The expected wave of altitude sickness hits hard; I’m out of breath and my heart is racing in the short time it takes to debark and walk 15 steps through the jetway! I pause as I approach the exit to take a deep breath and steel myself for the onlsaught of taxi drivers awaiting me on the other side of the glass. I am like the cow running the gauntlet toward the slaughterhouse, but I know what’s at the end, I am prepared with my Tibetan phrase: “Ga tso re?” (How much?) AFter typing 50 into my phone calculator, I motion “too much” with a shake of my head and move to awalk away and he quickly lowers the price to 35. The same as the bus! Kewl! Feeling triumphant, we walk to the taxi. Later I find out he is Chinese, not Tibetan LOL I am sure I had butchered the phrase anyway! We chat a little on the way, he in his rudimentary English, which is still, by far, better than my infantile Mandarin. The streams have picked up speed and depth with the rains and snow melt. I also notice how lushly green the mountain tops and sides have become, even in the last 30 days since my second trip to KD. Considering my first trip to KD was end of April/beginning of May, I can officially claim that I am now visiting KD every month (at least for the last three months!) My excuse this time is that I will be visiting many other places in Kham as well! Since I’m here in both July and August, I should plan on September ;-) But for reals, we have a Monday off in September , so if I get a motorcycle by then... well, you know... I’ll be forced to try the new superhighway to KD!
After only a few minutes of contemplation, a pair of monks walk up near the bottom of the 11 short steps that lead up to Himalayan Coffee, for photos in front of this well renowned cafe, and of course, in total Gina-fashion, I lean closer toward the glass and photobomb them. Smiling, they take a few more then come upstairs to take a picture with me! I ask them if they are from Lhamo Tse/Nam Wu Si Monastery, and they nod and proceed to pose with me and switch phones back and forth to take multiple photos with both their phones! A graceful Tibetan woman followed them in; she was with them! And then she too sat down beside me for a photo. The monks spun their prayer wheel and instructed the woman to do the same for the photo. We smiled and laughed, then they departed to walk their own path around the wheels.
I have had a very propitious beginning to my trip! First, I am able to negotiate SIMPLY with one taxi driver (he pushed the others away) AND reduce the fare. Then, he turns out to be a nice guy and we chat a bit in his broken English and my 10-word vocabulary of putonghua (Mandarin, perhaps I know more than 10 words now...maybe 20?) and also drives safely! The drivers sometimes scare the bejeezus out of me on the way to/from the airport! And third, the monks photobomb me back! I love it! I love Kangding! I love yaks!
“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers is looping on the playlist heard overhead. Another omen. I continue to monitor my water intake (including herbal tea) and I’m about 2L in to my required 5-6L daily to help prevent AMS. I’ve had a BLT on Tibetan bread, 2 huge cups of white tea, and a latte, so I guess I should get out of here and begin the long, steep, breathtaking walk up to my lodgings and buy some water so I can drink a litre before I head to Lhamo Tse Monastery for some meditation and appreciation. I have much to appreciate... good karma, good luck, good life, good job, good friends, good mountains, good town of KD...
Yep, good karma going on here. Just met one of the owners of of Himalayan Coffee! Wade from Alabama; a good southern name. He’s lived in China 7 years and KD 4 months! He’s going to give me some pointers for getting around and up to Yushu and even told me about the new highway that will make travel to KD now 3 hours by car and 4 by bus! That’s the same that spent flying, when considering 50-60 minutes round trip to/from home to Chengdu airport, arriving at Cdu airport an hour early, waiting an hour for the flight (more if flight is delayed like it was today!), the hour-long flight to KD, plus an hour-and-a-half or more trip to KD from airport. Actually, driving would save an hour or two!