Step 4: Litang and Northward

January 12, 2016

Alex: “What do you get when you have a monk, a baby, and two white people in a car?”


Alex: “A good story!”

Presently we’re in a car again. On the road to Ganzi. I actually had a student in one of my classes from Ganzi, but that is aside the point. Before we ended up in this car we spent a day and a half in Litang (4050m/13,000ft), but it felt like a week.   

Our driver who picked us up from Yading had Alex and I stay a night in Daocheng, and the next morning took us to Litang. His driving left much to be desired, and we arrived looking a bit harassed. It didn’t help that the first people we encountered upon our arrival were from the flock of drivers shouting new destinations: Kangding, Shangri-la, Chengdu, Ganzi! They wouldn’t take the fact that we wanted to be in Litang as an answer. Fortunately, we had arranged for accommodations the day before, and the woman had said she would pick us up. 

So we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until we were too hungry to wait anymore, and tired of being hustled by the group of drivers. So we set off for the Tiān Tiān restaurant mentioned in the Lonely Planet. Mr. Zheng, the smiling owner of the restaurant, seemed very pleased to see foreigners in the middle of the dead season and chatted with us over our food. 

Eager to tell us what to do while in town he mentioned the Tibetsn Sky Burial ceremony. Intrigued we listened, as he told us we might be able to attend one the next day. I only knew a little of the ceremony, but had heard that we needed an invitation from a Tibetan person. I suppose Mr. Zheng’s insistence was the same thing.

Finally, we were picked up from the restaurant and taken to the most comfortable place yet! Owned by a Tibetan woman named Meidok and her family, the LiTang Babao Youth Inn was a pleasant mixture of eccentric and traditional Tibetan design. Furthermore, she kept it impossibly clean. Even in our 8-bed dorm, the heated bedding had a subtle smell of freshness. The two nights we stayed she made us soup, and made sure we lacked nothing. We were able to do laundry, and even bathe.  

However, it is winter here and all of the pipes are frozen solid so we could not bathe at the hotel. We did discover the magic of the hot springs. Not having showered in longer than either of us was willing to admit, we treated it like an event. We spent two hours of our afternoon washing and rewashing off days of grime. Furthermore, it was the first reprieve we had from the all encompassing cold up here on the Roof of the World.

Long story short, we felt like new people after that experience. 

Our second day in Litang began at 7:30 with witnessing a Sky Burial (which deserves its own post), and passed calmly without an agenda. There is something altogether blissful about not having an agenda, not worrying about where you will sleep that night, not having to bargain with the minibus drivers. We were able to just lounge around writing in the sun, walk down to visit Mr. Zheng for lunch again, do a little shopping, and go explore the hillside. Our time in Litang felt so much longer than it was.

Then this morning we were picked up by our driver at 7:30 sharp – thirty minutes early actually – and now we are once again winding through the mountains northward to Ganzi.

Only three days left of gallivanting across the Tibetan Plateau, and six until I’m back in the flat lands of Oklahoma.

I’ll bid you all farewell, grinning like an idiot as we jolt down a steep dirt decline, all the while the pedals of a child’s tricycle rattling in my ear.

Until next time!

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