"... raises hopes of euphoria that cannot be met and it’s time to return to reality. Euphoria is available in pharmaceutical form but it’s nothing to base a life on. It tends to lead to stupidity."
Prayer flags draped near a rebuilt Buddhist Temple (now degraded to a Chinese Tourist site) give a peek into the old town of Shangri-la, called Gyelthang by the Tibetan majority who reside here.
I plan. The Gods conspire. I pack. The Gods laugh. I get up early to depart. The Heavens open and the Gods piss all over my intention in the form of slate clouds overburdened with rain that begin their purge and release wet, wet, wet to the bone.
Dealing with various package delivery companies, finding my dependable SF does not deliver to the remote towns of Kham, I finally discover one who will -- for 4x the usual price. Grateful, my resupply provisions are on the way to Bathang. Begrudged, I am not.
Pack is ready, my mind is not, my body is impatient. The rains come. I've spent too long in preparation, too long in Shangri-la. I've spent too long moving between doubt and determination.
I finally found some route guidance through these mountains in the form of -- unknown to me at that time -- a well-renowned author*. Trek routes and maps are near impossible to find within such a secretive state; search results consist mainly of Chinese tour companies; no published routes are available. One spark in the Google black hole came from a source expert on the Tea Horse Road. When I glanced at his site, quickly noticing his trek through the mountains of Yunnan and along the tea road, I read no further, but simply sent a desperate email, not even expecting a reply. Yet reply he did and quickly, giving me some route ideas. I felt elated and ready, once again. Turns out he has written two books, works with a well-regarded tour company, and has work published in numerous magazines, including NatGeo! When I later read his bio, I was surprised that an IT MAN so famous responded, and felt grateful.
I was supposed to leave yesterday, but the whole shipping extravaganza took up so many hours and so much mental energy, that I postponed one more day, berating myself, but relieved that my provisions, clothes, and laptop would make it safely to Bathang. Looking for information on a Tea Horse Caravan Museum of which I had read and planned to visit, Serendipity led me to another site, that of a local expat outfitter and guide** in town. He also responded to my WeChat enquiry so quickly that I was once again taken aback. I received more in the way of explicit instructions on routes leading north from Shangri-la, which was so helpful. After this exchange, my hope rose again and my confidence increased proportionally, even feeling a bit euphoric that I could finally begin. If I hold only a teaspoonful of local mountain knowledge in shaking hands, I feel much more comfortable about upcoming movement into the unknown. I felt I had not wasted another day, my Goddess Serendip coming through for me once again.
But some God higher than Serendipity is usurping her authority-- the rain acts like it was invited. If the damn rain stops, I can take action on the advice i received yesterday. I really, really do not want to take a bus north. I really, really want to trek an overland pass through the mountains and reach the Yangtse. And I stubbornly adhere to this plan, delay or not. Conversely, I stubbornly stand firm in my decision not to start this phase of my trek in a downpour. That would create such a dispirited inner attitude that it might cause a landslide in the area around me. If I accept defeat and take a bus north, I will escape the rain. But if I wait one more day, I might be able to begin on a sunny day. And the third damn inner voice reminds me that I will have to begin my research in earnest again of another area. Damnit, I just want to strap on my pack and go.
Why don't I?
Can't recall the source of this map, but it shows the Tea Horse Road leading north up through Shangri-la and splitting west through Markham in Tibet (it's actually all Tibet, culturally) and heading toward Lhasa. The eastern split leads toward Dartsendo (Dardo), now called Kangding.
*Jeff Fuchs of Wild China Tours:
** Nathan at Turtle Mountain Gear and Outfitters, Shangri-la, Diqing County, Yunnan Province, China