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Spartan Wanderer

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The Amnye Machen Entries, Part 4

Here's yet another entry from my journal on our Amnye Machen trek. If you're not a fan of diving head-first into the middle of a story with zero context, read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 first. If you're into that kind of thing, however, by all means please dive away. Judgement-free zone here.

Date: 7/15/14
Location: Camp 2 to Golog
Elevation: ~4600 m (15,100 ft)

Smart Enough to Quit

I woke up feeling much better than I did yesterday morning, although I felt short of breath through most of the night. At one point I just woke up gasping. Kate was still alive as well. I tried to stomach some milk tea - it was getting increasingly more difficult - and munched on some week-old bread, staring out across the massive riverbed. Our immediate goal was to cross it.

It was easily 2 miles of flat terrain until we would climb out of the valley between a grassy mountain and one of Amnye Machen's peaks. The glacial fingers almost touched the floor.

Before heading up, we had yet another glacial river to ford. It was a tough one. The monk had begun to throw large stones in the river to create a place to cross (actually doable this time) while the Chinese stood by taking photos and laughing at him. Their dickhead of a guide, also useless, only began to help him when it seemed like it actually might work.

I tried the route out and made it across without getting a drop on me. The next two Chinese guys, who were previously mocking the monk for creating the stepping stones they were now using, got a foot soaked each. Cue personal satisfaction.


Most of the others opted for the horses, including Kate. Once everyone was across, we started following a small path over the hills toward the pass. Kate's left leg was really bothering her today, and her abdominals were spasming as well, both symptoms of her ruptured disc. We were both debating getting off the trail early so she wouldn't make it worse.

Over the hills, we saw many flowers that are used in traditional Tibetan medicine, which is surprisingly one of the four major schools of world medicine. There was the "1000 Wisdom" (sounds like a buff in World of Warcraft), another blue flower that looked exactly like the one from Batman Begins, and then the extremely rare snow lotus, which basically looked like a furry cactus. It was so rare, in fact, that the Tibetans actually took a snap of it as well.

The final leg out of the valley was walking over several boulder fields. My Ray Bans actually fell down a crack during a particularly difficult maneuver, but I was able to reach down and recover them. The view of Amnye Machen directly beside us as we scaled the grassy mountain was absolutely breath-taking. The guide and horseman shouting out in Tibetan as they rode up the mountain on horseback certainly added to the atmosphere.

Once into the valley beyond the mountain pass, we broke for lunch. Our meals are getting increasingly pathetic considering the money we paid is supposed to cover three 30-yuan meals per person per day. Once the veggies go off, it will literally just be noodles, which would work out to be no more than 3 yuan. We theorized that maybe Tibetans have adapted to not eat as much overtime due to their harsh environment.

Kate was also starting to get upset over the state of her back. I hated to see her in tears so far out in the middle of nowhere. I felt completely powerless. What can we do other than leave? A baby yak stood in front of her as if to try and cheer her up.

We continued on for a while until Kate decided she couldn't take it anymore. The weakness in her left leg was making it near impossible to carry on, and certainly not enjoyable to do so. She tearfully told our guide that we needed to cut our journey short and get off the trail as soon as possible. The guide said that there was a road ahead, and that maybe we could find a car to Golog in Machen County as soon as tonight.


The decision to leave was not all on Kate. Of course, my concern for her well-being far outweighed my desire to finish the hike. But I was also feeling it. The altitude was no friend to me. I felt horrible pretty much every evening and for most of the mornings. Our diet was really starting to affect our energy levels as well. The adventure was starting to become something we wanted to get over with. Not good.

We still had some walking to do before getting to that road. We came to a nomadic village and had a close encounter with a Tibetan guard dog. At first he only growled as we cautiously walked by. But then he made a proper go for us and started running. Guide and Monk both shouted something in Tibetan and the dog quickly sat down and lifted one paw. What the hell? The power of words, I guess.

Eventually we came to a small road where we waited for a while. We had a great final view of Amnye Machen as we waited and took several photos together. The mood was starting to become joyful as we reminisced about the last few days and Kate began to cheer up. Finally, a car came down the road. He was busy, but willing to take us down to the main dirt road, the one under construction.

At the bottom of the road were several tents that actually comprised a roadside restaurant. We somehow communicated that we wanted 10 momos and took them to a tent to sit down. They were cold, but also the best thing we had had in the past few days. Hopefully we won't have a repeat of the Shenzhen shits tomorrow. We spent the next half hour waiting in the tent, watching a bumblebee trying to land on the fake flowers embroidered on the interior of the tent.

A young Tibetan guy offered to give us a lift to Golog. It was actually a fairly big town. The guide had a good friend there that was nice enough to prearrange a hotel room for us. It was decorated in Tibetan Buddhist style, bathroom, shower, with a stick of incense already burning.


After taking much needed showers, Guide's friend took us to one of the best Tibetan restaurants in town. And it was incredible. I had an impressive array of yak-meat stew, spicy fried beef, a leg of lamb, a sweet rice with some type of root and momos in the shape of a pie. I'm glad we had it because our previous opinion of Tibetan cuisine was not very high.

Of course, the common theme of the day had been Kate and I constantly demanding that we pay for things (car to Golog, hotel room, dinner) but Guide, his friend and Monk would have none of it. They then fought amongst themselves over who would pay. We are quite worried that Jamyang will not properly reimburse them. We will definitely be having words over many aspects of this trip when we return to Xining.

Concluded in Part 5.

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