We set out from Zaduo again, it’s three days later. Only driver Renqing comes with us this time. He grew up in the Zaxiqiwa area, and he speaks Chinese though Tibetan is his mother tongue. So no need for a guide or interpreter.
He shows little mercy for his Chinese built pick-up truck. Stretches of rough road, potholes, streams – he just pushes on. Once, when ahead the trail gets very muddy, I manage to convince him to take a detour – but that is an exception.
We get to the spot where we got stuck. I want to check first. But he only stops to shift to four-wheel drive mode. He takes a shallower passage. I am sure I feel my feet getting wet. But it’s imagination. We have crossed.
More tributaries of the Mekong follow. Renqing volunteers the name of each of them. We get to the river’s main stream and drive further upstream.
Then the road turns west and leaves the Mekong. So do we.
Marco and Eric are artists who have asked me to facilitate their trip to the origins of the Yellow River and Mekong. We had long discussions: which sources to go to? Several choices are possible, as previous blog posts show. In the end for the Mekong they decided on Zaxiqiwa – the ‘spiritual’ source of the river revered by local Tibetan people. I can’t argue with their artistic decisions of course. But being the more rational type I am disappointed I will not get to the source of my choice, the ‘scientific’ one at the head of the Mekong’s longest tributary, at the foot of Jifu Mountain.
This is why we leave the Mekong’s main stream.
A low pass. Ahead the Zaxiqiwa plain, maybe 15 kilometers across, ringed by hills, dotted with countless silver blue pools. Its green more fresh than any we have seen in the 1,800 kilometers we drove to get here from Xining.
A pang. I am caught off guard. We stop briefly, but the urge to enter this place is stronger than to take in its view. We descend and move across the plain to the Mekong’s Zaxiqiwa source. The sound of birds, the sound of the wind. Brilliant end-of-afternoon light. It’s a moving place to be and one of the purest on earth. The meaning of ‘spiritual source’ dawns on me.