Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve

Jiuzhaigou was easily the aesthetic highlight of our trip to Sichuan. It takes a special level of picturesqueness to make people think that somehow, someone has photoshopped real life. I'm not sure what that says about the world we live in, and the generation I come from, but when you stand in front of these lakes and waterfalls and valleys, you feel like you've floated into some kind of surrealist dreamland. The colours are like an oversaturated 1950's television. They also don't make sense. 

Most landscapes I have ever seen follow some kind of colour scheme. Either it's the dark green pines with rich brown earth and a plethora of squishy moss which is a mix between the two. Or it's the bright blue sky of Australia with bright green grass and brightly coloured flowers. Or it might be the dull grey tones of the bush in winter, when everything seems to be covered in a wash of dust and dormancy. I had always thought that landscapes had specific palettes. Jiuzhaigou shattered this preconception.

To begin, you are allmost assaulted by how white the snow is. The purest and brightest I have ever seen, no doubt. It blankets what it chooses to, and leaves you with amazing focus points, as if the panorama was a blank sheet of paper which had only certain things in certain places drawn on it. Shin-length wheat-like grass covered a wondrous expanse of flat land, and was the colour of golden dreams. The richness of the yellowy blades was straight out of an Anne of Green Gables paperback cover - the straw on her hat. This grass came to an abrupt halt at the edge of a bed of silvery rocks and pebbles. Look at the shiny lead in the core of a pencil, and you would see the rain-slicked rocks at the edge of the lake. They clashed horribly with the warmth of the grass, but you almost don't have time to ponder it before your eyes are drawn to the next clash - the vast dark green pine forest blanketing the mountains. A green so rich and dark with prosperity and fullness that it is almost black. Straight from the Swiss Alps, my northern European friends remind me. Yet the forest is here, in the middle of China, next to fields from Canada and rocks from English marshland... and a lake. A lake that could only be from the imagination of a pixie on LSD.

The blue is mesmerising. If it were in the eyes of a young man, you would fall in love. If it were an alcohol we would all be drunkards. If it was paint your house would be no other colour, and if it were an emotion it would undoubtedly be incredulation. As a song, it would only be sung by sirens, as a meal it would be your last request before certain death. With a visible yet immesurable depth, the corpses of massive trees lay on it's bed, their leafless branches reaching up to you as if frozen in ecstatic screams. Covered in a kind of white death, the trunks are bigger than cars - like trophies the lake will keep forever as a testament to it's sheer enormity.

Not much can be said when you are standing on the edge of such a lake. You become almost numbed to the hundreds of tourists pushing past.The cold biting at your face is somehow forgotten, the ache in your climb-weary legs is pushed aside. It's difficult to speak because, for one of the first times in your life, there is nothing that needs to be said. What can be seen speaks for itself. A thousand times over.

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