Monday, July 19, 2010


Hello everyone!

Sorry for the long absence. Jessi and CJ were visiting, so I didn't take time away from their visit to blog. I hope that's ok. :)

In any case, I wanted to keep filling you in on our trip to SW Sichuan/NW Yunnan, even though it is at the risk of not filling you in on more recent happenings.

We spent 2.5 days in Zhongdian.

The first night there we had dinner at the hostel we were staying at with all the students (and spouses of students and one faculty member) involved in the U Wisconsin NW Yunnan IGERT. Well, all the ones currently in town. We had a delicious hot pot meal (I know, I don't know how the word delicious and hot pot can go together, but 3 of the 5 hot pots we've had since we've been in China have been good). I had met many of the students from the other UW before and so it was good to see them again.  After dinner Michelle, Josh, Liz, Brian, and I went to get karma by turning the big prayer wheel above town.

The next day we got up early to head out for a hike to the Thousand Lakes Mountain. It's one of the sacred sites for local Tibetans and we were being guided by a local man who Michelle had previously met. The hike was gorgeous, but quite wet. I wish I hadn't left my rain pants in Chengdu (this was done to save space in the car). We hiked for about 3 hrs up an old logging road through a forest which had been logged in the 70s or 80s.

After hiking for a while we got to the high yak pastures for this village and were invited inside for lunch. We drank salty yak butter tea (YUM! We had had very little salt the last 2 weeks and it was fabulous!), fresh yak yogurt (which they eventually drain and smoke to make cheese), cheese (squeeky and ok with sugar), and tsamba cake. The tsamba is toasted barley flour which is mixed with yak butter tea and sugar to make a little cake. I really like it. The yak butter tea in this region is what people in Jiuzhaigou call Lhasa style tea. It is made in a butter churn by mixing salt, tea (made with big tea leaves from bricks, which is basically the rejects from Chinese tea packed for easy travel by horse), and butter and then churning. It's fairly salty. The cheese is sort of like yogurt. They make it from the whey from a previous batch being mixed into warmed milk. Then it sits for a while and is drained in a basket, then put over the fire to smoke and dry. The hut had cheese and butter stacked in various places all around it.

Also in the hut were 3 baby tibetan mastiffs. They were so cute! It's amazing how such adorable puppies end up as such nasty adult dogs. Those things are MEAN! Next door was a little hut for the baby yaks. They keep them there to feed them and keep them from nursing from their moms. We learned that the people keep yaks, dzos (hybrids), and cows. The yaks have the best meat and milk, but the dzos produce more milk and meat earlier in the season, making them useful to keep around. Cows are needed to breed with yaks to make dzos.

After we dried out for a while we went walking through a forest which died from a pest and then saw two of the lakes. Gorgeous! The rhodendrons were in bloom, so it was really spectacular next to the lakes.

Then back to the yak herder hut (the "muchang", pronounced moo-chaang) for more tea, tsamba, and yogurt. We bought 3 cheese blocks from him. Our group gave one to our close Tibetan friends here in Jiuzhaigou. They said it was quite different from what they can get here.

We had Tibetan food for dinner. Then came the unfortunate discovery that our bathroom didn't get any water pressure when anything was happening downstairs. We also got no wi-fi. So for extra money, we ended up in a room with no water or internet. I ended up having to shower in Liz's room because the lady at the hostel, despite knowing we needed to shower and were having water problems, started laundry as soon as our water started going again. Josh and I moved to the spare room in Michelle's house the next morning.

Michelle was sick overnight, fortunately no one else was.

We had a relatively lazy morning - lunch at a western place so Michelle could eat something bland, then I took a nap, Brian took a walk, Liz went shopping, and Josh went to use the internet at a cafe. We had dinner at a cafe owned by Michelle's friend.

Tomorrow I'll write about the drive to Yading. It was exciting and a very good thing it hadn't rained too much recently.

amanda :)

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