Po Chu Gorge

Uppermost Po Chu Gorge - J.H. Wittke


For the rest of the trip, Mr. He is very reluctant to stop, worried about last stretch of road to Zhangmu. This is most unfortunate because the geology is spectacular. We drive thought the high Himalayas, which as dominated by high-grade metamorphic rocks, gradually moving out of the mountains' rain shadow. Crossing a high pass, we enter the upper reaches of the Po Chu river gorge.

Village in Upper Po Chu Gorge - J.H. Wittke


The outcrops we do stop at consist of tourmaline garnet leucogranites and augen gneiss. As we move southward along the gorge, the vegetation becomes more abundant and verdent.

Lower Po Chu Gorge - J.H. Wittke


The road snakes along a precipitous gorge as it makes its way to Zhangmu. In places the roadbed has slipped away, leaving crescent-shaped bites in the pavement. The drop is terrifying, but the scenery is magnificent with waterfalls cascading down the vertical sides of the gorge. Over a distance of tens of kilometers, the climate has changed dramatically. The leaves of the abundant foliage glisten with moisture. The damp air is a wonderful contrast to the dust and aridity of the upper gorge and a dramatic demonstration of the magnitude of the Himalayan rain shadow.

Zhangmu - J.H. Wittke


The town of Zhangmu is built on an old landslide that produced a break in the steep walls of the gorge. The road twists through town in a series of tight switchbacks. It appears that an earthquake could send the entire place down into the gorge. The floors of the hotel have large cracks that are evidence that the building is constructed upon a gradually slumping slope.

The following morning, we awake to a downpour. Rain has flooded the hotel lobby. We climb into the back of a truck covered with a tarp, for a crowded damp ride to the border. Those in front sit on the piled luggage, but have no view and poor ventilation. Those in back stand, clinging to the metal frame supporting the canvas roof. I am one of the latter, and peer out the back of the truck into the rain, while being gassed by exhaust. Mr. He and Professor Lin stand waving from the checkpoint at our departing truck.


Free Tibet!