Posts Tagged ‘yak

28
Feb
11

Day 34: I Don’t Love You, by My Kyrgyz Romance

Day 34 finds us driving through more spectacular mountain roads, where the air is cold and hard to breathe, and, illogically, makes you feel more alive.
road to karakul

Road to Karakul

We are going to Karakul, a lake that nestles at the knees of a snowy mountain.  The mountain is a steam engine, with snowy bursts blowing off its stack.  It looks like a cloud machine, with its stream of cirrus flowing from the peak.

DSC_8013_2

Sam and the Lake

I feel like we’ve entered an alien world.  Sure, we recognize the things we are seeing, yurt, lake, yak; but we have no real concept of these things as they would exist as a part of these people’s lives.  “The yurts are where herders live until the weather really comes down from the mountain.”  Just some interesting words while I pause to take a picture.  It is hard, maybe impossible, to understand it as part of a real life without living it yourself.
yak herding

Yak Herders

mountain yurts

Mountain Yurts

There is a boardwalk that runs along part of the lake, so we stroll, mountain wind playing in our hair.  We pause with magnanimity to allow some goats to cross in front of us in search of grazing grounds.  This can’t be real.
desolation

Desolate

yurts

Yurtastic

We reach a building that may or may not be a restaurant.  We circle the building twice, looking for restrooms, and finally spot some structures away up on a hill behind it.

Why would they put the restrooms so far away, I wonder.

Oh, that’s why, I answer myself as I stand looking down into a cement pit of human waste.  The heroically brave of heart (or maybe just incredibly desperate) traverse out over the pit and squat while standing on two thin, wobbly planks of wood, suspended over disaster.  Flashes of Slumdog Millionaire.  So I praise everything that is good and true for the small mercy that I only have to pee, I stand well back and let fly.  Get the hell out of there as fast as possible.  I don’t want to think about what Sam had to do.

A horseback ride around the rest of the lake seems to fit the bill nicely, so Sam and I and two young Kyrgyz horseguides are on our way.  My horse (Kenny) is sweet and two sizes too small for me.  My guide (Hrrrrbembic [?????]) is friendly and smiles at me.  He offers to wear my backpack as he walks beside the horse.  He smiles again.  He offers his gloves so my hands don’t get scratched on the saddle horn.  More smiling.  I feel like I’m being courted.

As we leave the path he, still smiling, puts his hand on my thigh.  Oh, I think.  That’s friendly.  Now I REALLY feel like I’m being courted.  But then his hand moves to the saddle horn and he swings himself up behind me.  I guess that makes sense, so they don’t have to walk the entire way.  Explains why he took my backpack, too.  I offer his gloves back to him, but he refuses.  The courtship continues.

He is not large, so his arms stretch tight around me to grab the reins as he brings Kenny up to a gallop.  He hums softly and deeply.  All we need is a sunset to ride off into.  Sam cackles with unrestrained mirth behind me.

Halfway around the lake, the boys tell us, through Sam’s best translation of their attempts at Mandarin, that they need to scare off a herd of horses they see up ahead because the males will try to fight our horses.  Ok, sure.  Go to it, boys.  So they take off at full gallop, wearing our backpacks which contain our money and passports.  Leaving us on the far side of a mountain lake, near Afghanistan.  It is times like these when a more reasonable person would probably get concerned.  But I find it thrilling.  (Remind me to tell you about the time I was stranded by my plane on a grass airstrip in Costa Rica!)

So we watch as our belongings become small dots obscured by a twin trail of dust.  The boys disappear behind a hill.  But then we see a herd of horses racing across the grass toward the mountains, our guides galloping behind them, standing in their saddles with arms waving.  It was a stunning display.  And our guides speed back, heroic, with triumph on their faces.
wild horses

Shining heroes on the left, chasing the wild horses into the mountains.  Praise be!

Wild

riding hard

Sam’s Rider Returns

As we proceed around the lake, Hrrrrbembic continues to woo me, giggling as he uses my body to shield him from the gusting wind, laughing as we gallop at huge yak bulls and herd them for fun.  It is like a romcom montage.  The Dirty Dancing soundtrack swells in the background.  He is falling in love with me and I think, Oh no, I’ve gone and done it again.  (Remind me to tell you about the time a young Croatian girl whose house we stayed in for one night wrote a love note filled with teenage confusion and ardor, and some hilarious Butchered English, in my journal.)

And just as I have decided to tip him well because he has been friendly and very entertaining, he tries to screw us over.  Arguing we were riding for three hours when I know it was one and a half.

Hrrrrbembic, I think.  How could you??!  Was none of it real?!?  Was it all just an act?  What about the gloves, Hrrrrbembic?  The gloves!!!!!  Didn’t the gloves mean anything to you?!?!?  (This is the middle part of the romantic comedy, where the hero learns of the main character’s deception, thus creating a seemingly insurmountable chasm between them that will miraculously be bridged within the next thirty-five minutes.)  But this isn’t a movie, is it?  It is all over for Hrrrrbembic and I.  Never again!

In Kashgar we eat dinner at a really awesome farmhouse restaurant/compound.  Swollen grapes hang from overhead trellises.  There are several small outbuildings with large windows, curtains blowing gently, cushions on the floor, where private meals can be arranged.  I kinda want to live in one of them.

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18
May
10

Day 20: Back to Beijing

Laying awake in the dark, the red numbers of the clock radio flash 4:06.

A.M.

Shower.  Praise the heavens that the bathroom is stocked with a toothbrush and toothpaste and I have enough bottled water for rinsing.  And praise Buddha himself that I keep deodorant in my backpack.  Because, as you know, we don’t have our luggage.

Another trip on the road to the airport.  With any luck at all we will get out of here today.

In the airport we eat some bucket-o-noodle breakfast and wait to see what is happening with the flight.  Sam learns that the airline will be handing out cash to the people on our flight, and I prepare myself for ground-shaking chaos as these people try to get their money.

JUMP JUMP JUMP! Click to JUMP for more.

10
May
10

Day 17: Goodbye to Everest

Eyes open.

Paralyzed.  You can not move your body.

Soon the morning insanity loosens its befuddling hold. Not paralyzed after all – there are just fifty pounds of blankets weighing you down. Warm and secure. This must be what it felt like in the womb. What a fan-damn-tastic way to wake up.

Cozy in a yurt at the foot of Mt. Everest. You spend some time luxuriating in this surreality.   Then you steel your nerves to venture outside to try to catch a sunrise on the roof of the world.

The cold stops your breath.  Even with all your warm gear on you have to jog around to stop your body from quaking.  The thought of exposing any skin prohibits the consideration of going to the bathroom – you fear certain things would freeze to other things and make life very uncomfortable.  It appears you were excruciatingly lucky last night because now the entire valley is filled with clouds, and you would never know that Everest was back there.  You see the sun start to light up the highest surrounding peaks, fumble through your gloves for some photos, and dive back into the yurt for hot tea and burning yak dung.  Heaven.

CLICK. So much more. You lucky dogs!!

05
May
10

Day 16: Mt. Qomolangma (aka Everest)

This mountain road is incredibly beautiful.  And it’s a good thing, because we’ve been driving for days.

Scenes from the road:


More More! There’s MORE. Click for MOOOOOOORE!!

20
Apr
10

Day 15 part 1: The Road to Everest – Yamdrok Lake

This morning we all piled into the trusty 4Runner (the same model that every other tour group drives around in this city) and started the trip to Everest.  Sijila driving, Tsering in the back, and James, Sam, Kristy and I out-of-our-mind excited about seeing Everest (hopefully.  It will depend on the weather).  But Everest is a couple of days of driving away, and I assume there a few things to see on the road.

The road to Everest slinks along the hips of the lower Himalayas.

MOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMOREMORE

31
Mar
10

Day 13 part 2: Jokhang Temple

After Potala Palace we toured Jokhang Temple.  It is considered the most important temple in Tibetan Buddhism, so pilgrims from all over Tibet make the journey to Lhasa at least once in their lives to prostrate themselves here.  The pilgrimage itself must be back-breaking work, considering the Tibetan plateau is one of the most remote places in the world and not many can afford to make the trip in a 4-Runner.  So many people trek on foot, stopping along the way to meditate and pray.  The most devout will travel the last miles on their hands and knees and stomachs, performing prostrations by kneeling with their arms in the air then sliding their hands on the ground in front of them to lie flat.  What I would think of as an excruciatingly slow and painful ordeal, these pilgrims probably consider transcendent.

I’ve re-posted this picture because 1) I think it’s awesome, and 2) that white building on the left horizon is the temple.

MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE

26
Mar
10

Day 13 part 1: Potala Palace

We finally have our fourth tour member!  He’s a Chinese man from Taiwan who studies immunology at UCLA (small world!).  (If I remembered all that correctly.)   He’s very nice, if a tad incapable of filtering his…enthusiasm.  While we are pretty flexible, James seems a bit more…aggressive.

We went to the Potala Palace in the morning.  It seemed very important to get there at a designated time, I think because you have to reserve your entrance time beforehand and you only have a limited  duration to actually be in the palace.  But the whole time we were there, I couldn’t figure out how anyone would know your entrance time.  I think it was all a hoax.  Even so, James wasn’t the picture of patience when we wanted to take some shots of the facade of this incredible building.  It looks ancient and harsh and foreboding and vaguely Siberian – built on a little mountain so it towers over the city that grew around it.  I would say that it is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen.

Potala Palace.  You have to walk up all those switchbacking steps, so it took a while because it’s like we have emphysema and mono in this altitude.

More More More! So much more!!




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