January 9, 2016
As previously mentioned, altitude sickness hit Alex and I much harder than we ever expected. We thought that by stopping in Kangding (2,560m/8,400ft) for a couple of days, and Daocheng (3,800m/12,400ft) for one that we would be able to keep it at bay. It was only as I was hurling my brains up for the tenth time did I see on the Internet that you’re only supposed to ascend 500 meters a day.
As you can see, we had gone over 1000.
We rearranged with the kindly old couple to go to Shangri-la town (3,000m/9,800ft) the day after originally planned. To help us back to health they gave us some sort of root to put in our water. The old man kept gesturing to his head. I think I was meant to understand that it helps with headaches. I was more concerned about if I would ever want to eat food again…
Alas, the morning came along with our driver, who was a bear of a Tibetan man. He wore all black, stood well above the others, but had rather a baby face. He was very good natured about my poor Chinese, and would throw out an English “yes” every now and again.
He kept explaining to us that it would cost 50 yuan a person, and that he had to get four more passengers, as Alex and I were the first two of six. A little flock of drivers stood on the street corner yelling various locations at those passing by. The noise grew louder for anyone with a suitcase, backpack, or even a briefcase. The morning wore on and as other vans filled up we quickly realized that our driver lacked something the others had because their vans were filling up and heading out one by one.
We spent three hours waiting. Finally two other girls decided they needed to go the same way and got in the van. In the end it cost a little more than 50 yuan, but after waiting so long in the cold we were getting close to walking, so whatever it took.
Compared to everything we have been through the ride was short and uneventful. Our driver took us straight to the main office for the Yading Nature Reserve where we bought tickets for the next day.
Now, to find a place to stay for the night…because like in Daocheng, everything looked unsettlingly closed.
For those of you who might not be backpackers, travelers, or anything akin to that, not knowing where you’re going to sleep is pretty normal. You kinda just roll into town and hope for the best sometimes. Other times, you hope that there is a town…
We walked up and down the street asking for hotels, guest houses, hostels, anything really. The locals pointed us in various directions saying yes there is one, or no there isn’t until we asked a man who just told us to follow him.
We did. It’s not like it’s the first time.
He rounded up some horses, and led them (and us) up the hill. We (and the horses) were passed off onto another man who had two children with him. Like that we walked for 20 minutes: a man leading two horses, two children, and two weary foreigners. In that moment he seemed like Noah, and all I could do was hope that the ark was close.
So many of the Tibetan homes out here seem to have hotel-like accommodations attached to them, and this man was no different. He offered us a room and then brought us inside to eat. I have never seen such a beautiful home in all of my life. I promise you, western mansions have nothing on the intricate detail within a Tibetan house.
After timidly feeding our still unsettled stomachs, we went back outside. The sun felt wonderful after the chill of the morning. On a whim we got out the deck of playing cards we had bought in Kangding, and taught the little girl how to play Go Fish. A few games passed and her brother decided he wanted to try. They beat us pretty bad!
We were then taken on a tour by the children through the surrounding area, saw their school, and met some of their friends. Once back at their house we were taken inside for another meal, which we did not eat with the family. They served us separately, which was alright with me because my stomach still was not cooperating.
The little meal turned into just playing with the kids, which progressed into an English lesson on 1,2,3’s and A,B,C’s, and finally ended with the girl teaching me Tibetan from her school books.
Despite the lingering nausea, I think being with the family was the pick-me-up I needed. The kids are fun, and the family accommodating, especially considering the fact that it is offseason. Tomorrow leave once again for the place I have been longing to go for months now. My own little Everest: Yading.
Until next time!