I woke up grilled finely on both sides. I lingered in bed toasting my back just a bit more, knowing that I’d surely miss the comfy bed with the electric blanket a lot the following night… The few nutcases who come to Tibet during winter quickly become accustomed to the heater under the sheet on a bed that costs them 3$. You usually need a good dose of mettle to crawl out of it and face the radiator-free room, but not today. Today we were finally reaching the place for which we came to China.
We came out onto the streets of one of the many towns that were renamed to Shangri-La apparently after the mayors had read James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, in order to look for a breakfast worthy of Himalayan climbers. Tibet gave us a big, sunny smile and blew the two remaining clouds away. Yading, here we come.
Yading Nature Reserve is one of Tibetan sacred places: a complex of three mountains, the circling of which is a holy kora – Buddhist pilgrimage. Chenresig, the highest of those three, reaches 6032 m above sea level and walking around it was our plan for the next two days. Before one person with an exceptional lung capacity raised on Lublin Lowlands, with another person with average lungs, but a significant surrounding area (which btw is of no use, particularly during mountain treks), raised on Silesian Upland, start making their way around a six-thousand-meter high mountain, they should review their breathing skills. There is no joking around when it comes to altitude, the slower you acclimatize, the better, stay well hydrated and hyperventilate for several minutes every day. And then try not to get too annoyed if you must stop every 20 steps to calm down your panting.
As you already know, the Chinese government has made it their mission to help Tibet and enable the development of civilization, therefore, before we actually start to climb, let’s dwell on the benefits which the Chinese brought to the region. Several years ago there was still no entrance ticket to the reserve and local taxi drivers would bring the visitors up to the entrance. It’s not terribly difficult to navigate your way there, but those willing to extend their trekking trip could hire a Tibetan guide and after a long hiking’s day, stay in one of the few huts with monks or a local family.
I am pleased to inform you that the Tibetans are no longer in danger of experiencing a cultural shock resulting from meeting strangers and monks may meditate in peace, as they may not host foreigners any more. The drivers don’t need to push their engines to their limits on a steep way up, as the entrance gate has been moved closer to the town and there are overpriced buses waiting for the tourists. After all, someone has to pay for the new road.
The new facilities don’t end just yet! Directly before the entrance to the reserve, there is a row of toilets. Entering one of those, the guests grant themselves with a while of relaxing classical music followed by a speech: one minute in Mandarin, one in English. The toilet itself consists of a hole in the tiled floor, a flush and a sink with cold, but running water. Pretty standard in China.
What grabs the attention, though, is the speech – captivating enough for me to first stand there and listen and then stay two more minutes to record. The nice lady informs the guests that the facilities came into existence thanks to a certain Shanghai company, she advises on how to make the most effective use of all the conveniences, how to make the visit of the following clients in need more pleasant and ends with the most cheerful: Thank you for your cooperation and we wish you pleasant toileting.
This cooperation made my day and the first hours of marching passed in two shakes. Or was it the fact that all Chinese tourists suddenly disappeared to make their way to the view points with an electric cart, thereby giving us an exclusive use of the meadow crossing path?
The Himalayas ate out of the palm of my hand. The glaciers reached their tongues out for some treats while the harsh ridges gave them a disapproving look, saying: “Control yourselves! You’re melting down!”.
I didn’t know yet that on the following day it would be my own very tongue dangling somewhere around ground level, and while climbing the 4 700 m pass I would experience a whole array of extreme emotions. That the ice floe glittering on the lakes would remind me of the coldest night I’ve survived in a tent so far (slept would be too big of a word here). That the colourful prayer flags flittering in the wind would whisper between themselves that this tourist girl is walking so slowly. That I would try to make myself believe that the next stop is to contemplate the magnificent and magical nature, guess the shapes of the clouds enveloping the mountain tops and capture this untouched, awe-inspiring paradise, and not to catch my breath again. That Yading is the most beautiful nightmare from which I never want to wake up.