We are sitting now in an internet gaming room inthe southern Qinghai town of Yushu, the prospect of a 20 hour sleeper bus ride to the provincial capital of Xining looming. We have had a quiet couple of days in Yushu. Pennys not really sure why we came here, and I don't really know either. It seemed a good idea at the time, and in retrospect may prove to be an interesting experience.
But anyway, straight out of the bus from Serqu and we were quickly found by a random english speaking dude who helped us find the bus station, then a hotel, but then proved hard to dislodge. Nice guy but we were tired and ready for a period of Chineselessness. The hotel he found us was sort of nice at first glance, but its grottiness grew on you like bamboo sprouting on a fertile slope. Nothing like opening the toilet in your room to find the last occupants festering shit.
The next morning we went strolling to find a new place to stay, and to have a little walk. The first highlight was the very impressive statue of King Gessar of Lind. King Gessar is a Tibetan and Central Asian folk hero and he lived somewhere around these parts. He is a sort of Jesus like figure sent by the Gods to address some evils then reascended back to heaven. Although given that he was around about 700AD there is very little evidence of him actually existing as a person. His epic story, the longest in the world at about 60 million words, has being passed down orally to this day, which is quite an impressive feat, although you have to wonder at the Chinese whisper effect! For more on King Gessar, wikipedia isinformative.
I had a thought that maybe King Gezar was an example of Tibetan entymology creeping into english with the word "geezer", but upon investigation, this word, dating back to the 19th century, is apparently from "guise" and further back "wise", although its quite possible I reckon that the Gezar allusion contributed to its adoption...
We then caught the no2 bus (which does a handy L shape from the bus station down to the centre of town that out east past the hostel I will shortly recommend then to the mani wall) out to the famous mani wall, home to a pile of 2 billion stones with prayers engraved in them. Theres a whole lot of hopes, dreams and wishes in this vast collection of rubble. We joined the locals and pilgrims for the now familiar circumambulation.
Catching the bus back into town we spied a Hostelling International sign. Very lucky. The place is cheap (60 yuan) and clean and friendly. (its in a three story pink building on the main road out of town below the monastery). It also boasts a worn copy of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which Penny eagerly devoured. We went to grab our bags and witnessed the "Dead Yak Bus".
That afternoon we wandered up past the monastery and its styly toilets,
past the transmission towers and prayer flags, to the Yak pastures high up on the hills with a near aerial view of the city. With a full day a nice loop could be had, up this ridge and circling back to town via another. I forgot Pennys family history of cattle death and got her on edge by telling her this yak was looking at us funny.
It was a pleasant spot up there, and oh yeah there were vultures circling and soaring. They are massive graceful birds when you are two far away to see the small head and beady eyes. Dare I say their flight reminded me somewhat of the Royal Albatross on Campbell Island!
The next day we had a sleeper bus bound for Xining booked for 1pm. We finally got out of town at 4pm but still somehow seemed to arrive on time. The bus was a somewhat surreal experience, lying down chatting with each other across the corrider as our window froze over and our bus crept along frozen roads. Around 11 we awoke as the bus stopped and had a big feed of fried vegetable and chilli chicken peanuts at a roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere. The whole experience was somewhat surreal but the stars were amazing.