7.8 Earthquake in Western Sichuan

I was sitting here in Rajasthan watching “Desperate Housewives” repeats on television when the news cut in and announced that there had been a 7.8 earthquake in western Sichuan in the very area we traveled through last September. This is an area that means a great deal to us, and we made many friends during our time there.

After the traumatic conflicts between the ethnic Tibetans and the government, the area is now being challenged by this catastrophic natural event. We hope that our friends in Sichuan are safe. To help our readers better understand this area and its people, we have linked into a small collection of postings on the region. Just click on the thumbnails above, to read the posting.

Friends Arrested in Sichuan!

In October last year, I was raving about our stay in Dargye Gompa, a beautiful and serene monastery in Sichuan, China. We spent several days there with three monks and a wonderful, small group of travelers, French Thomas, Fredy the Nomad, and Rachel.

French Thomas just left a comment on our blog that monks from Dargye Gompa have been arrested while protesting for their freedom, and he left a link with photos from an online source.

This is terrible news, and we hope the Chinese government will end this nonsense and release our friends.

Tibetans Fight Back

Tibetan protests against Chinese occupation have flared up in Lhasa as well as across the Tibetan world from Xiahe in Gansu all the way to Delhi here in India. Officials claim that 10 people have been killed, but Tibetans calling friends and relatives here in India indicate it could be up to 70 people or more.

Many of you followed our adventure through Tibet and the Tibetan regions of Sichuan and Qinghai, so you know that it is a region we both care deeply about. We commented on tensions in the area in the following posts, which you might want to check out: Blowing Up Buddha, Attack on Serthar Monastery, Kham and the Khampa, and Facades.

Even during our travels in Tibet, certain individuals indicated such protests were on their way. We did not relate this news in our blog because we were worried that Chinese officials would leap to conclusions about who had suggested the protests to us. The people who told us this are in no way referenced in our blog. (This may seem paranoid, but we discovered while using the Internet in China that even personal blogs were being monitored and blocked. How they manage to censor so much I will never understand.)

Our friend Oscar sent in the following link to bloggers in Lhasa at the moment. Also check out International Campaign for Tibet for the latest news.

Crossing to Nepal

Our Car in Tibet

I’ve always said the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing is the most abrupt, most dramatic border transition I’ve ever experienced. It turns out, there is another…

Driving along the desert roads of the Tibetan plateau, the road peaked just before Nyalam to reveal a spectacular Himalayan panorama and a road heading down, down , down. After what seemed like an unending series of switchbacks, the open moonscape we were moving through gave way to tight canyons that slid their way through the snow-capped mountains. Stone villages and terraced fields clung to the steep cliffs, herds of yaks and goats wandered along the road.

Pema, our driver, carefully navigated the hairpin turns and steep drop-offs as suicidal Chinese drivers Continue…

Trash Eating Cow

Trash Eating Cow

As in many third world countries, trash management in China, and even more so in Tibet, is a huge problem particularly outside the tourist areas where there don’t seem to be any centralized places for disposing of trash. The more organized municipalities have random piles of trash distributed throughout the town while less organized places are evenly littered with garbage – it is just like living on a dump.

The most shocking examples of trash mismanagement, we encountered in Tibet. Continue…

The Long Road Back

Black-Necked Cranes, Tibet

Two days of driving to the Nepalese border and most of it was backtracking via the same route by which we had come. Our 17-day trip was almost over and I knew, we would hit the same spine-crumbling potholes again.

Tibetan Landscape

I didn’t expect a lot of excitement going back. Going through familiar terrain, though, provides a chance to relax and let your mind wander. I believe all of us were thinking about Continue…

Lake Manasarovar

Gurla Mandhata

After Nam Tso Lake, which supposedly is the highest fresh water lake in the world, the holy Lake Manasarovar is the highest salt water lake at an altitude of 4550 m (15,000 feet) and a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. We spent a couple of nights there on our way back from the Guge Kingdom staying at a small guest house situated between the lake shores and the Chiu Monastery atop a small hill. Continue…

The Guge Kingdom

Guge Kingdom Landscape

Guge was an ancient kingdom that once existed in the far west of Tibet about a day’s jeep travel north of Mt. Kailash. Set in a spectacular desert canyonlands, Guge was once a series of prospering irrigated valleys ruled from the monastic fortress complex at Tsaparang and large monastery at Tholing. Continue…

Bumping our Way to Guge

Desert Mountains on the Way to the Guge Kingdom

Leaving Kailash, we headed west on the road to Ali before turning off on to some of the worst roads on our journey so far (that’s quite a statement). The jeep tracks snaked their way up into a surreal multi-colored desert mountain range like nothing I’ve ever seen elsewhere.

We spent hours inching our way through sandy riverbeds and rocky slopes. At one point Continue…