Thursday, April 27, 2006

Back in Jiulong

What a strange couple of days its been. I've just got off a tuolaji (tractor) that brought me about 16km down the road from Wuxu Hai (lake) where I spent last night feeliing very sick. It was a rough ride, I was stood behind the driver, on the connecting rod between tractor and trailer. A rough ride, and I was covered in dust and his cogarette ash when I climbed off just outside Jiulong. When I walked into town I was almost immediately accosted by the local government's head of propaganda, who remembered me from my visit two years ago. I was his big "Foreign Friend" and he made a big fuss of me in front of all the other local government officials who were hanging about in the main street to oversee a new Law and Order campaign launch (I signed the banner). He ushered me into a restaurant for what seemed like a bowl of intestines and chilli, and fired questions about all the articles he thinks I have written about Jiulong (actually only two). He then organised a TV crew from the local TV station to come along to the town square where they did a quick interview with me - all in Chinese of course. Remember, I had only an hour ago stepped off a tractor, and now I seemed to be the toast of the town. And yet I was filthy, unshaven and had dust all over my clothes.

But maybe I should go back and explain what I'm doing back in town. Basically, I got very bad altitude sickness on my way up to Sanyanlong, so I diverted to the tourist log cabins at Wuxu Hai to try acclimatise first. Bad idea. At 3700 metres, th log cabins at Wuxu Hai are enough to give you a cracking headache and more if you go straight up there (as I pretty much did) from sea level.

I got up there va a falling to bits jeep carrying a motley bunch of young Tibetan punks. The last 4km I got a Tibetan lady to carry my bag, a job she quickly delegated to her son, who drove me up on the back of his motorbike.

Wuxu Hai was great scenery, but to me it seems a bit touristy - even though I was the only tourist there! They're expecting a few more guests for their four cabin rooms during Golden Week, starting May 1.

I spent the evening sat round the fire with the blind kid with one hand missing. I felt OK sitting round the fire, though I was disappointed they only had one botle of ber in the whole camp. They cooked me up a meal of stir fried ham, chillis and potato and I retired to the cabin in the feezing cold. It was then that the altitude sickness hit: I was kept awake by a combination of breathlessness, pounding heart and uncontrollable shivering - even though I had two quilts.

Spent a miserable nught with little sleep, and cancelled my plans to visit some of the other lakes in the area (Like Qise Hai) - it would have been difficult anyway because there had been snowfall on the higher slopes that night, and anyway, I was still feeling terrible.

The weather was socked in - no views this morning, and there was no transport out, either. By 9am, after taking some snaps of the local girls (at their request) dressed up in their Tibetan Sunday Best, I headed off with ny backpck, to try find some transport down at the main village, some 4km below the lake. It was a nice walk, despite the heavy pack, and I soon got down to the village with its swastika embalazoned black limestone Tibetan houses.
But there was no car or even a motorbike to be had. So I kep on walking, and walking, until around midday I was feeling like I would just die on the side of this road that followed the path of the river.

It was then I got picked up by the tractor guy. I was his only passenger (he'd been ferrying rocks up and down the road, which is being impoved by a few gangs of Tibetan locals). And so it was that I rode home, tired, thirsty and feeling like shit. But it beat walking.

So now I am back to square one in Jiulong: I have lost my watch and broken my best Rolleflex camera when I dropped it on the ground at Wuxu Hai. Not happy, and I've also been invited out tonight for a banquet by yhr local government officials. They have put me up for free at the "Education Hotel" whichy is a nice gesture. The only problem is that the hotel is curently being rebuilt and 80% of it is a building site: I had peasant constructon workers leaving footprints on the chairs of my room and thy hope in and out of the open window bringing dement and stuuf to their workmates outside.
And since I don't want to spend the night on a building ite, I have booked discretely inoto the Bus Station Hotel, where I get a nice clean and quiet room for 40 kuai. As to what to do next ... watch this space.

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