Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Images from 2010

This year we've been busy with several road-trips that have taken us from Chengdu into some of the more picturesque and interesting parts of Sichuan and Yunnan.

Gongga Mountain - about 5 hours drive from Chengdu. Lying just off the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, at 7556m, this is the world's 4th highest mountain outside the Himalayas. During late July we were lucky enough to get clear evening views of this mighty peak - as it was being painted by a setting sun.

Adventure in an Emei Nunnery (3 hours drive from Chengdu) - this spring we enjoyed the company of a mother and daughter from New Mexico. Part of their trip was an overnight stay at a nunnery on Mount Emei. This proved tremendous fun for the 10 year old girl - and the nun's seemed equally fascinated by her!!! The picture was taken just before dawn - mum and daughter are watching the morning prayers - it's hard to sleep through all that chanting and gong bashing.

Wild Red Pandas at Wawu Shan - this year we've had 3 sightings of wild Red Pandas, all made in the primeval forest on the top of Wawu Mountain. This park, 4 hours drive from Chengdu, is one of our best locations for finding these animals. Out of our Wawu Red Panda pictures - this strangely posed animal was one of our favorites. With that serene and contemplative attitude it wouldn't have looked that out of place in the Emei nunnery.

The Balang Pass during late winter - here we're up over the 4300m, a place where the thin air gives you an out of breath feeling of walking in leaden boots. We hit this location during February when the weather was a contrast between freezing nights and the a pleasant warmth of sun-filled days. There hadn't been much recent rain, and the grassland had become brown and parched. This mountain pass is between two well known Sichuan tourist spots - the Wolong Panda breeding Center, which unfortunately is still completely closed due to damage suffered from the 2008 quake, and the Four sisters mountain Park (Siguniang). This year we had many trips, with our birding groups, around this area - but the summer rains, which began early in June, made conditions difficult and brought on many landslides.

Further down the road from Balang you get into Tibetan areas and onto the road for Maerkang (a day's drive from Chengdu). This Tibetan Temple can be found on Mengbi Mountain - about 20km before reaching Maerkang.

Litang Grasslands - during July and August we drove, up over the Tibetan Plateau, from Chengdu to Yunnan. The characteristic landscape of much of this journey comprised of rolling Yak grazed grasslands. The sunny summer climate up at these high altitudes makes a very pleasant change from the sticky summer humidity of Chengdu and the Sichuan Basin.

Sichuan flowers - from the mid-summer period those high grasslands are full of flowers. This year we have gathered more reference material for plant identification, and started to make a picture collection of what we find. The above plant is a stunning Orchid that we've seen both in Sichuan and Yunnan - Habenaria davidii - named after the same legendary naturalist, who in the 19th century, introduced the Giant panda to western Science - Pere David

The Crane lady of Dashanbao - these next two pics actually come from November 2009 - but they illustrate one of our most interesting trips over the last year. Dashanbao - in Northern Yunnan - is a Black-necked Crane reserve that lies a long day's motorway drive from Chengdu via Yibin. Here, not only did we find wintering Cranes, but a very determined lady called who has made it her mission to feed and protect these endangered birds - Chen Guanghui. Apparently this task hasn't come without its dangers - our heroine has had at least one hairy experience of sinking into lakeside bog!!!!

Cranes returning to their lakeside roosting areas around the lake at Dashanbao.

Food glorious food - this year we've decided to document more of our restaurant food. This project is not only intended as an interesting reference for visitors, but as a record of traditional street cuisine that sometimes has problems surviving in the rush of development that has hit modern day China. However the above dish represents the modern - a very interesting rendition of Pumpkin from a rather plush restaurant in Ya'an.

Faces (or in this case a hidden one) - this guy is a Tibetan pilgrim. We met him on the grasslands, slowly making his way down the road, much of it with his nose against tarmac. These guys prostrate themselves between each step - hence the need for hand, knee and belly protection.

And finally a face to sign off this post - this is a Yi Lady - from outside Zhongdian in Yunnan.

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