A Moving Picnic Trip Through the Stunning Scenery and Ancient Culture of Western Tibet

  Tibet, the “roof of the world”, has mountains and measures, the “center of the world” Kailash Rinpoche, and amazing but unnamed scenery… Full of expectations and longings, my friends and I embarked on a trip to Tibet Ali’s journey.
1 Plateau picnic props are complete, which can be called a “moving trip”

  Complete coffee making equipment, picnic tables and chairs, camping tools… The checked luggage of me and my other two partners is 74 kg, not to mention the photographic equipment that I carry with me. This trip can be called a “moving trip”.

  Everything is difficult at the beginning, and the same is true for travel. The most difficult thing is often the determination to start.

  When I sincerely invited Ayun for the third time, this travel blogger who insisted on taking the outdoor sports route finally bought a ticket to Tibet. So, we made full preparations and embarked on the journey of “Little Bourgeois Picnic Plateau Tour”. If there was one adjective to describe the start of the trip, it would have to be “heavyweight”.

  With the good yearning for a picnic next to “Yicuo” (referring to the scenic spots with “cuo” in their names in Tibet), we changed the rented 5-seater tank car into 4-seater. There is no other reason, the trunk is full, and the extra luggage has to be piled on the back seat. Complete coffee making equipment, picnic tables and chairs, camping tools… The checked luggage of me and my other two partners is 74 kg, not to mention the photographic equipment that I carry with me. This trip can be called a “moving trip”.

  However, compared with the mountains of luggage, the sudden altitude sickness is more frustrating.

  Before departure, we were in awe of Ali and started taking Rhodiola oral liquid three days in advance. When I arrived in Lhasa, I immediately went to the pharmacy to buy the plateau medicine “Gaoyuan’an” and two bottles of oxygen, just in case. Unexpectedly, after making all the preparations, I still couldn’t escape the high reaction, headache and fatigue, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Everyone’s symptoms were basically the same, and they were very uncomfortable. I heard that frequent oxygen inhalation may lead to dependence, so we always carry the oxygen cylinder, but dare not use it lightly. Until the penultimate day of the journey, everyone tentatively inhaled a few mouthfuls of oxygen with a curiosity-seeking attitude, and instantly felt comfortable all over the body, feeling the beauty of abundant oxygen.

  The big reason for our high reaction is that we didn’t have a good rest. Due to limited time, we arrived in Chengdu in the middle of the night and flew to Lhasa non-stop after only four or five hours of sleep. Afterwards, we purchased supplies and went to the Potala Palace to take pictures… The next morning we started our self-driving trip to Tibet. In fact, most people would choose to stay in Lhasa for two or three days to rest and adapt, but we raced against time and were exhausted.

  Overcoming physical factors, we gradually entered the most comfortable rhythm of travel. For travel destinations such as Tibet and Xinjiang with sparsely populated areas, travelers spend most of their time on the road. This type of travel is called “road travel”. What you see and feel along the way is the meaning of travel.

  The first place we passed was Yamdrok Yongcuo. Yamdrok Yongcuo, also known as Yanghu Lake, is more than 4,800 meters above sea level. It is located in Langkazi County, Shannan City, Tibet Autonomous Region. Together with Namtso and Manasarovar, it is also known as the three holy lakes in Tibet. It is one of the closest scenic spots to Lhasa. . Yanghu Lake is adjacent to the snow-capped mountains and glaciers. The blue and quiet lake surface is curved and varied, presenting a graceful coral shape, stretching for more than 130 kilometers. Looking at it from the ground, no matter from which angle, it is impossible to see its whole picture. In the hearts of the Tibetan people, it is the turquoise earrings scattered by fairies, which are crystal-clearly inlaid on the auricles of the vast snow-capped mountains. When the sun shines at different times, the lake water will change ever-changingly, showing an extremely rich and unique blue temperament, which is the best in southern Tibet and unique.

  Next to Yamdrok Yongcuo, the cumbersome luggage finally came in handy. When we got out of the car to take pictures, we set up tables and chairs and took out props for brewing coffee. At this moment, among the mountains, rivers and wilderness, on the plateau, my companion Ayun is making fresh lattes at his fingertips, brewing freshly ground coffee powder with a Moka pot, and then mixing it with local fragrant milk. Surprisingly, our comfortable resting state became the scenery in the eyes of passers-by, and some of the passing tour groups even borrowed our “props” to pose for pictures.

  These “props” brought all the way play an important role along the way. After leaving Yanghu Lake, we brewed countless times of coffee, ate instant noodles, and used the “Zihai Pot” on the grasslands, lakes, and mountains where we can’t remember the names… We took great pleasure in disassembling equipment and cooking Meal, wash dishes, pack up and go.

  After the old man unlocked the two iron locks of the cave, it was pitch dark. Then he took out a small flashlight, and while illuminating the murals on the wall, he explained to us in not-so-good Chinese.

  Driving from southern Tibet all the way to Tibet, the scenery of Zanda left a strong mark on our journey and became my favorite place on this trip.

  Zanda, which means “the place with grass in the lower reaches” in Chinese, is located in the middle section of the Sino-Indian border, in the Xiangquan River Basin in the south of the Ngari region. This is the representative place of Ali culture and history. The most famous one is Zanda Earth Forest, a national geological park. In addition, the Zhangzhung Cultural Center more than 3,000 years ago and the Guge Dynasty ruins more than 1,000 years ago, their Presence lends an air of mystery to this seemingly devastated land. According to research by scientists, the Zanda Earth Forest used to be a large lake with a radius of 500 kilometers. Because the Himalayan orogeny raised the lake basin, the water level decreased, and the rocks above the water were eroded by wind and rain for a long time. At the same time, it is also the most typical soil forest formed by the weathering of Tertiary strata with the largest distribution area in the world. In 2005, Zanda Earth Forest was listed as a national geological park.

  At a glance, the soil forest surrounded by the vast mountains is neatly flat and wide, and the heights are scattered. Under the high and flat ridges, it looks like arhats lined up. When dusk came, the setting sun slanted, and the top of the densely covered soil forest was dyed with a layer of dazzling golden yellow. Standing in it, we saw wonders and unpredictable scenes in front of us. I forgot how many shutters were pressed, and I only know that no matter what angle we take, we cannot use flat photos to reproduce the shock that we can see at the moment.

  As the “cultural responsibility” of the team, our partner Fan Ma did not take on the heavy responsibility and took us deep into the soil forest for a wonderful adventure. If before this trip, my knowledge of Tibet was only limited to the vast plateau scenery, then after this expedition, I was even more impressed by its ancient and mysterious Tibetan culture.

  Walking through the earth forest, we found the only Bon religion temple in Ngari—Gu Rujiang Temple, with white buildings embedded in the mountain and colorful prayer flags flying. According to research, Yongzhongben religion has a history of more than 18,000 years, and it is an ancient sect in the ancient Zhang Zhung Kingdom. The Zhang Zhung civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in human history, which also makes Gu Rujiang Temple wrapped in a layer of mystery. But unfortunately, when we walked up the steps to the door, we found that the temple was not open.

  Go around Gurujiang Temple and continue on your way, looking for the dome Silver City on the top of Kaldong Mountain at an altitude of 4,400 meters. Dome Silver City has a very long history, it is the legendary capital of Zhang Zhung in Tibet. But until now, it is still hidden deep in the soil forest, and the road leading to the Dome Silver City has not been developed, and we can only find it along the ruts.
  Seeing that the distance is getting closer and closer, through the narrow roads, wooden bridges and dirt roads ahead, the atmosphere of adventure suddenly surged up. The car could no longer go forward, so I got out of the car and walked to find the way. Soon, we smelled a smell of rotten eggs. As expected, there was a natural hot spring not far away… Climb all the way along the stairs, the higher you go, you can hear yourself panting heavily every step you take, but Looking at the scenery seen along the way, fatigue is nothing.
  Looking down from the commanding heights, the large and small caves of the dome Silver City cover the entire mountain, winding all the way up along the ridge. The location of these caves is a symbol of the status of the ancestors of Zhang Zhung. The higher the status, the higher the cave where they live. From the bottom to the top, there are slaves in order, civilians in the middle, and kings, nobles and monks live in the highest place. Although only the ruins corroded by the wind are left now, it is not difficult to feel its former glory.
  Then we passed the ruins of Piyang and Dongga. The Zanda area is full of soil and forest landforms. For some moments, I suddenly thought I was in Cappadocia. Before I went to Turkey, I thought it was the most moon-like place on earth. Now, standing on the land of Piyang and Dongga, I am amazed by the huge cave ruins. This large-scale ruins consisting of monasteries, castles, grottoes and Tallinn is several times larger than the caves I saw in Cappadocia and the dome Silver City I just visited. The contiguous mountains are full of caves, and it is said that there are thousands of them. Although it has the reputation of “Second Dunhuang”, its number of caves is three times that of Dunhuang.
  We went straight to Piyang Temple on the top of the mountain as planned.

  An old man who has been stationed here all year round led us to visit. After the old man unlocked the two iron locks of the cave, there was darkness in front of his eyes. Then he took out a small flashlight, and while illuminating the murals on the wall, he explained to us in not-so-good Chinese. Piyang Temple is called “Greentang” by the locals (tang means highland or platform in Tibetan). The existing temple ruins are very grand, with many stupas and Dukang Hall. There are palaces, Dharma protector halls and a large number of caves remaining on the earth mountain. We visited one of the caves. There are murals painted in the cave, including Buddha, Bodhisattva, Bhikkhu, flying Apsaras, statues of offerings, pictures of worshiping Buddha and so on. Despite its age, the murals are still brightly colored. A space of about ten square meters accommodates a thousand-year civilization.

  I also remembered visiting Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in 2013. Northwest tourism at that time was far less popular than it is now. A small team of more than a dozen tourists was led by the guide to open the iron locks at the entrances of each cave, relying only on the faint light of a flashlight. , Looking back at the clues of history in the shadows. Now, I have regained that feeling in the cave of Piyang Temple, a little scared, groping in the dark, moving forward in the unknown, as excited as an adventure.
3 Looking for the Tibetan fox Ali is a paradise for wild animals

  As an animal observer, Fan Ma set a goal for us: to find 5 kinds of common animals in Ali, namely Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan wild ass, black-necked crane, and Tibetan fox that can only be encountered by luck.

  The self-driving journey continues, we are driving on the southern Tibet line, and the next stop is Gang Rinpoche.

  The holy mountain Gang Rinpoche is the main peak of Gangdise Mountain, located in the north of Purang County, Ngari Prefecture. It is considered the “center of the world” and has a very high status in Tibetan areas. Gang Rinpoche, like Kawagebo Peak (the first of the eight sacred mountains in Tibetan areas), is a sacred mountain that is strictly prohibited from climbing. The “mountain emperor” Messner once had the opportunity to climb this mountain before the ban was issued in 2000, but chose to give up out of awe of the sacred mountain. But there has never been a lack of believers here. Every year, countless Buddhists come to pilgrimage and walk tens of kilometers to perform a solemn and sacred ceremony – turning around the mountain.

  We stood at the bottom of the mountain and watched the holy mountain from a distance. It has four sides, and the layout is extremely symmetrical. The strange thing is that the snow on the south side (the sunny side of the mountain) does not melt all the year round, but the snow on the north side (the shady side) is very little, and once it accumulates, it will melt away quickly. One of its hallmarks. At present, Gang Rinpoche is a bit desolate, but it stands among the mountains and is unique. In order to find the best shooting angle, we walked around Gang Rinpoche all the way to Mapang Yumco. I couldn’t help pressing the shutter every moment on the way.

  The world-renowned landscape feasts our eyes, but the episodes along the way are also full of fun. In an untouched natural area, Ali is a paradise for wild animals. According to statistics, there are 11 species of wild animals under national first-class protection in Ngari area. As an animal observer, Fan Ma set a goal for us: to find 5 kinds of common animals in Ali, namely Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan wild ass, black-necked crane, and Tibetan fox that can only be encountered by luck.

  Fan Ma has a deep obsession with finding Tibetan foxes. He seems to have turned on the “eight-fold mirror” and scanned around with the camera on his back. Finally, he really led us to find the Tibetan fox—even though it was far away, at 200 focal lengths. The lens still captured its small figure. With a paralyzed face in all directions and a pair of triangular eyes, the Tibetan fox is the representative of the “ugly and cute” world. Its joyful appearance makes it often appear in the emoji packs of people’s mobile phones. Since Tibetan foxes are the most “high and cold” canids, they also have some typical characteristics of plateau animals, such as strong hair. The fur on the back of the Tibetan fox is brownish red, the sides are light gray, the abdomen is white, and the lower parts of the limbs are light red. Its legs are a bit shorter than ordinary foxes, and the hair on the tail is very fluffy. Soil and fat circle” can be summed up in three words.

  Fan Ma told us that although the Tibetan fox has a square face, its “square” is very scientific. Its skull structure belongs to the most specialized category among carnivores, and it has a stronger bite force, which is more conducive to survival. After photographing the Tibetan fox, we captured many unnamed animals.

  The next day, we came to Serin Co, which is located in the northern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is the largest lake in Tibet. The blue lake stretches as far as the eye can see. Surrounded by mountains, it is vast and magnificent. On the opposite side of Serin Co is a lake called Cuo’e, and further away there is a mountain called Bali Debo…These names are hard to pronounce, and the scenery is unforgettable for a lifetime.

  During the trip, we also met some locals. The little Tibetan girls were very curious about us, and when we raised our cameras to record the scenery, they were also eager to try in front of the camera. Natural, pure, with a bit of wildness, their sense of camera seems to be born with them. I freeze their smiles in the camera and move on with admiration.

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