of building an access road to the stone forest, with parking space for hundreds of buses and cars but today, apart from the workers,  I had the place to myself.

Ta Gong and the daily peaceful flower ceremony at the Buddhist temple

Ta Gong and the daily peaceful flower ceremony at the Buddhist temple

Day 8   Ta Gong famous for it flowering grassland, but not in September. But just outside the town was this “flower show” at the temple, a daily  two hour event of chanting and praying.

Kangding and the Tuo river that rages through the centre of town

Kangding and the Tuo river that rages through the centre of town

Day 9   A minibus ride over the 4,200 metre pass and the location of Kangding airport, one of the highest in the world, and down into Kangding for a stroll around town and the best dinner of the trip. Here the raging Tuo river splits the town in two.

Sculpture park Kangding

Sculpture park Kangding

Kangding has this pleasant sculpture park on the opposite side of the road to the raging Tuo river. On the river side there is a wide embankment of 400 metres or so from where I took the previous photo. It could be a massive tourist attraction for the thousands who pass though the town, but sadly the town end of the embankment ends in a massive scrap metal yard.

Snow mountains from the 4,200 metre high Kanding airport

Snow mountains from the 4,200 metre high Kanding airport

Day 10   Up at 4am to get the 6am airport bus and two flights home, but not before taking in the beautiful snow mountains that overlook the airport.

 

 

 

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