Monday, January 19, 2009

Chengdu Travel Guide - Luding - walking to a mountain monastery

Chengdu Travel - last week we finally got the chance to make a trip to a couple of areas we've been meaning to check out. One of these places was a monastery which is found high on a mountain that overlooks Luding - a town that's 7 hours drive from Chengdu on the road to Kangding.

Here's the start of our walk - from the edge of the town. Luding itself isn't much of a destination - and although its bustling and busy - nearly all that was old and interesting has been redeveloped into a rather sterile concrete mess. But if you take the paths that lead up the valleys you soon get out to far more appealing areas.

At the bottom of our track we ran into a local method of transport - horses. If you're living at the tops of the valleys there's no real roads - just very steep tracks that soon turn into small winding mountain paths.

At the bottom there's still farming - with lots of terraced fields. In the past there also used to be fields at higher elevations, but because of reforestation projects farming is now not allowed on the upper valley.

This picture gives you an indication of this area's climate - an orange tree

As we get higher we look down on the last of the farmland.

This is the lower monastery on our route - it only took half an hour to get here. We were told it would take two to three hours to get to the upper monastery.

However that path just kept on going - up, up and yet further up!!!!!

You need a fairly good pair of lungs for this kind of trek. The actual path was in fairly good condition - and the altitude isn't that high to cause us problems. The habitat here has turned into a scrubby dry grassland.

And, of course, as you get higher those views just get better and better. After a couple of hours trekking the snow mountains of the Gongga range come into view - but still no sight of that monastery.

The scrub of mid valley elevations started to turn into woodland as we got higher. As you can also see the sun really started to come out latter in the day.

About 4 hours into the trek - stopping for a well-earned breather!!!!

In that last pic Meggie is looking down this valley - that monastery lies somewhere in this direction.

After around 6 hours we finally arrive.

Here's the caretaker - there are no monks left at this place. It was getting on to be late afternoon - so the old guy agreed to let us stay overnight.

The old man was quite a character - 86 years old he had been some sort of Kung Fu monk. On his cheeks he had black tattoo scars that had been made while testing his powers against pain - which involved some nasty stuff with a knife!!! During the night he showed us that he could lick and touch a red-hot poker - not your usual old-age-pensioner party trick.
He was surprised I had a name - he assumed only Chinese were given names. The first - and only - foreigner he had ever seen was three years before during a visit to the town. I don't think many foreigners have made it up to this place.

This is inside one of the main temple buildings.

To hold guard we have a couple of lion statues - I suppose if you've never seen a lion then you also might produce something like this.

I actually think these lions are pretty superb - inside this one's mouth we have some kind of offering.

Our bedroom lies through that door - hardly 5 star - but whose to complain, this place is great.

Just to prove we're not staying at the Hilton - this is the bedroom lighting.

But who needs opulent luxury when you can wake up to views like this.

The sunrise is always spectacular when you have snow mountains in the scene

Chilly morning - getting a fire going. No chimney here - the smoke works its way out past the rafters.

well it looks nice and cozy in a pic - but boy your eyes start to sting after a bit. and it can't be too healthy - the after effects of warming up - feel like smoking a box of non-filter cigarettes

Outside there's plenty of fresh air. After our night up in the monastery we set off towards the bottom - another tough walk - going down is just as hard as going up. 72 hours latter - my legs are still protesting - but what a great trek.