CUO PU VALLEY – XINLONGBy
Leaving my cozy pile of mats and garishly printed cartoon-printed comforters was tough! It was chilly and we had a very tough trip ahead of us today.
The day was raining again and cloud hung low. But trough the open window to the next room was the smell of breakfast. More butter tea and more bowls of grain meal. I sipped tea and warmed my hands around the steaming tea. Is it me, or am I getting used to this tea!
Su, the senior monk and I were still a little groggy from a late night, so we sipped and ate in silence. The quiet was accompanied by the rapid and hushed tones of two very young monks in the next room reading their sutras. The sound was mesmerizing, like staring into a campfire at night, I was taken away with the chanting and never wanted it to end – it was lyrical and poetic in a way.
After saying our good byes we crossed the deep river again. It was a little tense but Su managed it after many attempts. The Chinese van Su drove was an amazing vehicle with great stamina!
Before heading out of the valley we went to see a beautiful lake where it is said, fish come to the call of Buddhist nuns. True, They do, but like Pavlov’s dogs, they also know the nuns have balls of yak-buttered meal! These fish are not so dumb!
While feeding the fish, word spread around the scattered shacks housing the nuns, that there was a driver and a foreigner visiting. A small group of locals gathered and much discussion went on between Su and the locals. It turns out, we were going to provide the services of medical transport today! One of the nuns had an injured leg from being hit by a motorcycle. She needed to be transported back to her parent’s home to be tended to. There is no hospital in the area, and likely not one for a good 10 hours in any direction.
Thankful for the help with the group, all friendly smiles waved us off as we retraced the previous day’s epic journey over the plateaus, mud, ruts, craters and rivers! Like many times when we all drive somewhere and return the same way, the return trip seemd not as long. Why is that?
Along the way, we also picked up another traveler. He looked so out of place walking the road in nice clothes and a briefcase! Where on earth had he come from? Turns out he worked at a mine and had been walking for hours when we happened along. Management or office work probably since he was too well dressed for a labourer. But then, many Chinese men wear a jacket and nice shoes no matter what the terrain!
The road again to Xinlang was teeth-shattering and long. Eventually, after sundown we got to Xinlong and tried to find a hotel. On the nicer side of the river with all the hotels, we found them all to be booked. We then moved to the other side of the river and down a dark street with hanging light bulbs and flickering & buzzing neon signs, we found one. It was a little on the rough side of acceptable. But it was home for the night.
As I was getting my gear out of the van, the police appeared. Seems they saw us on the other side of the river trying to find a hotel. They had been following us. The hotel we selected was not approved for foreigners, so there was some discussion as to what we would do. Explaining that this is the only place available, they reluctantly allowed us to stay, but in the morning, we had to be out and back on our way. This was exactly what we were going to do anyway.
The hotel rooms were only opened with one key and that key was held by one woman. If one leaves the room, as we did to find a bite to eat, we had to then find the woman to walk down the slippery, unlit stairs, outside by the laundry and down the hallway to our rooms where we were let in. These things you just learn not to question! It is what it is!
I had guests a few minutes after getting to the room. The police had returned. With a clip board in hand, one of the police officers had the now-familiar form that a foreigner needed to fill out. This is a Tibetan hotel and since foreigners do not stay here, they do not have the proper forms. The police were official and friendly and bid us a safe trip before heading back to the other side of the river where the police stationed overlooked the river.
Sleep came very easily and very quickly. So much happened today that images raced through my brain before I fell asleep.