Adventures in Tibet

George R Stilwell, Jr. grsjr at JUNO.COM
Mon Jul 13 02:13:52 CEST 1998

Ray - many thanks for welcoming me back to the fold. Believe me, it's
great to get back.
I hadn't intended to describe our trip because there wasn't much
Arisaema content but if anyone is interested, read on:

We were a mixed group of professional and amateur
horticulturalists / botanists with a continuing passion for the flora of
south-east Tibet (one American from the Rhododendron Species Foundation,
Seattle). Previous trips have been to the Namcha Barwa and Zayul areas.
This year, unfortunately, the Tsari valley on the border with India was
our destination - unfortunately, because, in the recent escalation of
tension between India and China it was put under martial law just before
we left the UK, permits were invalid and we had to approach it from the
north. Initially we went east along the Tsangpo then headed south to
explore the passes of the Bimbi La and Sur La. I didn't expect many
arisaemas on this approach - too dry and too high - there were only two
species. A. flavum with a good size of yellow 'flag' was very common and
the other had an unremarkable green spathe, leaf with 5 leaflets which I
hope Guy will help to identify. Both grew in semi-shade between 10000
and 13000 feet, sometimes in apparently dust-dry conditions.
The flora of the passes especially the Bimbi La was wonderful -
perhaps I could mention just a few of the many plants that thrilled. On
the summit of the pass at 15000 feet in June the rocks are covered in
mats of the rosy-pink Primula dryadifolia. The choicest primula to my
mind is found under the protection of rocky overhangs - Primula caveana,
delicate lilac flowers and leaves covered in white meal. The screes
under the summit have lots of different colour forms of Primula ioessa
growing amongst the beacons of Rheum nobile and dwarf bulb species such
as Lilium nanum and Fritillaria cirrhosa plus soft little cotton-wool
buns of Saussurea. The meadows around 14000 feet are spectacular -
filled with Primula alpicola and calderiana. Incarvillea lutea was the
plant that most impressed on the walk-in to the Sur La. All things
considered, in the circumstances it was a reasonably successful trip
though the Tsari valley still remains.
A caution - anywhere in s-e Tibet one may be hassled by local
units of the Public Security Bureau and it is as well to go mentally and
financially prepared for this. To the PSB, botanist=spy, why else would
one want to forego the fleshpots of Lhasa and suffer the rigours of that
terrain? - one of our party painted imaginary mountains as a background
to a scene of yak-herders huts and had them washed out of her sketchbook
by the PSB during our interrogation! The low point of the trip came at
the end when the plane from Chengdu was not able to land for two days in
the bad weather (no automatic landing at Gonggar Airport) to take us
back to Nepal.
Anne Chambers>
<GRSJr at>

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