The trails less travelled: four trips into the mountains
The drive from the Tibetan city of Lhasa to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas is “a contender for the world’s ultimate car journey”, says Sadie Whitelocks in the Daily Mail. The road is 283 miles long, takes you from an elevation of 11,994ft to 17,060ft and stretches past “epic glaciers, tumbling rivers and between dramatic mountain peaks”.
The drive is “breathtaking”. From Lhasa it takes about five hours to get to the city of Shigatse. Here you may enjoy an overnight pit stop, as there are then 150 more miles to go to the small town of New Tingri. The way is “peppered with small communities”. After a few days of driving, Whitelocks reached her destination and looked upon the 29,028ft peak. “I got out of the van feeling on a high in every sense.”
Living with shepherds in India
“Ehh! Oooowey!” The lilting cry echoes across the mountainside and the sheep stir themselves and follow, recalls Juliet Rix in The Daily Telegraph. Calling them is Chandra Singh, leader of the anwal, the last remaining migrating shepherds of the Indian Himalayas. Standing on a steep mountainside above the village of Supi in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, Rix is surrounded by mountains and rivers. It’s the first stop on a week-long migration with tour operator Village Ways.
Beneath lie “narrow terraced fields of yellow-green wheat and barley, vegetable patches, and traditional houses of stone and clay”. Each spring, families in the area entrust their sheep to the anwal. As it gets warmer, the grass on the lower slopes becomes dry, and the animals have to go to higher pasture. The dryness follows them until the anwal set off to migrate to the glaciers “where receding snow leaves rich grass throughout the summer”. With Village Ways, travellers can join them in walking from village to village, sleeping in traditional homes and eating vegetarian Indian food. “Exceptionally good, I soon discover.”
Endless possibilities in Bolivia
At almost 15,500ft above sea level, in the final camp of our six-day trek through Bolivia’s Cordillera Real, “we had sweeping views of snow fields and glaciers that dropped into the wide valley where we’d slept”, says Jen Rose Smith on CNN. During Smith’s trip to the mountain range in the cold spring, the sun had left the ice untouched. The Cordillera Real, however, “is far from frozen in time, and climate change has already begun to transform Bolivia’s mountains”.
For now, though, the snow and ice remain in the Cordillera Real, where some peaks are higher 21,000ft. It is “a landscape of dramatic beauty just a few hours from downtown La Paz, and one that holds endless possibilities for adventurous travellers”. But unlike in neighbouring Peru, where the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hosts around 500 hikers and guides per day, the trails in the Cordillera Real are almost free of visitors. Indeed, among the high peaks and alpine lakes of the Cordillera Real, hikers will find “far more llamas than people” (pictured above).
A sacred site of ecological splendour
The “other-worldly” peak of Fanjingshan in China’s Wuling mountain range was recently named a Unesco World Heritage site, says Greg Dickinson in The Daily Telegraph. The addition means that China now has 13 natural heritage sites – more than anywhere else in the world.
And there are many reasons to visit the “finger-like peak” – first and foremost, for its “ecological splendour”. The mountain range is known as “the gene database of China” thanks to its rich biodiversity. The region has 2,000 types of plants as well as 19 threatened animal species. Fanjingshan, which means “Buddhist tranquillity” in Chinese, has also long been a sacred site for Buddhists. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), almost 50 temples were built here, many of which have since been destroyed. The ones that remain have become important pilgrimage sites for Buddhist worshippers. For others, a main reason to visit Fanjingshan is “the superlative views” from the summit. “Or rather, summits – there are three up here.”
This article was originally published in MoneyWeek