A journey of earthquakes and vomit

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

 After having spent so long sitting idle at Sim's, my first journey out into western Sichuan seemed that much rougher than normal. A two day journey to our first destination, day one involved little more than being tediously sat on a bus for 8 hours, through some pleasant enough scenery that I had already passed through twice before, on my way to Danba, ending at the mostly uninspiring town of Kangding. At least this time I wasn't pestered so much by wandering musicians; I guess the cold is quite an effective deterrent. 

Having turned in early in order to be up for the 6 am bus the next morning (not my choice), I was mildly surprised to find myself woken at about 1 in the morning. My first thought was that someone was trying to break in the window above my bed, it was rattling in it's frame so much. Then I noticed it wasn't just the window, but in fact the whole room seemed to be shaking. Not having had a drink in 24 hours, I ruled out that possible explanation, and screams from nearby suggested other people had noticed as well. Just a few days previous, a small earthquake had hit this area; it seemed likely that another was causing the room to shake. Happy with my reasoning, I went back to sleep.

Sometime in the early morning fog of my mind, someone else confirmed that there had indeed been an earthquake the previous night; I was more troubled by the bus station officials' hurrying us onto our 6 am bus, which was clearly so blocked in at the back of the bus station that it would be a half hour at least before it could move. Why do they insist on depriving me of sleep and then failing to justify that act by never getting organised enough to allow the buses to leave on time?? And why is it that, no matter how early I get to the bus, I'm always the last person on and end up squashed onto the chair with the broken seat and not even enough legroom for a pygmy suffering from dwarfism, despite the fact that I am usually the tallest on the bus by a considerable margin?
Early mornings do little for my temper; sharp chair backs digging into my knees and broken seats that would have me sprawling on the floor of the bus (were it not for being entirely wedged in due to lack of legroom and unable to move at all) don't help. To make matters much, much worse, the road/dirt track was particularly awful. Not only did the rutted surface prevent me from sleeping, it also brought out the worst in the Tibetan sitting in front of me. And by 'the worst', I mean last night's dinner. He spent a surprisingly large proportion of the journey vomiting out the window. An unpleasantly large proportion of that came straight back in the window. I ended the journey tired, annoyed, cramped, bruised and flecked with Tibetan vomit. Any forthcoming apologies? No, he just surveyed his work, so delicately patterning my jacket and trousers, flashed a gold toothed smile at me and walked away.

And at the end of this journey, there seemed to be very little to see in Daofu. An unimpressive quarter of Tibetan mud brick huts, surrounded by typical Chinese concrete; a hilltop shrine, invisible beneath a thousand prayer flags; a vaguely interesting path, one side wall littered with niches carved into the hillside, containing hundreds of small offerings and slates carved with Tibetan-script prayers; a small monastery, notable only for the fact that a youthful Dalai Lama slept here for a few nights on his journey to Beijing in 1955. The monks were quite proud of this and showed us the room, preserved as it was when he slept there, now adorned with thangka, hada, portraits of HH and the omnipresent, pungent, yak butter lamps. 

Sometimes, there are places you just have to visit; sometimes, it's all about the journey and not the destination. I was struggling to see the point of this one, until dinner brought us the best yu xiang qiezi (fish flavoured aubergine) in China. Then it all seemed to make some kind of sense.
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