Ganzi and its spectacular mountains

I wake up to a glorious day. The sun is unfiltered by humidity and the only clouds to be seen are a streak of whiteness lingering in front of the rocky peaks, partially screening the snow sprinkled summits and adding depth to the magnificent scene in front of my eyes.

I’m contemplating this magnificent scene from the temple terrace overlooking the cluster of low Tibetan houses grouped at the feet of the knoll. Some blue roofs of corrugated iron stand out amid the traditional houses made of stone and timber. At the verge of the Tibetan town tallish concrete buildings mark the presence of the modern settlement. Further off the town gives way to a colourful patchwork of fields.

To the far left I can spot a cloud of dust over the dirt road I came from yesterday; on the right, the eyes follow the majestic valley that continues up for a long way still towards Chola pass that, at 5050 m, is the highest point crossed by the Sichuan-Tibet highway. An imposing range of rugged peaks border this valley to the left and make an astounding view.


Branches of juniper are burning in a pear-shaped furnace and give out an embalming smoke that perfumes the air. This is part of the morning rites, much as the turning of the wheel which I was invited to join in. The heavy drum spun in a fast whirl and as it had already gathered enough momentum, didn’t need any more pushing. Rather that the wheel, I had to pay attention to myself feeling giddy from turning around.

After appreciating the grandiose countryside around Ganzi from this vantage point, I am even more anxious to explore it. In the afternoon I set out with the intention of walking to Beri Gompa, a monastery quite a long way out of town. I start following the main road, but I remember only after crossing the bridge that I had been told to keep on the old road opposite. However, I reckon the distance is too far too be covered by an afternoon’s walking and besides I don’t feel too keen.

I hitch for a lift and soon a Chinese man picks me up. While he talks about his dream to visit Paris, I catch sight of the shining golden roof of the monastery sitting on a hill with the grandiose backdrop of the incredibly beautiful mountains, a magic vision. I climb up and meet a monk sweeping the courtyard. We greet and exchange a word. From the edge of the terrace, we look down on the river below that draws a curve around the hill. The gaze gets lost in this view. The monk informs me this is not Beri Gompa, but I can easily walk to it over the hanging bridge.

At three pm and without any lunch yet, my stomach is calling. I ask for permission to sit there and eat my food, but the monk takes me up a steep wooden staircase into the dining room with a low table and tapestry cushions around. He pours butter tea and sits in front of me. As we chat, I see into his life unfolding in this paradise of seclusion from the urban world. He hardly ever goes into town, but wanders among the villages to teach Buddhism and visits the destitute countryside households.

He beckons me to come out on the balcony and points to a peak, the highest one, that he looks at in amazement as if it were the first time. I am too dumbfounded by the sheer beauty of these unreachable mountains.

Back in town I meet a French couple, just arrived, that I had already seen in Litang. They are looking for accommodation and I offer to show them around. On the street we are accosted by two boys who offer us a room in their house. We find a cosy clean place, so much better that last night’s hovel that I have no doubt about moving here.