13. November 2015
After some bargaining with a minivan driver – after waiting for two hours there still was only one other person, a monk, wanting to go to Tăgōng – and a short drive of two hours I finally reached my next destination. Tăgōng only has a population of 9000, but is a place definitely worth visiting. The village itself is a really calm place and it was nice to just stroll along the main street, watching the local population which is almost exclusively Tibetan.
The altitude change from Kāngdìng was quite big – Tăgōng is 3700 meters above sea level – but one does not really have a choice if one wants to travel from Chéngdū to western Sìchūan, since there are not that many places along that way. Fortunately I had already acclimatized well enough and did not experience any problems, even while hiking.
Just after I had arrived and stored my backpack in the hostel, I went off again to climb a nearby hill to enjoy the last few hours of sunlight for that day. Passing dozens of Yaks I finally reached the peak at approximately 4000 meters. The air at this altitude was incredibly clear and even the distant mountains could be seen without any blur. No noise disturbed the magnificient panorama, either, and so I sat down for some minutes, just breathing the thin air and enjoying the calmness of this place, seemingly so far from the bustling cities China is more known for.
Having not much time left until sunset I finally descended to Tăgōng again. For dinner I went to the small cafe/restaurant in the center of the town, which was owned by Max, a guy from Czech, who had settled down here some years ago, taking over the business from the previous owners. Not having much choice, all foreigners – mostly Israelian travellers and a German/Chinese couple – had gathered here.
The next morning I got up early enough too catch the first sunlight. Walking along the main street I watched the crowds of dogs, pigs and the occasionaly humans to cross the street nearly undisturbed by any traffic.
A bit later I returned to the cafe to wait for two Israelean girls and the Chinese/German couple. Last night we had decided to meet here to go hiking together after some breakfast. While I was waiting, Max joined me and told me a bit about this place in general. The dogs, he mentioned, have becoming more and more of a problem. Originally there had been almost none, but some people kept feeding them. Now there was not only a lot of barking every nights from the stray dogs fighting for their territory, but the dogs are in progress of becoming a danger to the unwary. Just a short time ago they even attacked – and killed – an adult horse.
Since the people here were strict buddhists, no animals would be killed or held in captivity. While there was some Yak meat available, it was only from animals which had an accident, Max had told us. Of course the same would not hold true for other areas. Around Kāngdìng, he told, the people would happily slaughter Yaks for their meat.
After everyone had arrived and had some breakfast, we headed of to hike over the high grasslands to a nearby nunnery. Walking past herds of Yaks again, we arrived at our first stop after a few kilometers, a very new monastery complex. The amount of monasteries for such a small population in this area is astonishing and deepens the impression of this area still being pure, spirtual, nearly untouched from the worldly ways of China.
This feeling deepened soon afterwards as we arrived at our destination for the day. Even though traces of the modern world, like cars and smartphones, could still be found everywhere, it felt like being sent back in time. We were warmly welcomed at the nunnery and shown around while a nun explained with a gentle smile the things we saw.
Glad having been able to visit this place, we eventually headed back to Tagong. Since it was still early in the afternoon when we arrived there and I still felt quite fresh, I decided to continue hiking a bit more. With no clear destination, I began to climb again a nearby hill with a great view over the village. Continuing from there I wandered over the hill ridges in a big half circle.
With the nearing sunset the Yak herds were to be brought back to their homes. A young boy of maybe ten years jumped and shouted behind dozens of these big mammals. And indeed, the Yaks started to jump and run a bit the boy running after them, creating a truly bizarre image.
With a smile I continued my hike. It was already getting dark and still some kilometers back to Tagong. Luckily two local teenagers on their motorbike stopped and offered me a ride back, which I gladly accepted.