I’m still experiencing connectivity issues, so to curtail continued delays, this week’s issue of “Bajan,” Chinese Style, has been posted one day earlier! Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
…First of all, after spending an entire day walking around a park which is twice the size of a small caribbean island, we were both tired. Not only were we tired, but when we saw the other patrons all getting into their air-conditioned buses and settling themselves down for a relaxing bus nap back to the Ancient City, we were down right down-spirited. Non the less, Qiu and I unlocked our bikes and steeled ourselves for the long ride back. However, by the time we actually got back on the road it was already 5:30 in the evening, and one thing you must know about Shangri-La and Tibet, is that it is bright, blindingly bright, until it is not. The light was failing quickly, and in the stretched shadows of the twilight, those lush fields, and herds of black pigs began to look awfully eerie. With an unspoken exchange between Qiu and I we began to put as much “pedal to the metal” as we possibly could in our low oxygen environment and it was going pretty well too. Right up until the point that my old, broken down embarrassment of a bicycle decided it had had enough, and the bike chain broke causing the back wheel to simply fall off. However, this didn’t happen with flamboyant flare, it happened slowly, and it wasn’t until a good 15 metres later that I realised, “What, is my back wheel broken?” When I stopped to take a look at the wheel, it was then that it fell off and with the delayed dramatic effect finally catching up, landed right into my hands, almost with an audible, “What did you think would happen giant sized man?” I was at a loss for words, and the situation only began to grow more dire. Not only was the sun setting and quickly, but my bike broke and we still had at least 12 km to go. Qiu, was also equally as shocked, but luckily or unfortunately, we were about to be saved.
A few metres away from where my bike broke, there was a farmer and his family who were just returning from their days work in the fields. They saw our dilemma and being the kind hearted people they were, offered to give us a ride right back to the ancient city. At that moment I was really saying a mental thank you God. Everything seemed to have worked out for the best, until the farmer suddenly remembered that he had two Children. After taking a few steps, he started and shouted, Oh shoot, I have two kids don’t I, This won’t work, I can only take one of you. It was then that I knew the powers that be loved a good joke as much as anyone else.
Once again, I was faced with a moral dilemma. I really wanted to be the one that was going to be chauffeured back to town, but however, being the kind guy I am, I turned to Qiu, looked her right in the eyes, and said, “Go, I’ll take your bike back, It’s no problem to me,” ( While raising my head allowing my eyes gaze off into the setting sun) Its sounds very noble doesn’t it, and I myself expected it to go along the lines of every Hollywood movie ever made, whereby Qiu would take my hand and say, “No, If you go, we go together,” or “I can’t leave you behind,” but sadly for me, this was real life. Qiu looked at me and said with surprising speed,“don’t waste time taking any night photos,” and she was in that car, all buckled up and ready, even before the farmer had finished loading my broken bike on the back on the car. I was dumbfounded, and the gravity of my situation only settled upon me when they pulled off and disappeared into that same sunset.
I found myself in quite the conundrum. So many things could have gone wrong from that point forward. First, it was dark and it was becoming very cold, at least 6 or 7 degrees. Secondly, I had 12 km to go, and I was already tired from an entire day out. Third, at that moment I was getting a tension headache from a combination of stress and lack of oxygen. Fourthly, no one, I mean NO ONE in the world knew where I was at that moment. Not my family, nor my friends, no one I knew would know where to find my dead body, if God forbid something was to happen to me and fifthly and most importantly, I was hungry, practically famished. However, I said to myself, pedal now and leave the maybes for later. It was with this stoic detachment that I picked up Qiu’s bicycle, which had no brakes by the way, and was even smaller than my original bike, and began to pedal. I pedalled off into the sunset which after a few minutes became night, and that only made me pedal even harder. I was pedalling for a good 45 minutes before I began to feel the first traces of oxygen deprivation. My heart was beating frantically and suddenly I began gasping for breath. Therefore, I slowed down and decided to ride at a slower pace until, at least I regained my breath and the altitude sickness passed. As I was slowing down, I began to think it a little bit strange, because although I was moving at a much easier pace, I could still hear my heart pounding in my ears. I said, “Am I dying? I can literally hear my heart going thum-thum-thum-thump, and it’s so loud too!” In the dark of night, when everything was painted in black and I could barely see the road in front of me, I assumed it was my heart making that sound. It wasn’t until I took a quick look behind me and saw 5 large wolf like figures shoot out of the darkness and passed at terrifying speed under the street light which was a mere 25 ft behind me. I said, “ What the hell!” and as you can assume, fatigue and oxygen sickness forgotten, I took off like a bat out of hell! Thank goodness the bike had no brakes because I did not need any distractions at that point. I pedalled and pedalled,all the while hearing growls, howls, barks and heavy footfalls behind me. They only spurred me on, and strenuous activity or not I kept up a pace of 45 km per hour for at least half an hour, or at least until I could not hear any sounds behind me. When I felt it was safe enough to chance a glance behind me, what I saw were 5 large dogs, afterwards I found out they were called Tibetan Mastiffs, all siting in a row just staring at me, growling and almost begging for me to come back. Just seeing them was enough to fill me with the fear of God and I continued pedalling non stop until I saw the familiar lights of the Ancient city in the distance.
When I finally arrived in the city and explained what I had just experienced to the local bike shop manager, he calmly looked at me and said, I had nothing to worry about, once I safely made it out of the Tibetan Mastiffs territory. That is because as he explained, these dogs are extremely well trained and will only pursue or attack an intruder as long as they are within their territory. The farmers of Shangri-La usually release them at night in order to guard the horses,yaks and pigs and prevent theft. After he said that I then asked him what would have happened if I didn’t make it out of their territory, and the owner simply looked at me, patted me on the shoulder and said, you see my older cousin with the maimed arm over there? Thats what would have happened. Hearing this, I gave him the bike and walked away counting my lucky stars. Luckily, all the adrenaline in my system made me completely forget about my headache and altitude sickness, and gave me an enormous appetite. So I made my way over to the first restaurant I happened across and ordered myself a healthy serving of black pork stew, made from those little, hairy black pigs. The correct order of the food chain was restored and my bout with being prey only made my appreciate that succulent pork even more!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week’s issue of “Bajan,” Chinese Style!