Tuesday 16 December 2014

Day 177: Dolpo day 8 - Yak herding

A yak caravan descends the path to Namgung
"Jum jum."  The familiar morning phrase.  "Let's go."  After a full rest day in Shey, we must hit the road again.

As we wandered off, the campsite owner was yelling at Narinda and pulling the donkeys' tethers out of the ground.  The problem?  He did not want us to leave any donkey poo in the campsite, although we suspected that numerous herds of yaks should bear the brunt of the blame.  "This man has high blood pressure," Uttam said wryly.  "He needs to meditate more."

Leaving the tantrum behind, we followed the valley, occasionally passing Tibetan summer encampments, but seeing no one except a girl of perhaps eight or nine.  She whistled to a herd of yaks and their huge lumbering bodies, dozens of times her weight, obeyed her trill.  Within seconds, she had sorted them into a neat line, plodding up the valley in front of her.  It was a bit like asking a song thrush to heard ostriches, but the task could not have been more elegantly achieved.  Yaks, it would appear, respond immediately to the perfect fifth.

A turn in the path lead us upwards to the second 5,000m pass of our trip.  We all have survival strategies for making it up the final air-less, rasping, quad-burning steps to the top.  To take his mind off the effort, Guy decided to learn the names of all the dwarfs in The Hobbit - goodness knows why.
Autumn colours upstream from Shey

"Ori, Nori, Dori, Oin, Gloin, Fili, Dili," he started.

"There's no Dili," I corrected him.  "That's the name of our cook."

"Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Ori, Nori, Oin, Gloin."

"You've missed Dori."

The path lead to a false summit and we had to plod beyond it.  It was time for the final pull onto the ridge.

"Ori, Nori, Dori, Fili, Kili, Thorin, Nori, Dori, Dori, Dori, Nori ..."

At last we made it to the top where Tibet spread out before us, thick with high-rise mountains, summit following dusty summit.  Up here the world was as arid as 'Himalaya' suggested.  The unfolding of a brown landscape sounds anything but beautiful, but just look at the pictures.

Alas, not everyone was enjoying themselves.  Donkey boy Narinda lay on the ground and I went to see if he was OK.  He nodded, stood up and walked a few paces, then slumped down again.  Surely this wasn't an altitude problem?  He's a local boy, used to high places, and this was our second pass of the trip; he had not struggled with the first.  So what was wrong?  If I asked at the Tibetan shop, with its supply of Chinese wine, might they be able to tell me the answer?!

We dropped into a valley flecked with bright red vegetation around the village of Nangung.  Red on brown; brown on red.  Then another gompa cut into the cliff below us.  A doll's village-worth of tiered fields stood around it, inhabited by bundles of harvested grain.  Just upstream, our mess tent had appeared.

Yaks being whistled into line
Herder camps dot the valley above Shey
Susan ascending the Shey La 
The Shey La is less steep than the Kang La and spectacular in its barrenness 
Myself, Nigel, Dili, Tony and Susan at the top of the Shey La
Prayer flags in front of the mountains of the Tibetan plateau
The mountains of Tibet
The magnificent nine
A caravan of Ford Transits arrive at the pass (right on queue)
Yaks and donkeys depart the pass
The caravan moves on...
...leaving the Donkeys behind whilst Narinda nurses his head! 
Red scrub announces our arrival at Namgung.
Another gompa-in-a-cliff!
Namgung nicely exposed by a ray of light but still camouflaged against its surroundings 
It's early October and the harvest is nearly over in Namgung

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