The next morning we asked Jya which direction she recommends for a grassland hike. She said a good one was to walk out of town past Golden Spire Monastery, and then head towards the distant mountain and gleaming roof of Ani Gompa, an enormous nunnery. She also said something about it having a "mani gorge," which bewildered me at the time as I tried to translate from Chinese back into English. Mani stones, carved with Tibetan script, are frequently left in piles or occasionally built into long walls- but what is a mani gorge?
We followed her advice, walking past Golden Spire Monastery and towards the distant mountain, which remained our guide over the 4 hours we would spend hiking:
A few minutes out we had to cross this stream, which was easy enough but extremely cold even in the middle of August:
Beyond that it was just a huge expanse of grassland:
And more grassland:
Occasionally there would be a fence or two that would need hopping, but they all seem to have been built to contain livestock, not to keep people out:
The grass itself:
Finally we arrived, to find a festival in full swing. Tibetans were being dropped off by the tractor-full in front of this tent, where real and fake flows and Tibetan music made the whole place feel surreal after hours of nothing but green grass and blue skies. I tried asking what exactly was going on, but answers would start in Mandarin and then trail off into Kham dialect Tibetan:
The prayer flag vortex and flag covered hill next to the tent:
A wall topped by miniature stupas:
Right up the road from the tent we found the mani gorge. Smaller tents containing craftsmen line the way up to it, where they'll carve and paint prayers into stone. Pilgrims buy these:
And then give them to the temple, whose walls are made of stacked mani stones- I assume this building has been slowly growing up for some time:
Everyone we ran into was extremely friendly, giving the Tibetan greeting of "tashi de-le" if you so much as glance in their direction. By this point we were pretty much beat, though, so we jumped into a truck that whisked us back to town. Recovery from the hike, for me, came in the form of a yak pizza, expertly crafted by the two Tibetan women who run Sally's Cafe.