Phuntsok – the road to Qumalai – Phuntsok

Authorities that don’t allow you to travel in their area, terrible weather, impassable roads – you consider all kinds of stumbling blocks and problems. What if at the end of the road no horses or motorbikes are available to continue your trip, what if one of us gets altitude sickness? You have pondered it. But an obstructive driver hasn’t crossed your mind.

This time I have to be plee before Phuntsok (I may have altered his name, then again I may not) is willing to drive to Yushu via Qumalai instead of via Maduo where we have been already.

He complains about the fuel price. Can’t think of a more illogical argument because he will have to get gas anyway and the way to Qumalai is shorter than to Maduo. Besides: I warned him three days ago there may be no gas station here, I offered buying a jerrycan for him. There was no need, he would take care of it, a friend had told him gas was available here. It is, but it has been transported here in drums and comes at double the normal price.

He: ‘I don’t know that road.’ Me: ‘Neither do I, that’s why I want to take it.’

It goes on for a bit. Then for once he gives in.

It is empty and beautiful.

We enter the valley of the Kari Qu, so wide that it is a plain. The Kari Qu is a tributary of the Yellow River. The longest even, modern satellite measurements show. That’s why some argue the head of the Kari Qu should be recognized as the source of the Yellow River. Traditionally the start of the Yueguzonglie stream is viewed as such. That is the source we visited, and the one that the road signs (flawed as they are) direct you to.

A mountain pass, 4.840 meters says my GPS. We are on the divide of the Yellow River and the Yangtse basin.

I have traveled thousands of kilometers through the Tibetan regions of Kham and Amdo in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. But landscapes continue to come up with something new. This time it is black-grey rocks and rubble that rise above the grassland. They remind of past volcanic activity, but there are no other traces of it.

Qumalai. It has been a long day. I want to head to my hotel room. But there is Phuntsok. He wants money. Since day one he complains about his allowance for food and lodging, even though it was agreed on with his boss. His first week isn’t out yet, but I give him another week’s allowance. An attempt to get some goodwill. It will proof fruitless.

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