We bump along the atrocious ‘road’ that leads out of Zaduo. When not holding on to my seat or the door handle I do things that are just about impossible – making notes, eating bread and cheese, sending a text message as long as we are still within range of Zaduo’s mobile signal.
On the first pass driver Renqing throws small prayer papers to the heavens. Maybe they protect us from serious mishap. But not from his car breaking down, 25 kilometers out of Zaduo we have to turn back. Repairs take hours, when we set out again it is late afternoon. We certainly will not get to Zaxiqiwa, that we were aiming for today.
Renqing chooses another route than last year, staying south of the Mekong, locally called the Zaqu, and for a while we don’t see the river. Near dusk we rejoin it, then get to a confluence. I am in doubt momentarily, than excitedly realize we have come to Ganasongdou, a major spot for Mekong explorers.
From west (right in this picture) flows the Zanaqu (‘Black River’), from north the Zayaqu (‘White River’), and together from here they are the Zaqu. In 1994 explorer Michel Peissel claimed he had discovered the source of the Mekong at the head of the western Zanaqu. However, he approached its headwaters by sticking even further to the south than we have done today, and only further west at the hamlet of Moyun he joined the Zanaqu. He never actually saw the Ganasong confluence. If he had he would have realized that the northern Zayaqu is the larger of the two rivers with a higher water discharge. It subsequently turned out too that the Zayaqu is longer, and therefore that the source of the Mekong had to be at the head of the Zayaqu.
A terrible hailstorm breaks when we have half pitched Renqing’s tall tent. It collapses. We dash for shelter in the car. After, we roll out our sleeping bags in a nearby empty tent, left by nomads no doubt. Call it a stroke of good luck. It is gone when we return a couple of days later.
Renqing blocks the entrance with his car. Then scours the vicinity – for bears?
Renqing snores, I hear from 3.00 to 6.00 am.