Sep
09

LITANG – BATANG

By

Litang is a small town which we approached yesterday from a high mountain pass. The town sits solidly on what can only be described as a broad flood plane. The area is flat with a wide valley surrounding it. The town is predominantly grey, with not too many trees.

Inside the temple, beautiful sculptures and woodwork is found everywhere

This morning’s time was dominated by an amazing temple. It was huge! The temple was still undergoing some renovations and was buzzing with activity. Women were carrying huge loads from one building to another, even Su got into the action, carrying loads.

The temple was also home to many young monks. With the sight of me wandering into the temple’s square, monks came out of the woodwork to check me out. Though they did not speak English, there was one word they all knew: “Hello”! After a cheery greeting, many would turn away and giggle and feel very proud of their association with the west!

I was very ignorant in thinking that these young monks, around the ages of 6 -12, would be studying day and night, only to interrupt their studies with prayer. Was I wrong. Oh yes, they do that of course, but hey, they were kids too! They had great senses of humour, would tease each other, and also, as one demonstrated, had a gift for showing off!

The temple sits above the town of Litang and is a colourful jewel in

One of the young monks having fun outside his room.

this monochrome landscape.

Leaving Litang, its dusty streets and roaming yaks on the sidewalks, we head for Batang. Along the way, I encounter my first pilgrim! I was so excited to see him. I understood that many people can travel here and never see one of these dedicated people.

For most, the pilgrims spend years walking to Lhasa. Typically, they walk one body length, stop, arc their arms high over their heads, clapping their hands together, then sink to the ground, running their protected hands along the ground in

How to photograph a pilgrim to give the effect of being so close to the ground for so long

front of them and lay down. Then, after a second or two, they stand and repeat the cycle. Watching them is both fascinating and exhausting!

For those who do make it to Lhasa, many suffer greatly and have lasting damage to their bodies. To protect their feet, the pilgrims often fashioned toe protectors out of old tires. Their knees take a beating and often they wear an apron to attempt

The pilgrim as he is kneeling, will stretch out one full body length.

to protect their clothes. On their palms, they have thick wooden blocks strapped to their hands.

Out of the van, Su and I watch and he chats to one pilgrim. He has 1 1/2 more years until he reaches Lhasa. We give him some money. This is what people do to show their respect. Also, it is practical since because they are not employed, the pilgrims make no money during their

The pilgrim just after he has kneeled and is about to slide out flat on this stomach

pilgrimage.

In Batang stayed at the ‘W’ Hotel on the main street of this frontier town. This is the last stop before Tibet.

Tricked-out vans with huge roof carriers and spare tires line the streets waiting to grab unprepared tourists looking for a scenic drive. It’s a dusty town but also a town that has tried to make one’s stay memorable. Take the very rare, vehicle-blocked pedestrian street. With a river down the middle, polished granite tiles and bridges, one might be forgiven if they thought they were in a somewhat tweaked form of Venice!

A spectacular lake along the road. The colour of the water tells us that this is a glacial fed lake. This is the same lake that was featured in a recent issue of the National Geographic magazine.

Rumor has it there is a festival on tomorrow. The traveling Tibetan Opera is in town. This should be fun! Somehow I think the experience will be far different that the formal suit-wearing operas I have been to!

A very cheerful and smiling woman volunteering at the Litang temple

Categories : SICHUAN

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