Back from the Last Descent of the Great Bend
After eight days rafting and kayaking, our multi-national team of scientists, conservationists and river enthusiasts returned from the last descent of the Great Bend of the Yangtze. Ending the trip was bitter sweet. The sweet: the expedition was a monumental success that combined some of the world’s most aesthetic whitewater and remarkable cultural diversity with scenery that rival’s Yosemite Valley. It showed how something as simple and pure as rafting can bridge a cultural gap defined, in its simplest geographic terms, by the world’s largest ocean. The bitter: knowing that this section of river will soon become a reservoir.
We ran dozens of big-water class IV whitewater; were taught the cultural significance of the Yangtze for the Naxi people (an ethnic minority who live along the Yangtze) from Naxi scholar He Xiaoxun; grasped at the Great Bend’s fascinating geology with geologist’s Pete Winn and Leif Karlstom and learned China’s rafting history from Yang Yong, a Chinese participant in the 86’ first descent of the Yangtze. Dotting the trip were village stays, hours drifting through sculpted limestone gorges and comparisons between the growth of rafting and conservation in the American West during the 50s and 60s to the direction of China’s evolving social and environmental landscape. Per the words of 62-year old international kayaking veteran and trip participant Gordon Bare it was, “the best river trip of my life on one of the world’s best rivers”.
For the next few days, we’ll be hanging out in Lijjang and posting some new media pieces from the Great Bend as well as a couple other interesting tidbits. The attached piece deals with our experiences in and near the conflicts in Tibet. While I was in the city of Deqin, near the border, I met and interviewed a Tibetan monk. Questions were translated from a 24-year old Tibetan from Lhasa who had just graduated university having studied Buddhism and English. The photos from this segment are an amalgamation of photos I shot from the region. The monk and the translator asked for anoniminity. Andy did a great job editing this one together. Listen to an interview with an exiled Tibetan monk.