The car fills with the whispered Tibetan prayers of the man from Zaduo. I have asked him to join, none of us knows the way.
The first high mountain pass draws oohs and aahs for its beauty. But we don’t pause, focused as we are on our aim: the Mekong’s source at Zaxiqiwa.
Otherwise we are silent.
The local guide announces ten mountain passes. I soon lose count. Marco doesn’t.
The road winds up and down, right and left. A labyrinth in an empty world.
I make notes, see what my GPS has got to say about our progress.
We approach a river. I jot down it is the biggest stream we have seen so far. When I look up we are in the middle already – and stuck.
Ten centimeters of water soon fill the car. We crawl out through the back, in hopes the water is less deep than left and right perhaps. Or because instinctively people always choose the shortest way to safety. I am sure it looks comical.
Phuntsok has set out without anything one may need: chain or rope for towing, tools, jerrycan, spade, plastic to keep luggage dry. I still bought the latter two – but should have checked better.
After a while a truck. The driver has a rope, we have a cord that ties our luggage together. They wind them together. – that’s clever, I think. It pulls our car out of the river. But it kind of drowned, can’t be brought back to life. The truck moves on, we have to turn back to Zaduo – somehow.
We had gotten halfway.
A tractor shows up. A stroke of good luck. It is in the area because of a grass-sowing program that should prevent soil erosion.
This time there is only our luggage cord to pull our car. It snaps right away.
The tractor goes, comes back much later with a steel cable, tows us up a pass where its driver makes it known he doesn’t have enough gas to tow us any further and takes off. Soon after our guide from Zaduo also leaves in a rare passing car, it has one empty seat.
Darkness falls, we warm some food, pitch tents.