Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What else could go wrong?

Plenty did. Thankfully we only suffered briefly.

I was off even further south to the town of Kangding, which lies at the confluence of two rivers, nestled between some magestic mountains. And yes, I had to find another van. This wasn't too much trouble, however there were seven of us crammed in, including luggage. Not good for the knees and back.

Twenty minutes in, disaster one hits. The Jeep in front of us flips over going around a downhill bend. Everyone managed to climb out, seemingly unharmed, though their proximity to the edge of the road and an uncertain fate down the side of the hill left them undoubtedly shaken. I didn't take any photos as I didn't think it appropriate. We stopped and so did several other cars. We flipped their jeep back over and were on our way. I don't know whether they were able to drive it.

A quick note about the roads: Basically, if it's not a major MAJOR highway, don't expect much. IF it's paved, it hasn't been repaired since Mao was alive. But more often than not, it's dirt and rocks. Gravel would be an upgrade. We're talking major pain in the ass, literally.

After the Jeep incident, our driver seemed to be a little more cautious. We were driving down the side of a mountain on dirt road with no guardrails. But we didn't get far. Remember the rain I told you about in my last post? It did a number on the road. A bit washed out and mud everywhere. And wouldn't you know it, two genius truck drivers going opposite directions got stuck in the same spot!

From China

And when I say stuck, I mean it's gonna take the People's Army to get them out. There was quite a lineup of cars, many of them vans like mine. Everyone got out of their vehicles and tried to determine what to do. Some started digging around the wheels. Some drivers tried to go between the two trucks but only slipped in the mud.

Finally a solution was decided upon. Since there was just enough space between the trucks to get the average car and van through, they would fill in the ruts so traffic could pass. Quickly, everyone began gathering rocks and sod from the nearby fields and patched in the holes.

From China

And it worked. A few cars through and it was our van's turn. And about 20 minutes after we stopped, we were back in the van and bouncing down the road.

I spent the next two nights in Kangding. It's a nice little town, but not much to do. I didn't even take any photos. I switched hostels after one night because the first was absolutely abysmal. Meanwhile I'm working up an awful cough I can't kick and my temperature is rising. I imagine it started with the polution, then the cold air just kicked it up a notch.

So, long story short, yesterday I took a REAL bus west to Litang. It was a 10-hour ordeal up and down mountains. We could have been in Colorado, if it hadn't been for the smattering of Tibetan houses--and the military checkpoint. They pulled the bus over, the boss came on, pointed me out and I had to get off. Pretty easy though. They took down my visa details and asked where I was going. Reason being, I believe, is that if I were to continue on this road, west of Litang, I would end up in Tibet. They don't want any foreigners going there without permission.

Later, at about 5,000 meters, we drove through a hell of a hail storm. The hail was tiny and it was cold enough that it didn't melt. The ground looked like it was covered in snow.

Litang is a cool little town. It reall is in the middle of nowhere. It's in a basin, surrounded by mountains. It's also at 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles), so it's quite cold! There's a spectacular Tibetan lamasery (think monastery) in town, so monks on motorcyles are all over. And the people, especially the children, are quite friendly. A little boy attacked me last night and then wouldn't let go of another guy's leg.

I will wait until my time here is over and then post some great photos.

Now about that cough. I'm pretty convinced I've got bronchitis or something similar. So I went to the local pharmacist/doctor and told him what was going on with the help of my phrase book and some miming. He said I should take a normal pain killer/fever reducer, which I've got, but also gave me an interesting box that's all in Chinese, except the name of the drug in Pinyin: Si Ji Gan Mao Pian. With the help of Google, it looks like this is an herbal remedy, made from mulberry and crysanthemum. And apparently it treats the following: Bronchitis; Conjunctivitis; Cough; Headache; Laryngitis; Pharyngitis; Respiratory tract infection; Slight fever; Sore throat; Sore throat; Swelling of the throat; Dry mouth; Rhinorrhea; Sneezing; Thirst. So I'll give it a whirl. It only cost me 15 yuan ($2.25). If I'm not feeling better the day after tomorrow, I'm going back and demanding real drugs.

That's all for now. I'll be in town for a couple more nights (you never know when you'll get another soft bed; I'm enjoying it while it lasts!). After that, I'm heading south and into Yunnan province, home to a number of China's minority groups.


Anonymous said...

gilmore - you are one brave soul taking herbal remedies that are meant to cure everything under the sun or that's wrong with your lungs.

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