So although the streets were littered with hitchers, it was another lonely walk for me while the Chinese tourists roamed free… and the road to Litang had me off the highway heading down the dirtiest road yet.
There was a lot going through my mind as local construction trucks sprayed mud all over me and Teddy. Litang was still apparently out of bounds for us touristy types. Rumour has it that two monks had burned themselves and over 600 people had been arrested there just a few days earlier. I walked onwards half fearing that I’d spend a whole day hitching and walking just to be sent all the way back again. I don’t like doubling back.
Whilst far away in worry land, a car pulled up and offered me a ride. My first Tibetan hitch. They only drove me 30 odd kilometers, but it was far enough to be committed to my path! I walked across the next village and carried on to nowhere in particular, joining some Tibetan ladies in a bit of chit chat on the run- I didn’t understand it at all, but it had to be good, I had them in stitches! And then started the accent. Things were getting steep!
They had mumbled something about not going to Litang so I figured I was only going a couple of villages down and kept my pack on my lap, not wanting to get too comfortable. It was only 4 hours later, when we were far from anything that even resembled a road that I started to ease in. The driver had a GPS (and a beer) and we were racing up mountains and around rivers and it was a mad quest to prove the capabilities of the car.
It was a wild ride over and around and through rocks and mountains and rivers and herds of yak and sheep and villagers and I felt a little guilty that I had nothing to offer in return; but once I showed them my altimeter I was in. I had them driving towards the biggest mountains they could find just so to reach the 5000m mark. We were just short (5m). But the scenery from way up there was phenomenal!
At some point I glanced at the full back of the truck and wondered if they were all out on a boys camping trip. To be honest I had no idea where I was and seeing as China has blocked the GPS function on my camera, even my compass doesn’t quite work properly – they could have been taking me anywhere!
Darkness was rapidly descending and by 9pm (sunset, that’s the beauty of having a massive country with only 1 time zone) we were still in the middle of somewhere. And then we climbed a mountain and on the other side was a road. A tarred road.
I flipped through my phrase book and found “Women xianzai dao nail le?” (where are we now?) ... “Shan-go-li-la” (Shangri-la) and then I flipped out a bit because I realized that we’d just been on an 11 hour joy ride. Which was nice, but…
By 11pm we were finally in some sort of actual civilization and I may have been wrong, but it wasn’t Shan-go-li-la so I looked perplexedly at my new found friends and they seemed to know what I was thinking “Shang-ho-liii-la something something something bu (not) Yunnan” they said and I accepted and thanked them kindly and pondered off to find a more affordable hotel. It’s amazing how you can negotiate down from Y580 to Y90 for a room…
With all the Tibetan about I had to wonder if I’d illegally crossed into Tibet and had to wonder what the implications are for doing such. Even if I was now in Sichuan, I’d crossed illegally too… hmmm… It was going to be an interesting day!
The village was all run on generators, but somehow I found stray wifi and I tried google translate, but no – even google doesn’t do Tibetan! I tried to search for other Shangri-la’s - but with all the internet blocks in China it was a failed mission! So I did what any of you might do, I picked up my pack and started walking asking any and every person for “Litang?” I walked and walked and found a road and walked some more and a couple of hours later a car finally passed and I got a ride to Doa Cheng. Doa Cheng is on the map.
I was feeling quite sorry for myself as I walked up yet another hill with an umbrella and a poncho and a wet sign, but then I looked up and saw the snow capped hills surrounding me and I felt a lot happier about life.
15 minutes later Jeshu pulled up and I was off again. His snazzy car thermometer measured 1degree. He was great. We chatted about everything from the weather to work to “do you think that China’s present rural reform is making progress?” gotta love the ‘friends’ section of my phrasebook. And when we ran out of conversation he played some bad club anthem CD and he flashed the lights and we danced as we sped past hundreds of cyclists on a terribly muddy road. 200 km took a whole day.
A beautiful Tibetan lady pointed me to the hostel and it greeted me with a dead horse and a viscious dog. I’d been bitten twice that week already, I’m starting to develop a slight phobia of rabid looking dogs. I almost ran away from the hostel owner who was trying to get me in and I’m quite glad I did because just down the road, under a beautiful rainbow I found a haven of niceness…Tagong won my heart and, because I’ve promised mum I’ll be in Chengdu by Friday the 15th, four days of my life!
Also if you're wondering why this blog post is black on white... i don't know... computers hate me. Deal with it.