Monday, July 13 : Xiahe
9:45 We leave the hotel and pick up a local guide at a pre-arranged meeting spot. When he gets on the truck I immediately recognize him as the husband of the Dutch woman from last night’s restaurant. I’m glad I didn’t make a scene even though the service was definitely scene-worthy. His name is pronounced “One-Day-Car”. I have no idea how that’s spelled.
11:20 I’m in the roof seat when we come upon two nomadic women on horseback who are herding several hundred yaks and sheep down the road. It doesn’t get much more authentic than this.
11:50 We get off the truck and walk up into the hills. The elevation here is 3355 metes above sea level so it’s a serious workout.
12:30 We sit in a meadow while “One-Day-Car” tells us the story of how he came to speak English so well. When he was 17 he left home with a small backpack and set out on a 23-day walk from Lhasa to Khatmandu. He eventually got a bus to Delhi. He was too old to start school in China but they allowed him to take English courses free of charge in India. His English is now close to perfect with no hint of Indian accent.
13:00 After many photos in the hills we drive a short distance to Chinahtica where we have lunch in the town’s only roadhouse. Two locals sit opposite us and try to take photos of us while we eat. We try to take photos of them while they eat. In the end we all pose with each other. I asked “One-Day-Car” about the local monks who all seem to have iPhones. He said that aside from phones, a razor and perhaps some framed photos, the monks have few if any personal possessions. Their meals, clothes and shoes are supplied by the monastery and they simply don’t require anything else. They do earn some income (donations from visitors to the monastery) and they tend to be good savers so when they have enough money they buy the latest phone so they can read news and listen to religious podcasts from Tibet. They also seem to take a lot of photos! The two guys in the roadhouse are not monks but rather nomads (shepherds) who have ridden their motorbikes into town to pick up supplies. We don’t speak the same language but we do have fun taking photos of each other.
15:00 On the way back to Xiahe we stop at a tent and our guide asks the family if we can have a look around. They prepare tea and offer us meat-filled dumplings. The tent was erected only a few days earlier and the clay oven is still not finished. They will spend part of the summer here before moving on. In winter they live in a brick building in town. While we’re there a truck arrives with 6 calves and a grey horse. They will train the horse all summer and hope to enter him in the town’s big race in October. The winner gets a new economy car, the runner up a washing machine.
20:00 We try another restaurant on our second night in Xiahe. ‘Nomads’ is marginally better than the Dutch woman’s restaurant but again the service is cold and the beer warm. I order the “yak burger smothered in melted cheese.” It turns out to be a piece of yak schnitzel served on a cold, dry pita. There is no cheese. Don’t fuck with me about cheese, people.