“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”— Robert Louis Stevenson

Truer words have never been spoken. Today we moved between snow covered mountains & lush green valleys, all the while descending 2,700 metres from Daofu in the morning to Danba in the evening.

Outside, behind the hotel in Daofu, a young boy bathes before heading off to school

This morning we drove through beautiful country. If your impressions of China are that of crowds, you would be right when picturing the big cities, but get out to the countryside and like Canada, there is a whole lot of space between people! Today it was hard to find many people!

A few monks, nuns and locals hang out near a hot spring.

Today, the people I saw came in small groups. There was the small group of monks sitting by the roadside where out of nowhere, a small hot-spring was located. A few of the monks were bathing, others were sitting and chatting with some locals. They seemed as surprised as I was to see us motoring along the empty stretch of road.

All through this trip so far, I have seen one vehicle constantly. It does everything from acting as the family car, to hauling vegetables, to pulling wagons piled with others who need a ride somewhere. It is the ubiquitous tractor! A little exposure to the rain is no problem, like people on their bicycles, they just hold an umbrella while they drive. The tractor is the single thing that moves and shapes this province, and indeed the country.

The ubiquitous tractor serves as a workhorse and a family vehicle

Today we drove to Tatong to have lunch. The village was basically a street lined with shops, nothing more than that. Again, hardly any people! The place was deserted and resembled more of a set for a movie. We walked in to have lunch at a tiny shop and there were just a few people there, who stopped eating as soon as I entered. I get that a lot! The food was amazing! Fresh and tasty, the meal was very welcome.

The village of Tatong which resembles a movie set is all but deserted.

Soon, a group of people entered the restaurant and were making a lot of noise. At first I didn’t pay any attention, but then I happened to notice that everyone was fussing over one of the young women in the group. When I caught a glimpse of her I knew why everyone was agitated. Her lips were blue and face white and pale. She was not at all well and was suffering from the affects of altitude sickness. Some cans of oxygen were found and after taking some oxygen for a while, her colour returned as did her composure. I surmised that they must have driven up here from some place like Danba which is not too far away and much lower.

Women walk the length of a wall of prayer wheels, spinning the wheels as they go

Like other villages, this one had a temple. It was undergoing some renovations, but still was charming. It was small and inviting and had a cistern of holy water and a tap. A self-serve anointing station! Again, hardly any people here either. Just two monks in a booth selling tickets to see the temple and a few workers renovating the place.

Returning to the main road and heading on down to Danba, there was a lovely structure set against the backdrop of distant mountains. The

A horse having a nap. At first glance I thought perhaps it was dead!

exterior walls were lined, and capped with rows of white stupas. I have seen stupas in all sizes during this trip. They contain Buddhist relics and some contains the bodies from a burial. These are locations for worship. Not many people ere either, in fact, there were more dogs and horses, that there were people. I declined the offer of a ride. Having been thrown off the horse in Yajiang, I was going to take a pass on the offer. In fact, as I looked, one of the horses appeared to be dead – but he was just having a nap!

Rows of white stupas line this lovely place for worship set against the distant mountains.

Another small group, this time five people, seemed totally out of place. It was a photo shoot of a white dressed and jacketed bride and groom. Off the side of the road, out in a field of dried and yellow grass and lavender wild flowers, the two were sitting on the ground. Standing, were three people, looking more like gangsters. One was the photographer, the others were the assistants. This was an original location for wedding photos to be sure. They must really love this spot since it is pretty much hours from the nearest village!

A photo shoot for a newly married couple - in the middle of nowhere!

A slightly larger group of people were ahead of us in a traffic jam. About 20 vehicles. Road work was being done here and again, traffic control was something nobody considered. From down at road level, it was next to impossible to get anywhere. If one were in a helicopter looking down, I’m sure if one strategic vehicle moved, the rest could then flow. But nope! I hopped out of Su’s van and motioned for him to drive forward, inching his wheels ever closer to the edge of the road so he could squeeze past a China Post truck. Slipping off the roadbed would not have been far, about 20 cm, but would have caused a lot of damage. There was one young woman wearing a mask to keep the dust out of her nose and mouth. She held a red traffic control flag, but she had o idea how to use her powers, she was just as perplexed as the rest of us.

A puzzled road worker with no idea how to clear the traffic jam around her.

The road down to Danba is a photographer’s dream. The road followed a rushing river and plunged deeper and deeper into valleys as we drove. The sun was getting low and highlighted the beautiful homes on the hillsides. I’m sure people lived in them, but we didn’t see a soul! A few times we pulled over to take advantage of the light and shoot some of the homes. I didn’t have to worry about traffic – there was none!

A home with a million dollar view! Nearest neighbour? About a kilometre!

One of the many mountain views during our drive between Daofu and Danba

Closer to Danba, we encountered more people. Danba is a big place. This was going to be the biggest place yet after leaving Chengdu and Kangding. The river began to slow as we got further down, an indication that w were leveling out a bit at the lower elevation. Along the river there were dozens of small footbridges and some that were just wide enough for a vehicle or a few yaks! I would not have wanted to test the bridge with Su’s van, but they did make for lovely photos with the river rushing under them. There were some neglected footbridges with boards missing. I assume neglected, but one never knows!

Traffic begins to build as we near the town of Danba!

Once in Danba, I felt something strange and different and admittedly a little unsettling. I found I was not the only foreigner around! For many many days, I have been the only foreigner I have seen. Now it is me who is looking at the foreigners and wondering where they came from! What a reversal!

We will stay in Danba for two nights sine there is much to see here. In fact, one can stay a week of two there is so much to see.

Categories : SICHUAN


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