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The new suspension bridge links a remote village

arrow From the Fall 2009 issue of American Trails Magazine

 

TIBET: a bridge for the Happy Valley


 

IN TIBETAN, “KYI” MEANS HAPPINESS and joyfulness. “Rong” means small valley, so together “Kyirong” is a happy valley. Also, “Pu” in “Kyi Pu“ has the meaning of “remote village or settlement.” Hence, “Kyi Pu” is a happy and remote village.

photo of kids on water buffalo

Workers extending the bridge section by section, while
suspended over the gorge

On the way to Kyirong, our story begins with the KyiPu Bridge. Simply put, a Foundation was set up and engaged to undertake the formidable task of crossing the raging whitewater in the river, surrounded by steep cliffs and precipices. Under the local villagers’ and the Foundation’s joint efforts, however, they made such a miracle— the successful building of KyiPu Bridge.

The bridge has a length of 60 meters and height of about 250 meters above the water level. Stepping on the wooden planks of the bridge, one hears the torrents of the stream under your feet, a magnificent symphony that seems to have been going on for thousands of years. Clinching the steel cable of the bridge rail, people walk with awe across the deep chasm under their feet. The very existence of the project impresses one with the courage and determination of its constructors.

A man named Lhakpa was a member of the main force to build the bridge and smooth communication in the process. I was honored to travel with him as guide to experience the simple but fantastic mountainous region folklore in KyiPu. The local villagers feel the same sense of sincere gratitude to him. Surrounded by the warm crowds, Lhakpa led us to the village head’s house. They gossiped and confided in him about everyday things. For them, he is a man who really knows a thing or two, as funny as a kaleidoscope, as knowledgeable as the encyclopedia.

map of tibet

The bridge is near the border with Nepal

heir hands and some with big apples in their heavy cloaks. Nothing better than the steaming hot buttered tea in the winter, filled with a local citizen’s warm love.
After the bridge had been finished, two old grandmas in the village assisted by their daughters bravely crossed the soul-stirring bridge. After they became accustomed to crossing the bridge, they could walk several miles to the town to experience the new life there. Every time they crossed the bridge, they were so alert and vigilant in their inspection that they boasted any slight changes in the KyiPu bridge should not escape their eyes. When they got news of Lhakpa’s arrival, the two fussy old ladies told him that four screws were gone from the bridge. Four? Lhakpa clearly remembered his count was only three.

So grandpa and Lhakpa went to check it out. Finally, it proved that old women were right. What eagle eyes!

In company with Lhakpa, that afternoon we received the most courteous Tibetan reception. Holding the highland barley wine in their hands, the elderly of the village gave blessings, mumbling verses of prayer. The pure-white khatags [scarfs] were presented to symbolize good fortune and luck. Butter was stained on our foreheads. I could hear the jubilant hums of streams in the valley. I inhaled the scent of wild flowers in the farmland. After several drinks, we left the carnival crowds and the hamlet village with a slight tipsiness in our walk.

At the edge of the village, we found a few little children waiting at the end of bridge. They clasped hands with Uncle Lhakpa and each one gave a big and fresh apple to their most amiable uncle one by one and then said goodbye. My heart was moved by the sincerity and innocence of the little children.

photo of bridge over deep valley

The village celebrates completion of the new bridge, showing great faith in its strength

This region boasts both distinguished natural resources as well as unique human landscapes. The melt water from
the glacier nurtures a tenacious livelihood. The snowy mountains with lush forest is typical of Kyirong’s beautiful scenery.

With fertile farmland and scattered monasteries, the valley seems a Shangra-La. A trip down the narrow roads brings curves and crossroads and towns and irresponsible pedestrians and straying yaks or pigs and roadside houses that spew forth children chasing balls. Every year from April to June, colorful azaleas blossom and dyes the mountains, a magnificent sea of blooms.

 

photo of Tibetans in native dress

With prayer flags flying, giving thanks for the new bridge

 


Bian Chunlin is a master student of Landscape Architecture in Peking University, Beijing. His main research fields are urban landscape modeling and greenway planning. His friend Yang Xiaotao took the photos and helped with the trip. She majors in tourism management and works in a tourist center in Tibet.

photo of man and misty mountains

Bian Chulin on the trail

 

 

 

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