We woke to sunshine. A propitious start to our first days camping!
We decided to do our last walk of the Kora. We have now started to recognise some of our fellow early morning walkers. Perhaps because of this we found ourselves feeling outraged by a large group of Japanese tourists stretching out behind a flag waving guide. It felt as if our peaceful ritual was being violated. Probably how the locals feel about us intruding….
Back at the hotel we finalised our packing – why do the same things never seem to go into the bag the same way? – ready for a late morning departure. Our route took us back out of the valley and past Linxia where we had stopped for lunch on our way to Xienhe. A little way past Linxia we pulled off the road to have our first group lunch catered for by the first cooking detail and to be introduced to the catering facilities available on the truck. Much to the amazement of the passers by, a table was produced from one locker, chopping boards and bowls from another, washing up bowls and cutler appeared. A very acceptable lunch was produced as we learnt the various systems and processes that effectively provided efficient, wholesome and germ free food.
It was then back on the road and some Mah Jong training while we covered the remaining kilometres to our first camp site by the side of a large reservoir with mountains behind it. After a lesson on tent erection, somewhat interrupted by a group of motor cyclists who drove up to see what was going on, we collected our tent from its cubby hole. The tents are all named and you retain the same tent for the whole trip. Wait for it – our tent is called The Ritz. I thought it set just the right tone!
Anything less like the Ritz I have not seen! Although it was not exactly up with a flick of the wrist, in a reasonable amount of time we had a respectable looking shelter and were just about to start putting our things inside when a people carrier drove up. With not so much as a by-your-leave it parked between Penelope and the tents! We have noticed the Chinese have no space sensitivity, but this was something else!
We were even more amazed when out stepped a full photographic crew and then, unbelievably, two brides with their respective bridegrooms in full regalia!!! With typical Western sang froid, after the initial pause to see who was going to emerge from the vehicle, we all continued setting up our tents. Around us lighting crews went about their work, make up artists patted away shine from the brides’ noses and a very energetic photographer threw himself down on the grass and took photographs in the most dramatic poses (his not the brides). During the time they were there, each bride had at least two changes of gown. It was hysterical. What added to the whole scene was that while it was an attractive spot, there was a considerable amount of rubbish about which they made no effort to remove!!
Eventually they moved off and as the afternoon wore on we were visited by any number of people – families who drove up, tipped their children out and then arranged themselves around us and took photographs, a group of very stylish young Chinese chaps, an elderly shepherd and his flock of sheep and three chickens(?). It was really funny. It was like being in a zoo!
Dinner was great! A vegetarian Thai curry. We had collected some wood on the way so we had a camp fire and someone produced some music. And so ended another day on the road…..,,