Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Long Winding Road to Deqin!

Well here we are in Deqin, the last stop in the Yunnan on the way to Tibet. What a day, what a road. We started off this morning in the small hamlet of Cizhong on the banks of the Mekong. Cizhong is famous as an outpost of Catholicism in China. Marauding French missionaries indoctrinated the area descending from the Tibetan Plateau with their Tibetan converts. As unusually we had come across the mountains to Cizhong from the Nu Jiang village of De Ma Lo we were familiar with this influence and the crazy buildings in the middle of nowhere. Indeed we experienced a Catholic mass Tibetan style on Sunday, but more about are travels from Liming to De Ma Lo later plenty of tales to tell!!!

We checked out the Church quickly, aching from carrying our packs after the recent excursions. Hidden from the Mekong by a subtle terrace Cizhong is a cobbled civilised oasis. It is harvest time and the people are out in the fields below the village scything rice, gathering it and dehusking. Preparations for winter are in full swing everywhere in open attics under wooden roofs things are drying; grains, fruit and meat.

The Church is surrounded by a high white wall, the inner courtyard peaceful in a cottage garden way. In the outer buildings historic photographs document the lives of the enthusiastic, earnest and happy young missionaires who came to this far part of the world. It shows them high up snowy mountains, posing with local inhabitants and growing old with big bushy beards. There is a bizarre Indian influence to, with pictures of bearded Sikhs (of Sikhalikes) which I am yet to understand. The inside of the church is beautiful, colourful motifs cover the ceiling providing another layer to the gaudy decorations and pictures of saints.

Satisfied and keen to move on we strolled down to and across the Mekong. After a nervous wait the second bus picked us up and we were off not really having any idea what was instore for us. The road first skirted low above the Mekong but then gradually it climbed till a series of switchbacks saw us 100's of metres above the brown heaving mass. The Mekong gorged in below us, vicious snake bends and the road soared ahead a thin line on giant slopes of rubble. Villages far below us look to have roofs paimted bright yellow until we realise it is the harvest of corn drying for the winter. As we got higher the lower part of the massif of Meili Snow Mountain appeared across the valley, giant glaciers rumbling down out of the cloud. We eyed up routes and ridges for our next few days exploring. When the nerves started to catch up on me the road turned to buckled gravel, but with nerves of steel the bus driver swerved his way to Deqin, where we are now, from our small room on the roof of a backpackers the mountains soar to nearly 7000metres opposite, with the Mekong Canyon nearly 1500m below, awesome! Hopefully the weather comes to the party tomorrow

No comments: