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Photo courtesy of Daniel Winkler

Photo courtesy of Daniel Winkler

Photo courtesy of Daniel Winkler


A Journey in Western Sichuan & Tibet for Plant Enthusiasts

June 27-July 13, 2010

The Tibetan Plateau has for centuries been a place of fascination for Western naturalists and explorers. Expansive grasslands in the eastern part nurture some of the richest alpine plant communities in the world. High basins further west support domestic yak and timid herds of wild ungulates like Tibetan gazelle and their predators, the Tibetan wolf and snow leopard.

The Tibetan highlands—beyond the Himalaya range and west of Sichuan’s panda country— form a resplendent tapestry of rolling hills, meadows, lakes surprisingly large and often a sky of deep blue with endless puffy clouds. Local people still accompany their herds of yak, camping in traditional tents of canvas and felt. Birders and plant enthusiasts tend to be well-rewarded for their efforts.

The vast meadows of the Tibetan Plateau support a wonderfully varied mix of grasses and wildflowers. The diverse community of grasses and sedges include members of the Agropyron, Bromus, Carex, Kobresia, and Stipa genera. Wildflowers include cinquefoils, gentians, louseworts, primroses, and poppies (Meconopsis). Willows and small-leaved rhododendrons inhabit moist spots in the meadows, and colorful alpine species such as Arenaria, Androsace, Sauserrea, and saxifrages occur in high, cold habitats on the plateau.

Our itinerary begins with an introduction to the fascinating city of Chengdu including the giant panda breeding center. We will then visit China’s spectacular Jiuzhaigou National Park. We then begin our overland journey through the eastern part of Tibet (actually situated today in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai). We will cross the Ruoergai grasslands and its extensive wetland areas, including a high elevation nature reserve that provides breeding habitat for Greylag Geese and rare Black-necked Cranes. We will make many stops for botanizing en route. We will also visit Labrang Monastery, an important center of Tibetan Buddhist Learning.

From Xining, we will take the overnight train across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa, historic center of the Tibetan world and currently the capital of the “Tibetan Autonomous Region.” Lhasa has numerous sacred sites, each with distinctive esoteric rituals, colorful iconography and profound spiritual significance to the Tibetan people. These include Jhorkang Temple, a destination for pilgrims from all over Tibet, the Potala, winter palace of the Dalai Lama, and Ganden Monastery situated dramatically on a ridge that overlooks the upper reaches of the Lhasa Valley.

$4,395 + air.

Brochure (Requires an Adobe pdf reader to view)


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