Photographers' Blog

Tibetan mountain spirits

 

Every summer the green hills of Rebkong are home to unique celebrations during which local Tibetans believe the mountain gods visit villagers -- and each other -- through human mediums.

Reuters photographer Christina Hu documents the celebrations in the multimedia presentation above. To read the full story click here.

Monks of the Namo Monastery – Audio slideshow

Click here or on the image above to view an audio slideshow from the Namo Monastery.

Tibetan prayers: Audio slideshow

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A five day prayer meeting is temporarily held at a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province. Monks blessed sweets, fruit and biscuits then distributed to the worshipers, who scrambled to get them.

Click here to view an audio slideshow.

Stuck at the base of Everest

Day 8 – After travelling 4 days from Lhasa Airport, and spending 4 days at 5200 metres, we are all feeling the effects of altitude but mostly suffering from frustration at the lack of information about the Olympic torch. Mark Chisolm, Reuters Cameraman and Producer, Nick Mulvenney, Reuters Correspondent and myself travelled from Beijing on April 25 to Tibet to cover the Olympic torch’s ascent of Mount Everest.       We are currently at a make-shift press centre located near Everest Base Camp. Facilities consist of an extremely good media centre, with amazingly fast internet, a press conference room, that doesn’t provide the media with any information (but I will get onto that later), small basic cabins that offer fairly comfortable beds but are just plain freezing, a dining room with excellent food, and last but certainly not least, the toilet block. Oh wow!! I cannot even begin the try and find the words… so I will leave it at that.

 Reuters staffers

Mountainmen Chisholm, Gray and Mulvenney.

The altitude is a major factor in everything we do. It affects each person differently. Some have a very low percentage of oxygen in their bloodstream, some have a very high heart-rate, some get high blood pressure, many get severe headaches, others stomach problems. But all get breathless after walking just 20 metres and all are very tired. But the effects of altitude are not consistent, and even somebody who has travelled frequently to and from high altitude react differently each time. So the fact that the three of us have managed to feel ok after our schedule of travelling from Beijing, situated at a height of just 50 metres above sea level, to Everest Base Camp at a height of 5200 metres in just 4 days, does make us feel like we have achieved something, even before we have produced any stories. But this is not to say we are in the clear. Acute altitude sickness can hit anytime, even once you are back at normal levels, so we are extremely wary of this achievement.

The days consist of walking around the 500 metre cordon we seem to have been restricted to. Chinese Border Police keep a watch on our moves from several vantage points along the road and surrounding hills. I like to watch the changing weather patterns on the peak of Everest, but you cannot keep photographing it every hour – the weather might change but its shape doesn’t.

The World’s Worst Road……UPDATE 1!!!!!

     Well……..I don’t believe it!!! It’s happened. If you’ve read my last blog, ‘The Road West of Kangding’ you know that I called that particular road ‘the worst road in the world’. Well….guess what….there is much worse.

     Travelling with Chris Buckley, Reuters Beijing-base correspondent, we flew to Chengdu in Sichuan Province in China’s south-west to try and get into areas where we had heard that violent demonstrations regarding Tibet had occurred. The reports stated that buildings had been damaged, thousands of riot police and soliders had been deployed, hundreds of local Tibetans had been arrested and Buddhist temples were surrounded. So with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao telling the world that such troubles were over less than a week after these reports, and there were no independent witnesses to verify this, we wanted to find out.

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     We decided to travel on a local bus north-east from Chengdu to the city of Mianyang, from where we would decide what to do next. Looking back, we should have realised that the number of police roadblocks we saw, just going that far, was an indication of what we would encounter over the next few days.

The Road West from Kangding

If someone had asked me just a few days ago what the worst road I could imagine in the world would be like, I would have told them probably a mountain road with lots and lots of rocks and pot-holes. Well, little did I imagine that these elements would combine with two mountain passes of around 4000 metres, vertical drops off the sides of around 500 metres, snow, ice and to top it all off, local police telling you that you cannot get to where you want to go.
The area is Sichuan Province in south-western China. The town is Kangding, located around 400 kilometres west of the capital Chengdu. The road leads west, towards Tibet. I am trying to cover the story about the violence that has spread into the province following the rioting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14. In order to find out what is going on, myself and text journalist John Ruwitch needed to get to another town called Litang, some 400 kilometres west of Kangding, where there were reports of trouble last week.

On the bus

John Ruwitch and I in front of the local bus we got taken off by police.

So we got on a local bus at 6.30am, ready for an 8 hour trip. Well, before we even leave the terminal, we were asked to get off by two local policemen. ‘Where are you going?’. Well, since the bus had the name of the town written on the windscreen directly behind where John and I were standing, we pointed to it. ‘Why are you going?’. John explained very simply in his excellent Chinese ‘Because we hear it is very beautiful’. That seemed to be a good answer, and we were allowed to get back on.
The bus started off some three minutes after the scheduled departure time of 7a.m. due to our little chat with the local constabulary, and no more than one kilometre down the road, the bus was stopped again. Another two policeman got on the bus, and again we were asked to get off. ‘Where are u going?’ was the question once more. Same answer. ‘Why are you going?’ Same answer again. And to our surprise after a 20 minute delay this time, which the locals on the bus were not at all pleased about, we got back on the bus and once more started our journey.
The road started off just fine. Winding up the first mountain pass (this one was only 3800 metres-high) the snow from the previous night gave everything the look of being wrapped in a beautiful white blanket. And when the sun rose, the gorgeous morning light added a warm glow to an already pristine scene.
We got 100 kilometres from Kangding. All good.
150 kilometres, all good.
At 200 kilometres, a local official was at a toilet stop. He looked at the bus, but did not get onboard. On we went.
250 kilometres, we continued west.

Water closet

The water closet along the road, and trust me, you don’t want to go inside…

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