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  • Writer's pictureTim Morch

The Sacred Waterfall - Yunnan, China

My trekking companion was down for the day. Yesterday’s hike left its mark, literally, in the form of blisters. The result was a fit young man reduced to whining and complaining. I left him early to wallow in the pain of his proud army boots, but not before unloading several sarcastic snipes. I wanted to explore the valley below and hike to "Shenpu", the Sacred Waterfall.

The endless view from the guesthouse perched above the Yubong Valley invited discovery. Framed by the Meili Snow Mountains with thirteen peaks over 6,000m, natures wide-screen programming was at its finest Clouds floated aloft, obscuring snowcapped peaks. The contrasting sky with the intense blue only found at altitude appeared endless.

Thigh muscles screamed in protest as I descended the switchback path. Crossing a narrow stream of cold glacial water, the sharp climb to the valley woke up the other muscle groups. The footpath across the valley passed the front of most homes in this tiny community. Friendly villagers call "hello" enthusiastically. Dwellings here have a magnificent view up two valleys including the peak of Sacred Mount Wagebo. For Tibetan Buddhists, the majority of the population in this rural corner of Yunnan Province, the mountain is among the most sacred.

A woman I met earlier asked if she might join me. She was a tour guide and her clients were taking the day off. FeiFei spoke the language and understood Tibetan culture. Approaching a new temple, she explained that passing must be completed clockwise according to Tibetan custom. Circling the bright white temple in the correct direction, we followed the trail to a gentle stream. The rocky bed was filled with stone cairns left as offerings by pilgrims. Tibetan prayer flags were strung about the pine forest. Money, photos and identification cards were among the most common offerings distributed liberally.

The huge pines are eventually replaced by bush. Further, there is only rock. The track winds upward to the base of "Shenpu". The steady flow of water is often caught in the strong updraft and never reaches the rock 30m below. FeiFei explained the belief that if you stand below the waterfall and no water touches you, good luck will follow. Unfortunately, she then admitted she couldn’t remember if it might not be the opposite, but the idea was there. I remained dry and was unsure if I was to be blessed or cursed in the future. None of that mattered, I was blessed to have visited "Shenpu".

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