Discusses Tibetan culture and geology
Tibetan village ambiance
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
20 Oct 2000
- 28.4025 98.8111111
- 46:51 - 49:00
Log of DAT #: 13
Date: October 20 - 21, 2000
ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good
21:33 CJ - where were we? Another bone-breaking hike!
21:40 BM - we just hiked up to - right now we are at the summer village of the Ji La and we are having lunch and we are going to head up to the winter village up high on the ridge. But we are about 3,000 feet above the Mekong River it sits in the canyon almost straight down below us. And up to our other side to our right are the high snow peaks of MeLi. It is a bit cloudy, but Kawagabo, the highest peak in the range sits directly above us.
22:16 CJ - So, what are you trying to find out about by coming up here?
BM - some more about to map the ecology, the landscape for biodiversity values (bad wind here) but also some of the cultural values are here with myself as a biologist and 2 anthropologists from Kunming Academy of Social Sciences. And we are going to spend a couple of nights up in the village getting to know the people - their land use patterns, their history, some of their scared sites for practicing Tibetan Buddhism. 22:56
22:57 CJ- What can you say when we look down on this display of mtns and trails and again the floral and fauna - well the flora anyway - I haven't seen much fauna - semm to change quite a bit as soon as we started climbing.
23:14 Yeah, this morning we stayed in the village of Sinong which is close to the river and is very arid, sub-tropical scrub, thorny vegetation climbing up out of the village, and we turn the corner up into this drainage and we got into some really nice kind of mixed forest with pines and deciduous broad leaf trees like maples and oaks. 23:39
23:40 CJ - I would think that with the Mekong right here that people would settle along the river. I mean this is one heck of a stiff hike up the side of a mtn. Why would a people decide that they would want to perch themselves this far up on a mtn?
23:54 BM - I would like to - hopefully we can get at that during the next couple of days. This is really marginal agricultural land. Extremely steep slopes, rocky - but they pull off 2 crops in each field. Wheat or barley in the winter, and then corn during the summer time. But that is a question we hope to answer.
24:19 CJ - and the rest of the time it is ah - yak butter - I can see that they have some goats, and you cansee they have a few sheep up here
24:29 - BM - and bigs of course. Yeah, I am not sure all of the live stocks, but I am sure they have some horses for packing as well as sort of the yak-cow hybrid which is the most common around here and sheep and goats and pigs, and chickens.
CJ - sometimes when you come to a place like this you say you are the first western people they have seen. What kind of reception to you get?
24:53 BM - um, you get used to being stared at - its generally have an audience. People always want to see what you are doing - what you are pulling out of your pack. How you use chop-sticks. I have sort of gotten used to it over the last year.
CJ- do you like it? Being the first one/
25:22 BM- do I like it? (CJ - yeah) it's - it adds an exciting element to it - I have kind of gotten used to it - bc this country just opened up to foreigners less than 10 yrs ago in some areas. And so when you do come up to these remote areas with expeditions - I have been in with both zoology and biology expeditions up into the high valley - away from the main tourist tracks generally you are some of the first foreigners in here, especially since the revolution - the communist revolution in 1949 - that as you heard - as we heard at lunch - there were some botanists in here early part of the century collecting plants, mostly for horticultural exploration in this country.
CJ - and they remember those people from 70-80 yrs ago?
26:18 BM - I bet it is more in the oral history - more than the actually knowledge of these people. Even the Catholic missionaries they talk about. There is a song which is down river about 80 kilos - the French set up a Catholic mission there - that was at the turn of the century. So it is clearly before first hand knowledge that some of these - any of these villagers-
26:46CJ - do you find that people are open and discuss whatever you ask them? I mean, here is this westerner that comes in and they haven't seen anybody the likes of you and start grilling them about their life style - do they ever wonder or say no - I would rather not speak to you?
27:03 BM - um, they are surprisingly open. For instance in the village of Yubeng a couple of days ago they were very open about their burial rituals. Went into great detail about that talked about the destruction of some of the temples during the cultural revolution - they seemed very open about that. I never sensed that they are hesitant. They talk openly about how they use land and hunt animals and what they hunt and when they can hunt and those kind of things 27:42
27:43 CJ- they are remarkably gritty. Tough
27:49 BM- yes, it is a tough livelihood up in this country. Especially here in JiLa. Sinong seemed rather rich in comparison with walnuts and persimmons, and pears -
CJ - up here it is cheese and butter
28:05 BM - cheese and butter - it is definitely a gritty lifestyle up here.
CJ - ok
28:14 ambi in area of interview - talking in bg - no good
the geology of the place:
28:42 BM - yeah, this area is a - unique - there is a unique set of hydrological circumstances that set themselves up in this and it is - and our project name is called the Great Rivers Project. The area is variously called the 3 gorges or the 3 rivers. And what it refers to is these 3 major rivers that all flow very close to each other in these very deep canyons. Just over the Yunling mtns there up to the east is the Yangze River - the upper Yangze River. starts on the Tibetan plateau up in the province of Chinghigh actually and flows across the plateau for a while. And then as it slides off the eastern end of the plateau through the eastern Himalayas it cuts an immense gorge. 30 kilometers to the west which is right below us right now is the Mekong - it does the same thing - it starts up on the plateau - as it comes off the plateau it cuts a deep gorge. Just over these snpw peaks on the other side is the Nujung or the Si-wing - another major Asian river - it does the exactly the same thing, and all 3 of those rivers are w/in 60 miles of each other. The rivers flow at about 6000 to 6500 feet the peaks in btwn are enormous, they go up to 17 and in some cases 22, 23 thousand feet in btwn these rivers canyons. 30:24
30:25 CJ - what happened to the 4th river? I thought that was the - I thought the Yunnan Great Rivers Project was 4 rivers
30:31 BM - there is a smaller river that starts on the border of Tibet, Yunnan and Myanmar - what was Burma. Called the Dulong-jang - the Dulong river - and that flows for a short distance through China and then to Myanmar and then into the Erwade basin which is another huge river that flows into the Indian Ocean and but only a small part of that is in China - it is not a great river in the way that the Mekong or the yangze are great rivers but it is a 4th major drainage that occurs in the project area 31:12
31:13 CJ - and these huge canyons -- some of them a couple of - 10 thousand feet, aren't they?
31;19 BM - Yeah - I worked in Idaho for many yrs and it is a state that is known for its canyons - and I used to think that a 5000 foot canyon slope was a deep canyon. Here 8 to 10 thousand foot canyons are kind of ordinary and where we are standing right now we can look at the summit of Kawagabo at 22300 feet and on our left we look down and see the Mekong river at 6000 feet, and horizontally in btwn that is - is maybe only about 7 horizontal miles with a 16 foot topo relief
32:03 CJ - and all of that has been cut through those rivers - cut through the limestone
32:09 BM right as the mtns uplifted and the rivers cut through
CJ - that is mostly limestone - it is not all
32:15 BM- right- it is a mixture of geology - a lot of it is sedimentary and they were - they all start - all of those big 3 rivers kind of start in separate places on the Tibetan plateau - but they all run very closely together on this end of the Himalayas - they don't flow south into the main crest of the Himalayas into India and Bangladesh, but they sort of flow off eastern edge of it - and for some reason, having to do with the way the crustal structural geology is here they flow very close together in these parallel gorges. And then what is even more extraordinary is when they leave the mtns just south of here - when they flow out of the Himalayas they all diverge and go to separate seas and separate oceans. The yangze flows due east into the yellow sea, the Mekong of course goes through Laos and Cambodia into the South China sea, and the Nujang goes into the Indian Ocean. 33:22
33:23 CJ- that is extraordinary - and it all starts here - thanks!
33:31 BM - more tea?
33:40Ambi in area