Explore the Natural Environment of Amdo, Tibet
All visitors to Amdo remark on the beauty of the region. Combined with a strong Tibetan culture, Amdo is an obvious destination for the conscious traveler. Come with us to explore its spectacular natural and cultural history. Amdo, one of the three traditional areas of Tibet, is the home of many important Buddhist lamas and scholars who had a major influence on the religious development of Tibet and, accordingly, contains many great monasteries. Although Amdo covers a large part of present-day Qinghai Province and adjoining parts of Sichuan and Gansu Provinces, we will focus on southern Amdo where these three provinces meet. In this region Tibetans constitute more than 50% of the population, and most speak the Amdo Tibetan dialect. The goal of our journey is to explore the connection between historical and current Tibetan cultural practices and the natural environments and wildlife of Amdo.
Amdo lies on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and our journey will takes us up to elevations between 10,000 and 14,000 feet. Besides its rich cultural heritage, Amdo is blessed with spectacular mountains, stunning lakes, extensive grasslands, abundant wildflowers, impressive wetlands, and stately forests. These natural environments provide habitats for numerous birds, wildlife, and domestic livestock, including lots of yaks. Amdo is a great destination for those interested in traditional Tibetan nomadic culture. Yak and sheep herding remain a vital part of the lives of most Tibetans in this traditional area. We expect to encounter more than 120 species of birds on the plateau, as well as other wildlife, such as pikas and marmots.
Recovering from your flight, we will spend the first day in Chengdu visiting local areas. The following day we will ascend onto the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and head north to Chuanzhausi. We will then explore the Zoige wetlands and grasslands and in Takstang Lhamo learn of efforts to manage and restore nomadic grazing lands. Here we will visit the sacred grove of Kirti Monastery. Heading toward Baiyu, we will make a stop at the wetlands of Gansu Gahai Zecha Nature Reserve wetlands. In Baiyu we will learn of the research and conservation efforts of Lama Tashi Sange, the Bird Monk, and explore the spectacular Nyenbo Yurtze region. Heading back south, we will stop at the town of Ngawa to visit a monastery, nunnery, and Tibetan sky burial site and then travel on to Chengdu.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Please be aware that this journey will spend eight full days at elevations of 10,000 feet or higher. Expect temperature between 32o and 65o F on the plateau; it will be much warmer in Chengdu. Most days, we will spend several hours hiking or walking. Realize that tourist infrastructure is rudimentary in most rural areas. This journey differs from a “normal” birding trip in that we will weave Tibetan culture and conservation into the birding experience. If you would like extend your journey, you have option of adding a three-night trip to Lhasa or other parts of China. Conscious Journeys will be happy to customize an excursion before or after the planned journey.
Arrive in Chengdu and recover. Afternoon walk at Wuhou Temple Park. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan and is famed for its Sichuanese cuisine, especially the hot pot. This is an excellent opportunity for visitors to taste the local flavors of Sichuan.
Morning birds at Chengdu Botanical Garden. Afternoon at Giant Panda Breeding facility. (1,600’). Chengdu is also home to the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where you can view the endangered giant pandas in their natural habitat. The Botanical Garden has big trees and good vegetation for birds. There is a large Tibetan population, which is very much a “little Tibet”. The human population in the area is 14.5 million people, which makes Chengdu the fifth largest city in China.
Chengdu to Chuanzhusi (zhen) drive in morning. Afternoon visit to the Bon monastery. (9,800’). Chuanzhusi(zhen) is a Tibetan town located near Songpan. The town is mostly used as a base-camp for exploring the nearby national parks and Tibetan Villages. As the beginning of our Tibetan Amdo experience, we will visit an old Bon monastery and explore Sino Soviet memorial area as we walk through deep forest to look for birds.
Morning birding at the Army Memorial and along the road to the scenic area. Drive to Zoige town for lunch at Hui Restaurant. Grassland birds and Zoige National Wetland Park after lunch for waterbirds (11,300’). Late afternoon drive to Takstang Lhamo (Langmusi/zhen). (10,900’). Zoige Grasslands and National Wetland Park, also known as Ruoergai Grassland, is the largest alpine peat marsh in the world (411,603 acres), and is one of the three most famous marshes in China. Many small lakes are scattered in green grasslands. Black-necked Cranes can be seen throughout the region, and a boardwalk allows access to the wetlands and lakes with many birds. The developed park is a popular tourist destination. The wetlands provide an important water supply area of upper Yangtze River and Yellow River. With the extensive grasslands, the region provides a glimpse into the traditional, nomadic Tibetan culture.
Morning birds in forest and shrubs at Kirti monastery. Lunch in town. Afternoon free in town and visits to temples. Evening presentation on grasslands, grazing and conservation (Palzang). Takstang Lhamo (Langmusi) is one of the most picturesque towns in the Amdo region of the Tibetan Plateau. Tastsang in Tibetan means “Tiger’s nest” and lies in a beautiful valley surrounded by dense alpine forest and marvelous mountains. There are two larger monasteries in the town, which constitutes about 25% of the population of Langmusi. The Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery was established around the eighth century as a meditation cave and was formally built as a monastery in 1692. There is also a Muslim Hui Mosque near the Kirti monastery. Conscious Journeys local host of Trachung Tsang Eco Lodge and its staff, who focus on grassland restoration and other conservation projects, will take us on a birding hike and share inspiring stories of local people, culture and environment.
Drive from Takstang Lhamo to Baiyu (xiang), stopping for additional waterbirds at Gansu Gahai Zecha Nature Reserve. Lunch along drive, reaching Baiyu for dinner. (12,400’). Takstang Lhamo (Langmusi) is one of the most picturesque towns in the Amdo region of the Tibetan Plateau. Tastsang in Tibetan means “Tiger’s nest” and lies in a beautiful valley surrounded by dense alpine forest and marvelous mountains. There are two larger monasteries in the town, which constitutes about 25% of the population of Langmusi. The Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery was established around the eighth century as a meditation cave and was formally built as a monastery in 1692. There is also a Muslim Hui Mosque near the Kirti monastery. Conscious Journeys local host of Trachung Tsang Eco Lodge and its staff, who focus on grassland restoration and other conservation projects, will take us on a birding hike and share inspiring stories of local people, culture and environment.
Morning birding in valleys east of Baiyu. Afternoon presentation with the Bird Monk to learn of the Nyenbo Yurtse Environmental Protection Association. Visit to Tarthang Monastery in late afternoon. Baiyu is located in Golok Prefecture of Qinghai Province. The Tarthang Monastery is located here and houses more than 400 monks; the monastery has a unique, extensive library. Known as the Bird Monk, Tashi Sange is a Tibetan lama who started the Nyenbo Yurtse Environmental Protection Association. He is known for his unique combination of Buddhism and environmental research for the conservation and understanding of Tibetan birds. The Bird Monk will serve as our local host and will guide us to his field research sites in Nyenbo Yurtse and around Baiyu.
Morning birding to Nygatso Lake in the Nyenbo Yurtse (13,300’). Valley birding and hiking in the afternoon. Mt. Nyenbo Yurtse is home to mountain deities and is considered one of the most sacred mountains for Tibetan Buddhists. The Nyenbo Yurtse mountains are part of the Bayan Khar Range and have 14 peaks that rise above 16,400 feet. This region is home for many of Tibet’s unique animals, including antelope, Snow Leopards, Argali, Blue Sheep and unique birds. With our local contact, we will have a chance to explore areas that are not visited by many tourists.
Drive from Baiyu to Ngawa (Abazhen), stopping for vistas of the Nyenbo Yurtse and passing through Jigdril (Jiuzhi). Stop at the Gomang Monastery outside of Ngawa. (10,800’). Ngawa, known as Aba or Abazhen in Chinese, is a major religious, cultural and trade center in Amdo and is famous for the well-respected Kirti Namgyel Dechen Ling Monastery, among other things. A well-known disciple of Tsongkhapa named Rongpa Chenakpa founded the Ngawa Kriti Monastery in 1472 on the northwestern edge of Ngawa city in Amdo. The monk population at that time was said to be around 2,500 and has declined substantially since then. Ven Kriti Tsenshab Rinpoche is the head Lama of Ngawa Kriti Monastery and is currently living in India.
Morning birding at sky burial site and visit to Dechen Ling Nunnery. Free time in town in afternoon.
Morning departure for long drive to Chengdu.
Day in Chengdu. Dufu Cottage (heronry), other city sites, Tibetan Quarter night vendors.
Depart Chengdu. Arrive back in USA.
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