Asia /

Qinghai – Journey to the Stone Mountain

My travels in China were going steadily futher north over the years and this journey across the high, wide and wild grasslands of northern Sichuan and Qinghai was as rewarding as any of the others. Apart from oceans of asters, louseworts and anemones tucked away in a forested valley were the amazing travertine waterfalls of Huanglong and I was lucky enough to have a clear blue sky to reflect on the crystal clear pools. The high passes above had amazing displays of meconoposis with all three colours growing alongside each other, something I encountered regularly during my trip. But for me the highlights were the gorgeous, fragrant regal lilies in the Min Valley and the visits to Stone Mountain and Anyemaqen Shan. These isolated ranges rise abruptly from the grasslands, the former hosting the most impressive Meconopsis lancifolium you will ever see, huge ‘bowls’ of blue bristling with white anthers. My driver Adong and I endured the long trip to Anyemaqen Shan and it was worth every bump and pothole with an impressive glacier snaking down to moraines peppered with Saussurea medusa, the purple flowered jewels of S. wellbyi and the decidedly weird Desideria baiogoinensis. The pair of us ran and jumped about the screes and slopes like excited schoolboys. We didn’t care much either that we didn’t arrive back until well after dark and it summed up Qinghai – a long, but very enjoyable journey across a seldom traversed part of China. Chris Gardner