Tibet Stories and Tips

Lake Draksum tso (Basongtso) and the hunt for mushrooms

The oldest Cypress tree in China Photo, Tibet, China

Day 11
We left Nyingchi town after a peaceful night. For once, we were not kept awake by karaoka crooners till the wee hours. Our first stop was to see the "greatest cypress in China", it is over 50 meters tall, 5.8 meters wide and about 2,500 years old. Colourful prayer flags surround the tree, a stone inscribed with the facts of the tree stood before the tree. Tourists took turns to take photos of the stone with the tree behind. We did a little kora around the tree and left soon after for Basongtso (Basong lake), approximately a 2 hour drive.

Basongtso is an alpine lake at the middle and upper reaches of the Ba River (the largest tributary of the Niyang River). The lake surface is on average about 3,538 meters above sea level and covers an area of 25.9 square kilometers. This emerald lake is also considered a sacred lake by the Tibetans.

From the car park, we climbed down a flight of stairs leading to the lake. The main attraction here besides the lake is the islet of Tsodzong in the middle of the lake. A sturdy floating wooden path connects the islet to the mainland. There we explored the 17th century monastery of the Yellow Sect with the temple managed by nuns only.

We followed the pilgrims’ circuit; from the temple, we walked clockwise, passing a 2-1 tree, a combination of cypress and cherry, a rock from the Shitavana burial ground with the imprint of the body Ling Gesar, the stone paw of the tigress said to have leapt down from the mountains and landed there in a single bound, more stone prints of Sangye Lingpa, the tree with magic leaves (said to have naturally inscribed seed-syllables and animal year signs), a stone snake, a Tashi Obar stupa and finally a white stone that represents the mistress of the lake. *Phew* All this in a little islet.

On the distant shore of the lake, look out for four prominent snow peaks: Mount Aa Jomo Taktse (5963m) to the northwest, Mount Namla Karpo (6750m) to the north, Mount Naphu Gomri (5663m) to the northeast and Mount Darchenri to the east.

Since it was an exceptionally good day, we decided to take a 1 hour cruise round the lake too. For 90 RMB per person (after negotiation by our driver), we sped off to the opposite shore of the lake. There, we alighted into a shaded cove. Following a stone-lined path, we hiked upwards and soon came across a clear waterfall roaring its way down towards the lake. The place was densely forested with wild flowers blooming where the light pierced through and brightly coloured mushrooms dotting the ground. Near the top of the waterfall was a little cave with the deity of fertility. Those seeking to concieve offer their prayers here.

Back to the opposite shore, we made our way back to our chalet located within walking distance and was greeted with a beautiful rainbow streaking across the lake. What a way to end the day.

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