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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Well, I apologize for my delay in writing, but as I
have been on the road and in remote villages, I have
been unable to send e-mails. I will try to recount my
adventure the best that I can by using my Journal so
hopefully you will get some idea of what it was like.
I will just go ahead and pick up where I left off last
time.

Tuesday:
Tiger Leaping George
Today was a day which words can not really express my
sentiments for. Tiger Leaping George is a place by
which I will always be amazed and inspired. This is
one of those rare places where you can actually see
the glory of our creator manifested on Earth through
one of natures great worldly creations. Our day
started out with a very hearty meal of folded Baba
Bread with a fried egg in between. Our adopted Naxi
mother also made us eat all of our black poridge. The
meal was amazing, and I really can not tell you how
wonderful the Baba bread is. It is one of the most
wonderful delicacies that I have ever tasted. We then
rushed to the bus station and bought our tickets then
wondered around the canals of Lijiang. After awhile,
we got on the bus and started our journey. It was a
very scenic and astonishing route to the George. We
went through many traditional Naxi villages made out
of wood logs and primarily stark red mud bricks. The
villages were perched along the mountains sides. My
favorite things to see were all of the huge conical
stacks of straw that towered above some of the houses.
Some were at least twenty feet high. They were huge
and everywhere. The first place that we stopped was
the first bend of the Yangtzee River. It was very
beautiful, and from this moment forward, I would be
completely amazed. We passed through numerous villages
in the mountains. They were all very tiny and made of
the red mud. On of the neat architectural features of
this area were the silos which looked like very tall
towers made out of the bricks. The stuck up next to
each house along with the huge hay stacks. They were
very beautiful. To give you an u7nderstanding of what
it looked like from the window, I will describe the
area from the bottom up. At the lowest section of the
ground was the Yangtzee River which slowly moved its
way around the Mountain. Along its shores were huge
sand dunes of white powdery sand that looked more like
desert sand dunes that beach dunes. They were very
white and stark. Above the river and dunes, there were
beautiful green hills where farmers had their homes
and fields which were often terraced along the side
ofd the mountains. Above the villages, there were
larger grassy mountains, then jagged mountains on top
of these, and finally there was the huge giant snowy
jade mountain. It was something to behold. Eventually,
we got to the small town of Chowtoe where the bus
dropped us off. We talked with several other people
and decided to share a Taxi to the middle point of the
George. Normally, people would spend eight hours
hiking there, but as I had not fully recovered from
being sick, I was not up to climbing several thousand
feet into the air then hiking eight hours into the
gorge. Either way, my journey was beautiful and also
filled with excitement. When we got to the entrance,
there was actually a horrible traffic jam as the raod
was really barely wide enough for one vehicle more or
less two huge busses trying to get past each other. We
were there for a very long time, but once you got past
the first bend, only treckers would go onto the dirt
path, so it was farley empty. It was also farely scay.
When I looked out the drivers window and could see
several thousand feet down it was a little unnerving.
The road was really barely wide enough for our car to
get around the bends. I would later read that the day
after we left, the entire road collapsed and stranded
many people in the gorge. Other than the tight road,
it was really one of the most stunning places that I
have ever been. I really get misty eyed every time I
think about it as it was truly one of those places
that captures the glory of what our creator has given
to us. It made me feel so small in the world yet
reassured that there was something more. I really just
get choked up thinking about the place. Huge grassy
peaks, snow caped mountains, waterfalls around every
bend, jagged edges, the blue sky, the rapids at the
bottom of the gorge. Oh god, I am breathless now just
thinking about it and trying to imagine it. We
eventually got to the half way point and decided to
hike down. It was a very rough journey, and it made me
realize that I would not have made it on the hike. It
would not have been to bad, but I had my fifty pound
back pack which kept throwing off my balance. It is
not easy to climb down a mountain with something on
your back. The path was very steep but the vistas were
incredible. My favorite part was the several hundred
foot waterfall that emptyed at the bottom of the
gorge. The water was so cold and so clear. We played
on the other side of a large boulder that protected us
from the rapids. Once you clibed to the other side of
the boulder, the rapids were huge and raging, you did
not go neat the edge for fear that you would be swept
in and that would have been the end. The water from
the rapids created a huge mist that cooled you as you
got closer to them. Oh god, it was so refreshing after
such a long hike. We stayed and played then hiked back
up. It was very tough as my throat and chest still
felt a twinge of pain. I think that I ate something
that I did not agree with my body. We finally made it
to the top, and I stopped and rested for awhile. Mr.
who and I bought some ice cream then shared a Taxi
with some people back into Chowtoe. At this point, the
taxi driver told us to wait on the side of the road
and try to catch a bus back to Lijiang. This was
harder than we though. We flagged down several but
they were all full. At this point, we teamed up with a
couple and convinced a minivan to drive us the three
hours back to Lijiang which they agreed to do for only
twenty yuan. The scene was once again amazing with the
river, villages, mountains, and all of the great
sights. We got into Lijiang and at this point, I went
on this huge as shopping and bargening spree as I
wanted a lot of souvineers for everyone. I told Mr.
Who to hold on and he did. At that point, I left
loose. Mr Who had thought that I had gone insane, but
he told me that I was the best barginer that he had
ever seen. Several of the store owners told me the
same thing after I had finished with them. Granted I
had to walk away and be called back several times, but
I got the price that I wanted. I must say that many of
you are going to have some of the most intresting
souvineers that I have ever bought. The sad thing is
that I did not get everything that I wanted as I just
did not have the room. As it was, I had to buy and
extra bag to put everything in. Mr Who and I looked as
if we had simply went crazy as we were each toating
several handfuls of bags. At this point, we went and
bargened for another suitcase, and we went to our
home. We packed everything away then the lady of the
house cooked us some Baba bread, fried eggs, rice
noodles, and a strange type of local sasuage which
wasd a cross between bacon and sasuage. They were all
filling and delicious. Actually, it was more than
either of us could eat.

Wednesday:
Lougu Who Part I

This morning, Mr. Who and I woke up to the sounds of
the birds chirping in the square of our home. They
were very loud but beautiful. I went out to the square
and admired all of the flowers and cobblestone mosaics
which are common in most of the houses. I washed up
and packed my self for the long journey ahead. Today
was a special day for our Naxi family. They were all
wearing armbands which were black and different colors
to symbolize which generation of the family they were
from. Mama Naxi made us a delicious breakfeast of Baba
bread, another local favorite called Arqwie, sasuage,
porridge, and orange juice. Once again, more than we
could eat. I then took a family picture with them, and
we headed out the door. We walked to one of the
hostels in town and caught a minivan for our trip. I
must say that this was one of the most amazing
journeys of my life. I really felt as if I went to one
of the most remote areas of the world today. We drove
a distance of Lake City to Atlanta and only
encountered beautiful mountains and small villages. It
was incredibly. It was one of the few times in a long
time that I have been able to let go of everything,
unclench my teeth, and just relax. When I say that I
was totally calm, I mean that I just let go of
everything. There was no environment to worry about of
crowded cities. No one was cutting down the trees. It
was just beautiful environment in which they people
were trying to live in harmony with it. I was
completely flored and astonished. I have never been
that far without encountering major urban sprawl at
some point. I can not tell you how much good this
journey did for heeling my soul. Of course, I also
understood that I was part of what would be major
development in the area which was a little strange and
I had some mixed emotions, but there was too much to
ponder before I thought long and hard on this. I will
tell many of you that are in anthropology or historic
preservation that there are several dissertation
topics in this area that would make some damn
interesting books. Now on with the trip. The van ride
was a little tight with eight people in the van, but I
insisted on a window seat, and I am glad that I did
now. As we got out of the city, there were many
amazing villages and mountains. Most of the early
villages were Naxi mud brick and built on the sides of
these towering mountains. I just could not imagine how
they built many of the homes. You must understand that
there were no homes along the road which we were on as
it was on another mountains which they could not
access because of the raging river below. If you
looked closely enough, you could see the small trail
that went to their house, and you knew that they did
not get out very often since many of them only had
mules. Some of the houses were simply umbelievable
where they were built several thousand feet into the
air and on the sides of huge mountain peeks. I am
still amazed as I picture them in my mind. As we rode
through the mountains, the driver told us that we had
to go around seven major mountains to get to our
destination. This did not seem like much to me until
you realize how large a mountain is, and when he says
go around the mountain, he litteraly means go around
the mountains as there were no bridges that went
across the huge gorges that were below. Our paves road
eventually turned into cobble stone, and I can not
even begin to describe how amazed I was at this feet.
First, they had literally carved the road out then
they had placed in the stones to keep it from eroding
away. Not all of the parts were cobblestones yet as
many areas were simply dirt. The road was once again
scary as there was really not enough room for one car,
so when we went around the bend, the drive layed on
the horn until we could see the other side. This was a
little annoying as we went around at least five
thousand bends but possibly more. When we did see a
car, the driver would find the widest point in the
road and pull over there will the other car passed,
but luckily we did not pass to many cars. Eventually
as we got deeper into the mountains, the houses became
less mud brick and more log cabins. I was told that we
were entering into the Yee and Mosul ethnic areas. The
frames of the windows were painted green or red. Some
of the log cabins were painted red with yellow trim.
Most had the Chinese tilded roof tops and some of the
doors and windows had beautifully colored ceramic
beads handing in them. We passed many different ethnic
women with their different costumes on working in
their fields or pilling into the back of an old truck
to work in the fields. They were hard to dishtinguish
as there are different minorities but within the goups
the young, married, and old women all have different
ethnic costumes. All are very colorful. The most
impressive were the older Yee minority women who wore
these huge head dresses that were square and black.
They were simply incredible. The square head dresses
literally were three times the sizes of their heads.
They often talked to younger women with beautiful
skirts and long flowing colorful bandanas and blouses.
Other women wore turbans and many different styles of
them. Many men were herding goats on the sides of the
mountains. Damn those things have amazing climbing
ablility. Women carried babies and everything else on
their backs. It was intresting when you would see a
huge stack of straw walking down the street and think.
Hum, how is the moving then when you drive by you see
that there is a little women barried underneath it.
Most women use baskets others just strap it on their
backs and head out up the hill. As we moved further
into the mountains, it was almost all log homes, and
the vistas were stunning. We eventually got into a
huge valley where there was lots of farming going on,
and you would see all of these rice fields and you
wondered where in the hell all of the water was coming
from then say that they had diverted one of the rivers
to flow through their fields. The view was amazing.
Old men and women would go out into the mud fields
barefooted and walk through the mush with their huge
oxen which look like a cross between a cow and a pig.
Mainly because of their skin they look like pigs. I am
sure that this is due to all of the mud that they are
in everyday. The plows were rather interesting. The
men rode them through and over the mud sort of like a
surf board. You could see that it was tough work, but
they looked like they were gliding over the mud as the
oxen pulled them. There were oxen and men plowing
everywhere. I hate to say it, but it was very scenic
and beautiful to me. I know that this is probably
awful of me to say, but I was truly amazed by them the
whole time. As we went further along, most of the
walls were made out of stacked stone or boulders but
some were made out of mud brick, and they were topped
or draped with pine needles or branches. I am not sure
why, but it was rather neat to look at. More of the
straw stacks reappeared and the Yee Minority began to
increase as we pressed forward. We eventually arrived
in a small city that simply came out of no where. It
was not too large and was probably the size of Lake
Citys down town and up town together. We stopped here
and ate lunch. Had some eggplant and these amazing
beans which I mixed with the rice and simply devoured
them. The beans were so delicious. We got on the road
and five minutes later we were out of the city. We
went through many more glorious mountains and villages
that simply can not be described. The log cabins were
everywhere as were the minority women. We drove about
two more hours then finally after out eight hour
excursion, we made it to the lake. We stopped at the
top of the mountain and took several photos of the
scene. Got a few photos of some Yee Women. The driver
then took us to the bottom of the Lake, and we climbed
out and decided to take some huge dugout canoes onto
the water. Seven of us piled into one canoe along with
two paddlers who decided to row us out to one of the
islands. The water was so blue and so clod. It was an
amazing turquoise. Bluer than any spring fed river
that I have ever seen in my life. The lake was very
large, and it reached over three hundred feet in depth
at some points. You could not see all of the sides of
the lake because of its expansiveness. The rowers had
to work very hard to get our dugout canoe to the
island because of the wind and waves. I understand why
the driver gave us all insurance papers before we went
out on the lake. We got to the island, and it was so
exciting. There was a very beautiful Tibetan Temple on
the top of the hill. We climbed up and saw a few monks
reciting their prayers. Their were a few out back who
were in training, and they were going through their
exercises. The temple was the brightest colors that I
have ever seen in my life, and it was simply stunning.
We walked around the island then hopped back in the
canoe and went back to the mainland. At that time, the
driver took us to another part of the lake as he said
that was the red light district. You must understand
that the minorities of this area are part of a
matriarchal society. The women run the clans, and the
have what is called a walking marriage. This means
that they have sex with whoever they want to, but they
do not marry. If they have a child, it is raised by a
woman of the village. They have no father, and the
person who is their father is called their uncle.
Other this I do not know much else as they are a very
secretive society. We learned this from a man a
Canadian Chinese man in the village where we stayed
who was in a walking marriage. We eventually got to
our section of the lake, and it was so cool. It was
like a wild west town. All of the hotels and buisneses
were made out of logs and all looked like huge log
cabins. They were located along the lake. This left a
one lane path for cars to drive between the lake and
the businesses, homes, and hotels. It was quite crazy.
I could open my car door and fall into the lake. There
were pigs and chickens all in the streets, and it was
just amazing. We negotiated out hotel room which was
ridiculously cheap then Mr Who and I set out to the
other side of the Mountain. We hiked up a very long
and windy road then down to the other side until we
got into a little village. I really want to get some
pictures of the traditional log homes. The homes tend
to have a very large courtyard between several
different buildings. Normally four. I am just not sure
what each of the buildings are used for. I know that
one is the house and another a bard, but the others I
simply do not know. I also took pictures of the mud
brick fences that I saw earlier. We walked through the
first village then off in the distance on the side of
the Mountain, I saw another one, and I wanted to try
and get there before sunset. Mr. Who and I set off
across a very large field and walked for about an hor
then up the Mountain. When we got there, everyone
stopped and stared. I felt like I was the first white
person to visit tis village in a very long time. I
took pitures of the houses which were amazing. It was
really something out of the pioneer days. I felt like
I was in a time warm. They were simply amazing, and we
watching the repair some of their homes, and they were
constructing a structure for something. I took a lot
of pictures then Mr. Who and I decided to go before it
got too dark. We got through the field then started up
the dirt road. At some point, a car passed us then
stopped and backed up. It was filled with seven
people, and they wanted to know if we wanted to go
watch the moon rise with them at a party at a horse
ranch. Mr. Who and said sure, so we hopped in. I put
my pack in the truck then all nine of us started over
the mountains. Everyone had someone sitting in their
laps as the car was only made for five people. We
raced around the corners and sped to the horse ranch.
It was quite amazing when we pulled up. It was like
something out of the musical Oklahoma except it had an
Asian flare to it. There were huge horse rinks outside
where they raised Mongolian and Tibetan Horses. The
main house was a red log cabin with a huge court yard.
There were lots of people there, but they invited us
to join them and eat. Mr. Who and I scarfed down some
very spicey food, but we were also very hungry. We
went inside the two entertaining rooms which were very
bright red. In the center of the floors were very huge
pits for building fires. On the walls were huge cattle
skulls and tapestries of the loacals. They also had
many pictures of their horses. It was Asian cowboy. It
was a little crazy. Most of the men were wearing
cowboy hats. One of the girls was wearing a blue jean
cowboy hat with a red kilt, a tan blouse, and some
cowboy boots. It was quite unique to say the least.
They put on an amazing dance show for us. One of the
local bar owners is there, and he is well renowned for
being crazy. He wears these amazing outfits that look
very Apacee to me, but it was his own unique style. He
was from Guanxi, and he apearently does not give a
damn about anyones opinion, so he will do anything. He
put on this gell of a dance which ended in everyone
cheering. We then went out on the porch and watched
the moon rise between the two mountain peeks. It was
incredible. I have never watched the moon rise before.
Everyone then started singing all of these Chinese
songs about the moon which everyone knew. There were
many of them. They then made me sing some songs of the
moon, so I sand when the moon comes over the mountain
for them. They liked it. At this point, we then deiced
to head back into town. With my Mao hat which a girl
let me barrow, I hoped into a jeep, and we raced down
the clay roads through the mountains singing and
having a grand time. The were all singing traditional
songs, and they asked me to sing John Denvers Counrty
roads for which I did. We all started sining it. It
was incredible. We arrived back in town, and everyone
started bar hopping. Mr Who, and I decided to walk
around our little western town. We admired the moon
and sand different songs. His favorite was moon river,
so I sanf that many times, and everyone would just
stop and smile. At some point, we came up on this huge
bonfire with many natives singing and dancing. They
were in their traditional costumes. It was in a small
corrall. The men were in bright colored cowboy hats
and had saches around their wastes. The girls were in
beautiful dresses and wonderfully decorated turbans.
They danced and sand around the fire and asked
everyone to join in. We stayed until the party died
out then went around the rest of lake and admired some
more people. We sang and people would join in if the
knew the song. We eventually wore out and went back to
our hotel room, but most people partied all night. It
was really like a wild western town of the movies. The
people were simply amazing. I have been flored by
today. Nothing can ever compare to the amazement of
this day for me.

Thursday:
Lougu Who Part II

Lougu lake is simply one of the most incredible places
that I have ever been in my life. Mr. Who and I woke
up this morning to the freezing cold air. I did not
notice during the night because of my warm comforter,
but as soon as I crawled from underneath my covers, I
was so cold. I quickly put on my long sleeved shirt in
order to warm up. I then went down stares and washed
up in the very cold water of the lake. Mr. Who and I
then wandered down the street and watched the sun rise
as it glistened over the turquoise waters of the lake.
We climbed to the top of a small Mountain and looked
around. We saw a Tibetan rock shrine where you can
make offerings and it will send them to heaven. The
shrine is made by stacking stones on top of each other
until it becomes somewhat of a cone shape. Many people
write prayers on the rocks and attach prayer flags to
them. Some have little stoves on them to make your
offerings. Saw some women walking around them and
chanting which they carried their little Tibetan
whirly rods that looked like prayer wheels that you
could hold. At this point, we decided to go and have
breakfast. This consisted of rolls and eggs with
thinly sliced cucumbers. There was also something
else, but I did not care for it. We then went back to
the hotel, and the bus driver said that he would give
us until 11:00 to look around, so we took a path
through the mountains to several villages along the
lake. Passed by one lady who had made her own shire
out of a pillar of straw and was burning some
offerings to one God or another. There were prayer
flags tie to small pine trees and that went through
the mountains. We passed by several Tibetan monks who
were walking around the Lake in prayer. It was a very
spiritual place, and I felt very in tune with my
spiritual being at this lake. I had some amazingly
clear visions that I simply can not describe, but most
of my memories and images have been very clear since I
have been in China. They are quite vivid and amazing.
We got to one village and there was somebody living in
a tree that we passed. The top had been slightly cut
out of the tree, and he placed a big pile of hay in
there then had a ladder, so he could climb up in it.
The scene was very unique. I think that it was a monk,
but I can not be for sure. We looked over the lake
then caught a minivan back to Lijiang. The ride was
fantastic with all of the Mountains and scenes. So
many ethnic minorities. Two types wore turbans, but
there were possibly more. Then there the Yee with the
big headdresses that covered them from the sun as they
worked out in the fields. Then their were too many
women who wore different bandanas that I simply could
not tell which group they belonged to. I will never
forget the donkeys, horses, mules, and goats all
roaming free over the mountains and grazing. They were
everywhere if you looked for them. The Oxen primarily
stayed near the streams to keep cool. I can not also
forget the pigs and chickens roaming free in each
village and eating out of the same troughs as one
another. The houses will also be forever implanted in
my memory. I sketched the designs on many of the eves
as they each had their own unique ones. Most were of
fish as that is what Yee means in Chinese, but there
were all sorts of designs on the eves of the houses,
including balls, starts, fruits, gods, and geometrical
shapes. I really can not describe to you how it looks,
you will simply have to see one of my drawings. They
were all very beautiful. I am sure that most were
meant to bring some form of good fortune as that is
what the fish means at least. I also liked the tiled
roofs of the areas. In the center of then they had
these flower designs that were also unique and
incredible. Many of the log homes had red, green, or
yellow trims along the roofs, windows and doors which
made them like beautiful. Some homes were white with a
black and yellow trim those were also a little odd.
Some of the homes had beautifully decorated windows
with wood designs. It was something to behold. All of
the Mountains were equally unique as the villages and
homes. Each was simply incredible and beautiful. Once
again, I people watched and saw many farmers carrying
numerous things along their backs, plowing their
fields, working very hard. The scenese were
incredible. Most homes had corn and peppers handing
around their doors which also looked to be incredible.
Pine cones strung on strings. It was really almost too
much to take in but I tried to see as much as I could.
When everyone else went to sleep, I was hanging my
head out the window trying to understand and grasp
everything. It was just so incredible. I had never
experienced anything like it. After eight hours, we
arrived back in Lijiang. Mr Who and out driver went
and got our bus tickets, and he took us to the bus
station. Mr Who and I ate rice noodles and Baba for
super then we got on the bus headed for Kunming. I was
tired and tried to go to sleep on one of the bunks,
but it was not cooperating to well, but that is
another story for another day. The rest of my
journey diverges from here, and I will explain it
tomorrow. It is late, and I need some sleep. Talk to
you later.
Christopher

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