Beautiful Kangba 

Written by May 13, 2007 00:05
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Kangba Region travel

Arriving at Chengdu airport is always such an anti climax to the great anticipation of the travel ahead in China- it is usually so smoggy or foggy, treeless and barren. But it is not Chengdu that i was there to explore in the latter half of 2006, but the beautiful Kangba region, of western Sichuan Provence.
We set out on day one to the DuJiang Yan City Irrigation project, a 2000 year old scheme that tamed the mighty upper reaches of the Yangste River and made settlement of the fertile plains possible. The main structure and functons of the scheme can still be viewed today. From this area we drove onto Wulong and in the misty light rain of a warm afternoon, walked amongst the pandas of the Wulong Panda Research Centre. What a delightful place, snuggled into the side of the mountain, with much habitat and more than a dozen young pandas at play and rest in this restful setting. Another baby panda was born on the day we arrived and later that evening we went up to visit a Japanese film crew who had some of the first shots of the baby, from that afternoon.
The next day we ledt Wulong and spent a day driving through breathtaking scenery to reach into Kangba region heartland, arriving at Dangba. The altitutude quickly rose and we were into jackets and warm drinks at 4,00ometres.
On the outskirts of Dangba, we stopped into a village and walked through amazng 'wacth towers', some up to 1,500 years old, where families celebrated the arrival of a new son, by adding another layer to the top. Soon to be world heritage listed, the villagers explained their history. The Chang people, have no written recorded history as theirs is an oral tradition. The research before our trip meant that we knew something of their history and that they had relocated from northern China due to long past wars in their homelands. 'Chang' means goat, and their original character for goat, looks like two goat horns. Ba di, are the villages of the people and the chief traditionally lived in the house at the highest point, wth at least one side to a river or cliff edge, a form of protection against enemy invasions in the past. The land is steep, and unstable at times and subject to landslides. We visited the site where 51 people lost their lives not that long ago, as several families were celebrating, the noise blocked the sound of the avalanche thundering down a steep valley.

Miss Kangba's home and surrounds

Kangba's first 'beauty queen' runs an 'open house' and we visited for morning tea, where we wondered around her lovely home, with mother weaving n traditonal loom the white cloth of the local people. We sipped tea and tried on some wedding attire - thick layers of silk cloth, fur bands and head dress- obvously this person got married in winter!! We went walking through more villages and to see the brick and rock homes set amongst the almond and walnuts groves, flowers and pig, goats and the occassional milking cow alongside rows of pepper trees and vegetables was sublime. In the afternoon we went up to higher mountains and stayed overnight on the mountain, sleepng in a large, highly decorated room, coloured flowers and images aboundng. The barleyt liqour sat at the entrance to the room, and demanded sipping through straws that had been plunged into the fermenting mixture, with regularity!! In the evening the villagers came and sang and danced and we joined in with them, with the warmth and mutual curiosty of travellers and locals.
The next day we headed back into town and shopped for some fabrics, and i bought a traditonal headress for a male and female, Black velvet for her wth eletric pink embroidery and silk and 'coon skin' for him.
We spent a good part of the rest of the day drivng up Yak Valley to Doafu. Yak Valley is a small valley and it eventually opens up to wide grassy plains, where, if you're lucky, the local festival of tents and horsemen can be found. Wildflowers abounded along the route and as we strolled through the grassy plain, we saw prayer flags covering a hillsde. Further on we came across monks clearing out a local lake, waist deep in water and pulling on ropes to remove water weed, below the hill of flags and just outside their temple home. We sat up on our grass seats and watched as another world worked away below us- like we had suddnely been transported back in time. Daofu menas 'horse' in the local Tibetan language.

Daofu and surrounds in the at Kangba Region

Once at Daofu we visited the amazing Ling Cui Ci Temple, a solid white washed buddhist temple, rising up out of the flat plains, but looking distinctly arabic in its architecture style. We climbed to the top of the temple up and around creaking narrow, timber stairways. From atop the temple we climbed out onto the roof and had a panoramic biew of Daofu town, that appears divided into distinct districts of traditional solid, richly ornate stone and timber buildings, as well as paved streets and scant timber homes of the poor. Walking around the roof top of the temple three times in a clockwise direction is supposed to brng good luck to the traveller.
The climb down the stairways was more cautious, but once outside we then followed the locals around and through the substantial prayer wheels, three times, all 210 of them!! We visited with a local family and again were delghted to be entertained by the children and young daughters singing Tibetan songs and a few carpeter's songs for good measure!! The yak milk tea is served where ever we were going, and i warmed to the flavour, not unlike the condensed milk memories from childhood. We tried to learn a dance or two that evening, but alas, musical nor co-ordinated were we!! I suspect we provded some entertainment for the family. The next day we went out to the edge of town and visited a farming family, curtesy of one of the school students qwe had met in Daofu the day before. The village was beautiful, floating in fields of vegetables and crops alongside a rushing, small stream that was icy cold from the mountain snow. Another Yak tea, a walk around the house and village and we left for our next days travels. We went through the 'wld west' town of Bamei, like something out of a spagetti western, cowboys who had traded their ponies for chopper motorbikes, parked in the main street, lounging around billard tables sitting out on street sides with plastic covers to protect what? from the dust of this bustling little hangout town. Here Muslim and Buddhist exst side by side and provide a snapshot of the area and its diversity of cultures. The motorcycles were decked out in wild colours and leather with streamers wrapped and streaming off handlebars and chrome fittings. When stayed for an hour or so, had lunch at a roadside cafe and kept going until we reached the beautiful Golden Temple. My room looked out over the Ya La Mountain range, snow capped at 6,000m, it rose out of the mountain plains and was an amazing backdrop to the golden dome of the temple. We were lucky enough to stumble across a Buddhist conference at Jue mu shi and there a 'living buddha' chanted to the crowd under the magnificent white tent, painted in tibetan swirls and symbols. There were proabably more than 1,000 people there under the tent, the tent nestled against a hillside covered in coloured prayer flags, years in the making. Up the road from the tent, we looked over a new temple that was being built and dropped into vist a buddhist nun in her tiny quarters, she lved in two makeshift timber rooms, her life's treasures a few photos, a bed and cook top.

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