Xideng : One Night in the Valley (& other moments)
Deqin Travel Blog› entry 160 of 268 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!” ).
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.
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.
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 :(