Mekong expedition – July 8

3.00 pm

At Xining airport to change planes. 51 hours and counting. Waiting for check-in in the departure hall, waiting to board in the waiting hall, waiting for luggage after the flight was canceled, waiting for a room in the hotel across the parking lot, waiting nèxt day in the departure hall, waiting in the waiting hall, waiting on the plane (we did board this time), waiting for luggage when the flight was canceled after all, waiting in the hotel, waiting in the departure hall, waiting in the waiting hall.

Waiting exhausts.

And all the while uncertainty when I will fly. Ìf I will fly.

And worries about my acclimatisation to altitude. I reasonably adjusted in recent weeks, but how much harm will the delay do?

5.00 pm

My plane takes off.

When we approach Yushu airport we clear sharp grassland peaks,with white pieces of cloud hanging between the green, and the brown-red Mekong floating below, all of it in the perfect glow of late-afternoon sunlight. I hate myself for leaving my camera in my bag in the luggage compartment  across the aisle, out of reach now that we prepare for landing. Amazing Mekong pictures that I can’t take. And the moment is irrepeatable, not a chance ever to see this again like thìs.

Once landed I reconstruct our approach route and imagine a map, and I realize it wasn’t the Mekong, but just the Yangtse. Relief, the missed photo opportunity doesn’t matter much.