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Xideng : One Night in the Valley (& other moments)

Deqin Travel Blog

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Stevie & the Prayer Flags [photo kindly provided by Nick]

Good morning sunshine.  Farewell Satan.  Who knows but we may meet again someday.  One last time the dusty trudge from Tashi’s to FeiLaiSi.  One last shudder at ’The Great Wall’ being erected in that town, its  reinforced concrete palm and iron-rod fingers reaching up to obscure and smother the works of Nature’s mother.  We cast about - Marcel, Kathlyn, Nick and I - to find the small, steep commencement of the trail path down into the valley.  Our route to the village of Xideng.

No wonder it’s tricky to locate, buried as it now is beneath the imposing iron-girder frown and shadow of the half constructed viewing platform.  We start to scramble down.  A veritable forest of Buddhist prayer flags greet us to the trail.

The incomplete monstrosity of the wall being erected to obscure the natural FREE views of the Xueshan Mountain Range from FeiLaiSi's residents and visitors :(((
  Their bright welcome feels somewhat compromised though by the development that now overshadows them.  In looking back, they seem to me now like a displaced community of so many myriad coloured faeries.  Which are as fragile, pretty and fanciful as prayers can be I suppose?  Their stupa homes (those of any genuine provenance anyway) knocked down; they appear scattered desperately to the winds, attempting an escape down the hillside.  Seeking sanctuary, strung amidst the many bushes and trees to be found there.  A refugee rainbow.

Our descent begins in earnest.  The Wall behind us now.  A dusty, winding rock ’n’ pebble strewn yak-track.  A fawn coloured snake winding its way slalom like down towards and through the few little farming homesteads and into the valley.

Nick swerves to avoid a donkey collision! :)
  Yak bells - their owners invisible - are heard tinkling and tonkling away on the adjoining slopes.  Nick, professional nickname ‘Tigger’ owing to his propensity for hyperactive spurts of dashing, bouncing impetuous energy ( particularly when jacked up on caffeine… or mountain air it seems!) often scurries and skids ahead.  He, as we, pauses to let a donkey train laden with heavy bundles of fragrant fresh-cut pine branches past.

A heady hot day.  From here the principle peaks of the Meili Xueshan Range : Miancimu, Jiariren-An and Karwa Karpo are our chief company for the day.  Forks in the path occasionally but no real wrong turns.  Suddenly visible far below, a brown stretch of river bisecting the landscape.  I am being reintroduced to the Mekong!  So much closer to the source than when I last had her for company and rode upon the waters of her dissipation in the delta region of South Vietnam.

On the hillside trail down towards the Mekong. [photo kindly provided by Nick]
  That day she claimed the lives of two of my tour group. [ True.  See ‘Death on the Mekong’ dated 21st March 2009 ]  I hope she is more benign today.

The trail down, down and along the valley slope gets narrower and a little more needy of attentive footwork as we progress.  The Mekong our constant companion now.  I swear she’s willin’ me to slip and fall in.  The former action happens a couple of times.  Thankfully not the latter.  Forgivable slips given that the path disintegrates to land-slid near-nothingness at a  good number of bend apexes.  As we reach the valley base, the wind is funnelling through at a fair old rip.  Powerful enough for our faith in the sturdy looking metal suspension bridge over the Mekong to waver almost as much as its structure is doing, warping like a wave machine, gently up and down as we traverse its undulating length.

Dude in a rock. [photo taken by Stevie, kindly provided by Nick]
  We have arrived safely at the lower extremity of Xideng.

Separation.  Marcel and Kathlyn are heading to Mingyong town and its famous Karwa Karpo clinging glacier.  Nick and I in the other direction, back upwards and over the ridgeline to the mountain village of Yubeng.  But that’s for tomorrow.  We are to seek rest and refuge in Xideng overnight and are opting to ‘go local’ on accommodation.  This involves approaching the first farm house structure we come to and gently accosting the old lady washing clothes there with our naff body-language attempts to communicate our desire to gate-crash her home, eat her food, and steal her bed.  A spasmodic reiteration of these gestures to her son, a goat farmer and shepherd, seems to achieve our end but Nick and I are not fully certain on this point until some hours later.

  A lunch of cold beans in some congealed lardy substance, dry bread and copious cups of yak butter tea (read “Yuck!” butter tea!) is kindly provided before Mr Goat heads out to minister to his flock.

It’s still not so late so Nick and I have several hours to while away breathing in this quaint diorama of rural Chinese life.  A sizeable little homestead here.  Two large-ish animal enclosures set below us where baby goats (later to be joined by the many adults), chickens and cows prance, cluck and ruminate away the afternoon respectively.  The old lady busies herself with vegetable washing whilst Nick and I sling our legs over the edge of the enclosures yattering and nattering and jesting about where we reckon our beds (if any) will later be located.

  Visions of retiring to the hay barn, sleeping cold under the stars or spooning goats for warmth in the night abound.

We are called to dinner.  This should be interesting if lunch was anything to judge by.  We’re being eye-balled by the same beans as then for starts.  Now though mixed in with some wobblesome, gelatinous hunks of an indeterminate part of a porker.  “Uggh!”.  Smile.  Be polite.  Eat up.  Unable to agree on what fatty pig part is being put before us Nick and I agree to dub and will forever refer to this dish as ’Pig’s Ass’.  It provides… um?… an interesting, if unsought for gastronomic experience.  Pig’s Ass and beans is accompanied by generous bowls of rice (of course) and cups of some form of domestically fomented rice wine.

Marcel, Me & kathlyn whipped by the winds at the valley basin. [photo kindly provided by Nick]
  Very potent in flavour and of very rustic rough 'n' readiness.  I.e. it’s not ready.  Or so it seems to us.  This rice wine, descanted from a large bowl, still retains all of the white, softened mulch of rice grain within it, so taking on the rather unfortunate consistency and textural qualities of high Alcohol By Volume (ABV) percentage spunk!  Seriously.  “UGGH!!!”. 

This is definitely turning into an ’interesting’ meal.  Politeness urges consumption though and I’m cracking through the Rice Jism with rather foolhardy speed being as the consequence of the level of liquid in your cup falling is that it is all too soon refilled!  Darn it!  Pig’s Ass is going down a treat too.

  Trick or Treat that is.  A horror unfolding.  I never thought as a grown man of morals I’d be called upon as a duty to eat out a pig’s butt (wobbly on the underside, tough ‘n’ chewy on the hide) but that’s effectively what I’m called upon to do this evening to honour the generosity of our hosts following our social impositions.  I… “ahem!”… wouldn’t want to appear rude after all! ;D 

Nick, not being a man seemingly so partial to a piece of ass ( “It’s the texture you see!” ) shuffles and pokes his apportioned globs of pig’s bum around his bowl hoping they can be cunningly concealed beneath a grain or two of rice.  He grins all the while trying with a greater determination than I to avoid the embryonic ( both in consistency and stage of development ) homemade rice wine, neither being a man partial to having cum run through his mouth ( “It’s the texture you see!” ).

Our impromptu 'Guest House' for the evening in Xideng. "Hey it's a house...and technically we made ourselves guests okay!" :D
  He kindly entitles me “Hero of the Hour” for saving our blushes by martyring myself to feigned and dogged hearty consumption of this fine repast.  I’m a polite lad at the end've the day ya see :)

Oh and of course it aaaall gets washed down with generous servings of “yuck!” butter tea!

The evening’s entertainment - beyond conversation that doesn’t extend beyond the confines of my 4 sentences of Chinese, my immitation of farmyard animal sounds, fevered phrasebook flicking and the frequent flint-spark of Nick’s ciggy lighter - consists of sitting in front of their TV (mom, dad and teenage son, nan having shuffled off to bed) and watching some awful looking melodrama for longer than the corners of Nick and I’s smiles and the lids upon our eyes are able to remain open and upturned.

Hmmm, which one of you ladies wishes to offer us your beds for the night? :)
  We still don’t know where we’re to sleep.  The son wishes as a gift to have my phrasebook but the way things are going communicatively in China so far I’d sooner sacrifice my left testicle than let go of this precious item.  Sorry lad.  More Rice Spunk is offered.  “Um?  How does one say thanks, but no thanks.” in Chinese?  Phrasebook!

Finally the TV is laid to rest.  “Phewf!”.  Mr Goat (forgive me, their names were enquired of but not noted in my records)  through a combination of sign and body language points out the two beds within this living room which kindly are to be ours for our one night in the valley.  Extremely kind of them it is too.  All jokes set aside these guys are doing these foreign weirdos a real star turn.

The funkiest pillow case ever my head to grace! :D [photo kindly provided by Nick]
  He motions with his two hands held palm facing palm, far apart from one another in a “I once caught a fish THIIIIS big” gesture and points to Nick and the larger bed in turn.  The palms are then brought in closer together to illustrate a shortening of length… that’ll be little me in the smaller bed then.  Made in England.  Made to measure.  We laugh.  A real Goldilocks moment.  Gingerlocks and the Three Bears.  “Who’s been sleeping in myyy bed?!” enquires Baby Bear the next morning. 

It doesn’t matter my pillow case is waaaay cooler than Nicks!  We fall asleep to the bleating and shuffling of goats, cows and chickens beneath the planks upon which we sleep… still attempting to digest dinner, our stomachs blissfully unaware that breakfast tomorrow morning will be re-heated Pig's Ass 'n' beans with more generous lashings of "Yuck!" butter tea :(

sylviandavid says:
Ha Ha.... great blog.... a fun read! Sylvia
Posted on: Jun 01, 2009
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Stevie & the Prayer Flags [photo k…
Stevie & the Prayer Flags [photo …
The incomplete monstrosity of the …
The incomplete monstrosity of the…
Nick swerves to avoid a donkey col…
Nick swerves to avoid a donkey co…
On the hillside trail down towards…
On the hillside trail down toward…
Dude in a rock.  [photo taken by S…
Dude in a rock. [photo taken by …
Marcel, Me & kathlyn whipped by th…
Marcel, Me & kathlyn whipped by t…
Our impromptu Guest House for th…
Our impromptu 'Guest House' for t…
Hmmm, which one of you ladies wish…
Hmmm, which one of you ladies wis…
The funkiest pillow case ever my h…
The funkiest pillow case ever my …
Love Satan : One of the many notes…
Love Satan : One of the many note…
Ginger Prayer! :)  [photo kindly p…
Ginger Prayer! :) [photo kindly …
Workers atop The Great Wall of Fe…
Workers atop 'The Great Wall of F…
Reunited with the Mekong River.
Reunited with the Mekong River.
Marcel & Kathlyn on the rocky path…
Marcel & Kathlyn on the rocky pat…
The stirdy but wobbly suspension b…
The stirdy but wobbly suspension …
Down on the farm.
Down on the farm.
Cluck
'Cluck'
Steve has a go on Fred Flintstone…
Steve has a go on Fred Flintstone…
Xideng from on high.
Xideng from on high.
Coming into bloom : flowers on rou…
Coming into bloom : flowers on ro…
My Little Pony :)
My Little Pony :)
Mountain flowers blooming in our w…
Mountain flowers blooming in our …
Tree Trunk (abstract)
Tree Trunk (abstract)
Prayer flags mark our eventual rea…
Prayer flags mark our eventual re…
Food stations before you start you…
Food stations before you start yo…
Yubeng sited in the valley below.
Yubeng sited in the valley below.
Yubeng restaurant (abstract)
Yubeng restaurant (abstract)
A much needed lunch stop having fi…
A much needed lunch stop having f…
Deqin
photo by: Stevie_Wes