Kangding/China – Xi’an/China

There were many interesting encounters on my way through Tibet. So here still a short report of this stage. Three times I meet groups of pilgrims on their way to Lhasa, practising the Unbelievable. As if it wouldn’t be enough, to walk many hundred kilometres, they lay themselves down on the ground in full length every 3 steps – the already mentioned procedure of prostration. As a mean of protection they use little wooden boards for the hands, a leather apron for the front and shoe caps made of old car tires. But it does not reduce the physical effort. All the passes and dirt road passages behind me, are still ahead of them. It will take months. Incredible! One man of the group carries his belongings on a trolley. So far I could see, these pilgrims are provided with food from the local population.
In Tibet I also meet the so far most spectacular cyclists. A man and a woman on a normal bicycle. He is pushing the pedals, she sits diagonal on the upper tube. At the back a big mountain of luggage. Not too uncommon, if it wouldn’t be Lhasa, where they are heading, some hundred kilometres away.
Further on from Kangding. Here people and scenery change. It seems like the border region between Chinese and Tibetan culture. A last high pass, a tunnel of 4176m, where I find myself together with about 60 tremendously noisy military trucks coming from ahead, down through a narrow canyon with bamboo forest and the Tibetan highland has been passed. There I feel, that Japan is closer now, that I am almost there , so to speak. But it is still a bit to ride and from experience you know, not to underestimate the “last” kilometres.
The infinite downhill kilometres, partly with bad weather and on a muddy road, were too much suffer for my simple V-brakes and the rims. The brake rubber goes down so quickly, that I had to adjust the brakes more than once while going down. With only one of the brakes, only working half way, I try to reach the valley safely, but at some point the flanks of the rim are so thin that it breaks apart in different spots.
I was surprised, that I still could ride, even though slowly, with reduced air pressure and without front brake. To find a replacement is not as easy, but fortunately I am close to the city of Mianyang, where I wanted to meet again with Meng Bing, a Chinese cyclist, whom I met in Lhasa, one month ago. He is a real bike-freak, works in a bike shop, founded a bike-club and does mountain bike races. While asking around for Meng Bings shop, the police takes over control. They want me to follow them and so I have an “blue-light” (here red-light) police escort through the city to the shop. I am staying for 2 nights. We exchange some parts of the bike and construct a new front wheel. One night I stay in a kind of bike club-club house with a music tower and German bike magazines. There I could have stayed one day more by myself. Permanently there are people with invitations for delicious meals, or just to see my bike. Here was also my biggest interview with the press so far – a TV channel, a radio station and a newspaper at the same time. The next day another interview for a newspaper. The TV guys film while I am eating and ask where I learned to eat with chopsticks. The newspaper guys named me the “German Forrest Gump”-!? A group of club members brings me the first kilometres out of the city.
Also when there are people, who speak English, the communication stays difficult. I try to learn some Chinese words, but they change in their pronunciation from region to region and spoken a bit differently, nobody understands them anymore. However, often I have the impression, that the listeners don’t do the slightest effort to understand me. It can happen, that the addressed persons just run away – maybe a relict from the times, when the contact with foreigners could mean problems with the State executive. Many times my patience is stretched heavily, when words, which I have so often used before, don’t work, and also pantomime and drawings don’t help, when the people around seem to own the position, that they don’t understand anything anyway, even more, that they enjoy themselves about that inability and laugh, while they keep ignoring me. Then somebody shows up, who repeats about that what I just have said, all of them repeat it, are happy and suddenly everything is bright and clear.

Now the challenge is to get a useful reply – some examples: I ask a police man at a junction for the way. At the end of our short chat he mentioned three different directions. On another Y-junction I ask again for directions. Because I have learned about it on this journey, I ask 3 different persons, but the result is 3 different answers – left, right and the one I am coming from. Often I note, that many people don’t want to use their hands to indicate the right direction. Why is it so difficult? More than once it is even difficult to find the right way, when the destination is already in sight. When the answer is a number, why nobody uses the fingers to count, even when I start to count with my fingers and try to move him/her to do the same? I learned and saw, that the Chinese have a very patent system of hand signs, which enables them for example to show the numbers 1-9 with one hand. When I got the answer, I do the equivalent hand sign. Yes, exactly, and everybody is happy again.

Also typical, that my sentence “I don’t understand.” presented by me in Chinese, is followed by the answer “You don’t understand.” – a sign that my partner has received the information – but there my monologue starts again, just a bit louder. Furthermore the people like to fetch pen and paper, to write down everything for me, because I don’t understand what they are saying, but of course, with zero knowledge of this beautifully written language, it doesn’t help directly. But all that, does not speak against the friendliness and willingness to help of the majority of the people in Tibet an China. More than once people took a good part of their time, to guide me to the place I had asked for, an Internet café, a budget hotel, an office. And with only a few exceptions, they’ve always asked for the common prices in a respectful way. Only once I had an argument in a local restaurant, where the little but strongly built woman of the house wanted to box my nose…
After the first big Chinese city Chengdu, I reach the city of Xi’an, famous for one of the prime sights of the country, the Terracotta Army. But at first I want to meet again some friends from Berlin.


translated by Maik

pictures to this article: Kangding/China – Xi’an/China : Fotos
press: Mianyang Evening News, Mianyang/China, 22.09.2007
radio: Mianyang/China, 22.09.2007

16. Dezember 2007 - Tom & Maik | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

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