YAJIANG – LITANGBy
Morning finally broke on a sleepy, quiet Yajiang. Today, Su would return to pick me up and has agreed to be my driver for the next week or so. This solves many headaches.
After such a horrible night and no sleep, I question my sanity as I sit here, prayer wheels spreading out in a long row behind me in the middle of town, and a scene from a movie before me. Local women lead horses along the dirt road steel side-long glances at the westerner sitting and drinking steaming liquid from a shiny silver mug! Yes. Quite out of place! A few yaks try to bust in on a small vegetable plot only to be chased away by what looks to be a 5-year old with a stick! And then a small girl I noticed yesterday veers off her course and walks right up to me and stares into my camera, recording her.
Not at all timid or shy, she greets me with a smile and a puzzled look at my mug – it is the shiniest thing in the village! it is my coffee mug, a shiny stainless steel, double-walled mug from Mountain Equipment Co-op ( http://www.mec.ca No, I do not get a cut from them by mentioning their name!!). But what is inside the mug, despite my poor surroundings, is pure luxury! Coffee! Hot, steaming black coffee from my friend Patricia Snell and her company, Muskoka Roastery ( http://www.muskokaroastery.com ), north of where I live back in Toronto. Patrica sent me a few bags of my favourite blend, Northern Lights for my trip. Along with the mug, I have a small, fine-screened basket into which a carefully pour some coffee grounds and then slowly pour boiling water, filling the mug.
It is here I sit, watching life unfurl and drink my daily coffee, savouring the rich black java and inhaling the aroma of Northern Lights, a small taste of home! The coffee is working its magic and waking me up after a very long night!
Early in the morning I set off on a trail ride on a very sturdy horse, up about 5oo metres to a most beautiful green plateau. Picture that corny, bright green hillside image when you open up your PC. Well, this plateau should be the image. It is real and it is stunningly lush and just as green with the added touch of free ranging horses.
The horses are quite different that the ones back home. These are short and very round and quite used to hauling materials up and down very steep narrow trails at high elevations. On several occasions, the horse would mosey on over to the very edge of the path, almost defying gravity on the edge of the cliff to edge around a yak also occupying the same footpath. And here I thought my fear of cliff edges was to be limited to those of the automotive kind!
Back down in Yajiang, the village was waking up. And just like a dream, there were roosters doing their think, waking up people with competing cockadoodle-do’s. And if you were wondering if this only happens around 6 a.m., you’d be wrong! They do start early for sure, and seem to go on for many hours. They even break into song during the day when the spirit moves them!
Today, the drive took us to town of Litang by way of several mountaintops. Often I would stop to take a photo at the top since there were impressive signs stating the elevation as a reward for your troubles! The one thing I did learn today about Su
is that he is a deeply spiritual man. He is quite a devout Buddhist, which is not a surprise. What was a surprise the first few times it happened was that as we crested yet another mountain, he would spontaneously burst into a prayer-cum-chant, offering thanks to Buddha for another successful assent. After his tuneful offering, he would then smile at the winding road descending before him and feel the rush of an Indy driver as he through his white van at the valley below!
For the rest of the day we drive and drive, watching Sichuan become more and more beautiful as we head further west and deeper into this remote culture.