Sing a Song of Songpan

Well we’re slowly meandering south towards the ultimate goal of Chengdu, and a long overdue reunion with Marcus Barrows. The meandering has been deliberate though, as this part of China is stunning.

Back in Xiahe a tibetan monk gave us a tour of the monastery that he and 2000 others were part of. Beforehand I had envisioned these guys to be almost mute with religious purity and spiritual well-to-do. Not a bit of it. The monk started his tour with the following – “When you try to join this monastery you must take an exam. If you pass you can start your training to become a master. If you fail you must partake in hard work and manual labour. Or become a guide.” From then on in he told us how he liked to rush around the prayer wheels to save time, how he hated old pilgrims because they were too slow praying and that some pilgrims walk around a particular temple 10,000 times because it is deemed the magic number. It takes up to five months apparently. The whole place stunk of yak butter as that’s what all the lamps are made of, and there was a definite musk of holy worship too, with monks laying themsleves before their various idols and chanting the latest Buddhist hits.

Afterwards we headed to Langmusi, where good hiking had been promised by the Lonely Bible. And so there was. Our most epic hike to date occured largely by accident however, and mainly down to me. We walked up a river and came to clearing where we could go either left of right. The map we had was apparently drawn by an infant with less artistic skill than a potato, so I confidently asserted we go left. It turns out we should have gone right. We were aiming to scale God’s Mountain, a collosal 5000 metres above sea-level. However, after heaving our oxygen starved souls towards a peak we thought was God’s Mountain, we discovered the peak in question was absolutely miles away on the other sie of a gigantic horse-shoe shaped ridge. So we trekked the ridge for three and a half hours, sheer walls of skree on one side and stunning views of grasslands (and certain death) on the other. Eventually we conceded we’d never make it and took a descent down a gorge back home. Home and dry (well, sweaty) we drank to our misadventure with some singing locals and taught tthem all the wonders of Same Old Brand New You by A1.

Now, we’re in Songpan. |t’s been silly already but that will have to wait.


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