This morning I hiked up to the winds, and brought them back down the mountain with me.
Nestled high above the village is a little white hut, used over the years by monks to live in isolation. Now it is empty. The weather this morning was still, so carefully following the steep sheep paths, I slowly made my way to the hut. It is difficult country to walk over if you are not used to it, but well worth the effort for the views and the solitude. Wind cresting over the mountain tumbled down to where sat for my snack, blowing my orange peals down the slope.
There are a few holes burrowed in the ground, maybe foxes, maybe marmots?, and I saw four crows, but that is it for wildlife. On the other hand it is a pleasure watching the village activities from this distance; hearing the songs waft up the gullies and the smoke from the celebratory firecrackers drift in isolated puffs across the valley. I think about Wanma Dun Drub’s traditional herding life, imagining a day in the field with him: finding enough forage in this dry winter for his sheep, leading them to water, protecting them. Walking, walking, walking in wind, rain, snow, heat.
Descending the hill is pretty tricky. The ground is covered with loose rocks scattered over narrow sheep tracks. I didn’t quite realize how steep the incline till I set down my borrowed bamboo walking stick. Off it went. Dang thing just skied down the slope, managing to find a direct route down a sheer drop to a deep gully. I would be using my cool hiking stick that I brought from home, with wrist strap, thus avoiding such a mishap, but I inadvertently gave it to Dolma’s mom, Ah Mo, in Hongpo Village. She twisted her ankle, so I offered to loan it to her so she could walk to that evening’s dance. Next thing, I hear from Dolma that I gave Ah Mo a wonderful cane. Well, of course I did, right?
I creeped down the hill, often resorting to butt slides, and into the gully to retrieve the stick, and by the time I found myself back on the track to home, the wind had picked up substantially. The good thing is that it will help my clothes dry. I did a hand wash yesterday, and when I left this morning, they were still wet. Last evening, when I went to bring them in—jammies in particular—everything was stiff like cardboard. What on earth was in the soap? Maybe I used starch instead of detergent? Then I realized they hadn’t dried and were frozen! So I slept in my clothes, like the Tibetans do.
Samtso spoke to me of Drub’s shoes. They are not very good, and do not keep his feet dry. This really causes problems in winter. One can only imagine! Samtso would like to get him a pair of good breathable hiking boots. His feet are too wide for Chinese boots, and even the local cobblers won’t make a pair to fit him. We just have to figure out his size so I can help her. I decided to photograph his feet and draw their outlines on a piece of paper. But paper is not readily at hand. In fact, it is scarce! I finally use a sheet I brought, printed both sides with travel information. This lack of paper, even scrap paper, is quite humbling.
Wow, the fog has descended. I am glad that Samtso’s house is cozy. There is a coal fire in the living room stove that keeps the room quite warm. It also keeps the tea water at the ready any time anyone should want some. Later one of the the women will bring in milk tea, and keep it warm on the stove as well.
Samtso had to go into Labrang to take care of her brother’s new baby, and will be gone a few days. So, since last night, I am once again in a house where verbal communication is impossible. It’s fine. They are all very busy with the festivities, and I have my stories to write. Plus the cat and dog are good company. They both speak English!