Karma comes in many forms…
For us it comes in the guise of five feisty nurses from Guangzhou whom we’ve been travelling with for most of the pre-Tibet leg of our journey. To all the male readers, I know the previous line sounds like the start of a porno movie, but I swear even I cannot make this shit up.
We met the girls on our first night in Jiuzhaigou. We had just agreed to stay at a local’s house near Jiuzhaigou and were going for dinner. On the way to the eating place, we saw 5 girls being harassed by a tout about their accommodation for the night. The girls were trying to discreetly ask us if we’d found our accommodations and how much it cost. This is harder than it looks because they had lied to the tout that they already had sleeping arrangements so as to not to appear too desperate (which they were….it was late and hotels were scarce at peak seasoned Jiuzhaigou). The tout understood Mandarin (duh) and was hanging around like the proverbial vulture.
That’s when we realized some of the girls were communicating in Cantonese and I suggested to Jo to talk to them in (broken) Cantonese too.
To be honest, I was quite reluctant to share the information about our lodging initially because there was only one shared washroom where we were staying. We had wanted to leave for Jiuzhaigou at 7 (don’t snigger… Jo CAN wake up with enough motivation) to beat the tour group crowd into Jiuzhaigou. Using simple arithmetic, I figured that in order for eight persons of the feminine persuasion to finish using one bathroom by 7am, we’ll need to start getting ready at….midnight?
Anyway, I ignored this niggling inconvenience, recommended our hostel to them and I must say… Best.Decision.Ever.
The girls were REALLY delightful company and more importantly, quick as lightning when using the washroom. More impressively (at that time), they seemed to have done extensive research from mandarin websites about the region. While we’d eventually find out that their plans were not as solid as we’d thought they were, it was still quite an adventure travelling with them because they had a tolerance for uncertainty that
rivalled exceeded ours.
Having just visited Huanglong, they recommended for us not to go there as it is too similar to Jiuzhaigou and suggested that we join them instead. We suspected that has got something to do with the fact that there were only 7 seater vans going where they wanted to go, but the opportunity to travel with five nurses was too good a story for me to not just go for it.
Our first stop was supposed to be Hua Hu (花湖)or Flower Lake, north of Jiuzhaigou…
When we found out (after 5 hours of bus journey) that Hua Hu had been closed for MONTHS because it was autumn and the flowers had… ermmm… WITHERED… the girls were unfazed. They decided we should just wander along the open plains and get closer to the herds of yaks and sheep. Because of this, we were approached by one of the tribesmen, Uncle Mai who invited us to his tent for lunch. Of course we had to pay for lunch, but I don’t think it’s an opportunity many others would/could get to share.
I mean, THAT lunch was an adventure all by itself. It started innocently with zangba, (from what I could understand), a staple made from roasted barley flour, milk powder and a little bit of water. It’s kinda like oatmeal. This was followed by home made yak milk yoghurt mixed with sugar…actually pretty tasty…and just when our guards were down… That’s when Uncle Mai brought out the joke item.
Uncle Mai, ever the showman, started by telling us this is an extremely expensive delicacy that even he and his family hardly get to enjoy, so he could only give each of us a small sliver. He took out a piece of dried meat and cut out tiny pieces. He looked on encouragingly as he handed us our pieces of meat individually. It was preserved RAW sheep meat. It’s very hard to describe the taste… But here’s my take… It tasted like sheep meat that has not been cooked and has the consistency of something that has been left out in the sun for too long. The girls visibly grimaced once the meat touched their lips but we all trooped on so as to not appear rude and wasteful.
To be fair, chewing the meat and swallowing it was bad, but the aftertaste was…how do I put it… Decidedly worse… I could not get rid of the taste for hours!! (I found out later that SOMEBODY spat out her meat when we were not looking) (well played, Jo, well played).
Anyway, this was the first of our many adventures with the girls. Together, we rode horses across the open plains near Zoige, climbed up an infernal hill to watch the sun set across the first bend of the Yellow River, braved sub-zero temperatures to see a Red Army monument, changed our plans to go to Mount Four Girls (that’s what she said) and headed to see quake-ravaged townships. Of course, we hiked up and sprinted down Qingcheng Shan (青城山) together too.
They were wacky and great company while it lasted but eventually we had to part ways because they had to go back to work. I guess getting to spend quality time with awesome people like them was a perk of long term travel we had not really anticipated and we certainly hope to meet more friends like them as our travel goes on.
(Yes… the title was intentionally misspelled… bleah)