Danba's Wondrous Watchtowers

From Dege, we boarded a bus making a 24 hour, two day trip to central Sichuan. We passed countless monasteries and picturesque villages, wishing we could get off the bus and stay there. We spent a night in a small bus station hotel, in a room with television for less than 5$. The next day, we loaded back on to the bus before sunrise and arrived to the highway junction in the afternoon. From there we hopped into a minivan, chauffered by China's most annoying driver, to the town of Danba a few hours away. I got praise from two adorable migrant workers who had been on the bus with us since Dege, for telling the minibus driver not to talk on his cellphone while he drove (talking on cellphone while driving is annoying, but usually wouldn't warrant an intervention, but this guy just couldn't do it without pretty much stopping the van in the middle of the highway).

The town of Danba is built along the banks of the Dadu River, and was under major renovation when we arrived. We saw the remains of an obvious landslide. In the afternoon we raced out of town, to a village across the river from Danba. We were greeted by two villagers at the foot of the bridge, collecting a small admission fee from tourists. From there we walked up a dusty path, until we hit a group of four watchtowers, the easiest (and not easy) to get to, among the dozens of them that covered the hillside. The villages are inhabited by the Qiang minority group, whose ancestors built the stone towers to guard their homes hundreds of years ago. Little is actually known about the structures, apparently even by the locals themselves. They stand alongside many of the beautiful Qiang homes, which are architectural wonders in themselves. Yann payed a villager and climbed up to the top of a watchtower, using the rickety wooden logs, steps chopped out of them. We watched the sun set over the river valley, and raced it, as we headed back down to the main road. The next morning we headed out to the villages outside Danba once again, this time we planned to visit those on our side of the river. The watchtowers of this village were way further up, so no villagers stood guarding to collect admission and no other tourists were anywhere to be found. The village homes and fields are carved all the way up the mountainside, we passed dozens of Qiang women making the trip back and forth between their fields and their homes, carrying huge baskets of corn or other crops on their backs. As we weaved up the road along its necessary switchbacks, they used the shortcuts through village yards and forests. Most of the Qiang homes are guarded by stone gates covered in thorns, making it difficult for outsiders to get up the mountain, other than by the main road. At one point we crossed two old men, who pointed us to a small path straight up the mountainside, we were weary to stray from the road, but it seemed that they would be exceedingly disappointed if we didn't follow their advice, so we did. It lead us right to the base of the village's first watchtower. We walked up for almost four hours, still not having reached some of the village's higher inhabitants. It took alot of convincing/whining to get Yann to turn back, he had decided we would walk until we reached the clouds. They were actually hovering around one of the watchtowers up ahead. Our walk through the village, past the Sichuan pepper trees, the quiet streams, crossing the hard-working, smiling villagers left us with a peaceful and relaxing day, despite being a bit of a sweaty one.


2par4 said...


2par4 said...

Sorry...that last post was a test. The comments feature has been a bit wonky.

Anyway, what I was going to say mention there was a tv in the room. Are you watching Chinese tv (local language)? Or you mean they have satelite tv with mucho languages?


mom said...

You two must have legs of steel.