Next stop was Kangding (康定), the capital of the Garzê Tibetan autonomous prefecture (still in Sichuan province).
Set in a steep valley at the confluence of the raging Zheduo and Yala rivers, Kangding offers an easy introduction to Tibetan culture and elevations above 2,500m.
Kangding has long stood as a trading centre between Tibetan and Han, with sizeable Hui and Qiang minority populations also part of the mix.
From Kangding I hired a minivan with other Chinese to cruise around the eastern Himalaya region, namely Xinduqiao (新都桥) and Tăgong (塔公).
Tăgong is 3718m high with not much to offer except for awesome mountains around, Xinduqiao is quite similar.
We were on the minivan for the whole day from morning to evening and we were climbing mountains (by car), we saw sees, animals, mountains, grasslands and Tibetan monasteries.
Only few people lived in the very high altitudes, but you still wondered, what kind of people would build up a tent in over 4000m altitude and fight against wind, coldness and lack of electricity. Admirable though!
The next stop was Danba (丹巴) in 1,893m altitude (how relaxing for your brain). You might ask, if Danba isn’t up very high, why go? The answer is, that Danba is situated in a beautiful valley next to amazing mountains and hills with Tibetan and Qiang villages with ancient watchtowers.
First of all I had lunch: eggplant in tomato sauce + noodles.
Then I went to Zhonglu (中路), which is 13km north of Danba and offers many watchtower. The Qiang minority built these watchtowers to defend themselves from both the Han Chinese and the Tibetans in the past. Also different Qiang villages were rivaling with each other so the watchtowers with thick walls and small windows and doors were installed due to the constant threat of attack. Each village may have one or more stone towers in the past, and the Himalayan Towers remains a distinctive feature of some Qiang villages, such as Zhonglu.
The watchtowers are still super good preserved and the village seems like it’s still a relic of old times.
Next stop was Litáng, going further south. Stay tuned!