KANGDING – YAJIANGBy
Rising early, I said good-bye to Kangding and ducked low, into the white van. The night before, arrangements were made with a driver to pick me up at 7:30 the next morning. But of course, he was early! He had been waiting since 7 am!
The drive today took me from Kangding, west to Yajiang. The morning broke into stunning balmy sunshine as we motored along country roads fully embraced by soft-shaped green hills to the right and left. Along the sides of the roads, poplar trees with their trunks painted white to a height of about 1 metre. I have seen these a lot around China. I have not yet heard of a reasonable explanation for the painting, so if you have any ideas, send them in.
I have heard and read of a few good ones (very sarcastic here…) 1. To keep the animals from eating the bark. Hmmm! 2. The prevent insects from climbing the trees. As if! And what about the insects that can fly? 3. And this is sort of plausible… to act as a reflector at night to keep drivers safe as they hurtle along the roads like nocturnal missiles. Yah! You are right, still looking for answers.
Steadily, the road climbed throughout the day. And with the climb, the temperature dropped. We stopped at one point in dense fog and heavy cloud to admire my first prayer flag sighting! Like a newbie tourist, I needed to get some photos! There was also a huge and impressive altitude marker stating that my enthusiasm was up to 4,298 metres (14, 101 feet) no wonder I was out of breath!
Another high (excuse the pun) today was stopping and struggling to the top of a very high climb which ended at a huge rock alter. Gain, adorned with more prayer flags. At the top I met three young men who were burning juniper, reciting sutras and throwing small sheets of coloured paper, printed with prayers, to the stiff wind. The three were offering prayers and asking Buddha for good luck, as they were to set off the next day to Beijing to start up a computer business.
After a lunch in Ya’an where I was the entertainment on the street, my driver said goodbye and a new driver was found. The new driver was a Tibetan man, his name is Su, with a quick smile, sparkling eyes and had a distinct advantage in the area – he was fluent in Mandarin and Tibetan. Two languages one cannot be without – especially a visitori who only knows English!
Su drove his wife and baby home and I continued with him to a very small Tibetan village of Yajiang. This village was well of the beaten path of the Sichuan-Tibetan Highway. Here I am living in a spacious and ornately coloured room on the third floor of one of a few houses which is allowed to accept foreign tourists. Staying here is my first experience living with a Tibetan family.
Still suffering from jetlag, I went to bed after a short walk around the village’s 60 homes (or what looked to be about 60)!
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OK, middle of the night now and I cannot sleep. Before coming to Sichuan, I did a lot of reading about the effects of altitude on someone unfamiliar with high altitude traveling. Though I am a little anxious about my condition, I am comforted to know it is everything I had read about. Still though, with dogs outside my window barking all night long, I get little comfort from knowing I am feeling this way.
Symptoms of altitude are greater at night for some reason. Perhaps because there is not much to do other than focus on your situation. Unlike during the day when you are distracted by other things to see and do.
Here is what I am feeling:
- I have the classic headache which pulses in my temples.
- I am, despite trying to calm myself and breath slowly, gasping for air every fifth breath.
- Trouble sleeping. No, correction, totally unable to sleep.
- A feeling of anxiousness. No kidding! And this is the irony, the anxiety, just makes me sleep less.
I try to sleep sitting up in a corner. It works for a brief time. But by the fifth breath, its gulping-for-air time and the cycles begins again! Oh well, only four more hours until daybreak!