Mekong expedition – July 11

Not a day as planned.

We pass a small group of picnicking Tibetan nomads. They have bought provisions in Zaduo and are on their way to their grazing lands in the valley of the Gaodepu. That is the longest source river of the Zayaqu, and so of the Mekong. Where the Gaodepu originates, the Mekong originates. We were to visit Zaxiqiwa first but decide to travel together with these people and their two cars.

The road turns into a trail, or less than a trail. Every now and then a car gets stuck. Then there is pushing or towing – laughing, enthusiastically. Sometimes it seems clumsy, with a car sinking only deeper in the bog. Once it takes an hour and a half. But in the end we always move on.

Striking T-shirt of the youngest driver. No wall for him. He is living in one of the freest spaces on earth.

‘Famous band, famous album’, I try to explain. But he has no idea. Let alone of complicated western associations with settlement programs of the Chinese government, that house nomads in new permanent villages and put an end to their traditional way of living out on the grasslands with their yaks. A measure to protect the soil and the environment according to some, a measure to better control the people according to others.

No wall for him. But what will the future hold?

For the first time we pitch Luciano’s small tent of Swiss brand H. ‘The Rolls Royce among tents’, he says, ‘even 12 years ago it cost a thousand dollars’. At midnight another terrible hailstorm. Nothing to do but sit up straight in a sleeping bag and wait what will happen. To my surprise the tent holds out. Then water starts leaking through the bottom and I am not surprised anymore. ‘Oh well, it is getting older and I didn’t use it for a few years’.

Ahh, this was the view of the day, of the Tuo Ji tributary (from right) joining the Mekong.

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