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Prayer flags, glaciers, high roads, and shrines to a sacred mountain.

Prayer flags litter the ground on a mountain pass south of Deqin

April 26-27, 2002

This story continues from Zhongdian.

April 26
After lunch we drove another twenty kilometers to the Dhondrupling Gompa. While certainly worth the visit, it pales in comparison to Zhongdian's Ganden Sumtseling Gompa.

Monks in a courtyard at Dhondrupling Gompa, north of Benzilan on the Zhongdian-Deqin road.

The road began climbing and at one point reached an elevation of 4500 meters where intermittent snow squalls were replaced with expansive views in all directions. 6054m Miacimu is along this road.

View from over 4000 meters on the road to Deqin.

Getting closer to Deqin, numerous small shrines and prayer flags dot the road, all in view of Kawa Karpo, the 6740m sacred peak. However on this day, the cloud line was around 5000-5500 meters denying us the sight of the pyramidal summit of this famous peak.

below left: Prayer flags with the Meili Xueshan range in the background. The summit of Kawa Karpo (6740m) is hidden by clouds but Mingyong Glacier is visible.
below center: Prayer flags in the wind.
below right: 6740m Kawa Karpo obscured by clouds and snow squalls. Mingyong Glacier can be seen spilling down the mountainside.

We passed through the town of Deqin, driving another ten kilometers towards Kawa Karpo, stopping at a shrine directly in front of the huge mountain. Behind it stood several guesthouses. We stayed at a no-name establishment with comfortable beds for Y20 each. No bath facilities. The toilet was the bushes across the road.

One of the many shrines within view of Kawa Karpo.

Dinner was a communal affair in the smoky, dark kitchen of the guesthouse and was nothing to rave about.

April 27

Hoping to awake to a clear view of Kawa Karpo we instead had to settle for rain. Cold rain. Very cold rain. It was about five degrees celsius (40 Yankee degrees) with a steady drizzle that did, thankfully cease around nine a.m., but the clouds never lifted off Kawa Karpo.

There was something significant about this day and Chinese were arriving at this shrine by the dozens to make offerings to the spirit of the mountain.

below left: The Meili Xueshan Range. Kawa Karpo is to the right of the picture.
below right: The town of Deqin sprawls across the valley.

The town of Deqin is nothing to rave about. The whole purpose of the journey from Zhongdian to Deqin is the journey itself and Kawa Karpo. If visiting Zhongdian I highly recommend hiring a car and driver for two days and making your way up to Deqin and Kawa Karpo, which hopefully, you will be able to see. Do not bother taking a bus as much of what there is to see lies along the road between the two towns.


Beijing / Chengdu / Dali-Xiaguan / Deqin / Guangzhou / Guilin / Haba-Baishuitai / Hailuogou-Moxi / Hong Kong / Huashan / Kangding-Luding / Kunming / Lijiang / Shanghai / Simatai / Songpan / Suzhou / Tengchong-Baoshan / Tiger Leaping Gorge / Xi'an / Yangshuo / Zhangjiajie-Wulingyuan / Zhongdian

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All text and photographs 1998 - 2006 Gordon Sharpless. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.