There is not a lot to see in Mangnai except if you are interested in the mining business. And, more specifically, in the asbestos mining. An interesting page from 10 years ago -> -> Shimiankuang <-
- Tag Archives Tsaidam
Rough and ready, Qinghai is classic off-the-beaten-track territory, often as a last frontier feel to it. Traveling here can be both inconvenient and uncomfortable, though China’s rapid development plans have begun to touch the province, with huge railways and new rail lines under construction.
Despite that, Qinghai still delivers a high dose of solitude among middle-of-nowhere high-plateau vistas, Martian-like red mountains and encounters with remote communities of China’s ethnic minorities”
“Today, November 15, we depart towards the unknown, Southbound”. And this is how Ella starts one of the best passages of her book, a description that may fit in any Salgari’s or Verne’s book, with snow storms, sick horses, narrow river gorges, lost water springs… with of course, some tongue-in-cheek (or not) romantic moments: “Should I write a best-seller, it is now or never that the two heroes of my history, thrilled and grateful, would fall in one other’s arms, after having saved themselves from poisonous food or fatal fogs”
Ella and Peter joined the relatively small caravan of the Prince of Dzoun, who was a young man going back home, from Tangar to … well, not to Dzungharia, because this region lies to the North of the Tarim mountains, (above Urumqi) but to Dzoun, apparently a place in the middle of nowhere. The caravan was formed by 250 camels and 40 horses.
I am still looking for Dzoun (Ella) or Dzunchia (Peter). The Caravan took 16 days to reach it. Some authors identify it with Gormud, but Gormud is the Gorumu of Peter, and it is 150 km (5 days) too far. Based on the information that a loaded bactrian camel walks at 3 to 4 kilometers per hour, that the stage is usually 8 hours, and confirmed by Ella who says that 30 km is the daily fare of a caravan, in the following post(s) we will place the stages, at least from Tangar to Dzunchia.
They left Tangar with a helper, Li, four rented camels, two horses. Of course, Ella needed to bring her portable gramophone with three records :), and Peter two rifles, two pounds of marmalade, four boxes of cacao, six bottles of cognac, plus a bottle of Worcester Sauce). Two days later, they meet the 250 camels of the Prince of Dzoun and they started the Caravan life.
Awake at 4 am, two hours to load the camels (each one of their four camels was in a different lien, so, their are not loaded at the same time), departure at six, eight hours walk, unloading camels and horses, meal preparation, eating, and then staying into the tent. During the march, or eventually in the afternoon, Peter went to hunt geese, or hare, or antelope. Geese were sacred for Mongols, Peter’s killings were not butchered following the rituals for muslim, the fact that these acts may seem offensive were not really a problem for them, except for the first goose, that they almost gave to the Prince.
Lattimer caravan organization does not agree with Ella (Peter almost does not speak about it, he is more interested in hunting every animal that moves). The Prince’s caravan had people riding camels, although the were going “up”, and each lien was approximatively of 10 camels, instead of 18, but we recognize in her description the “camel pullers”, the Master Cook, in this case a woman, and, of course, the Caravan Master, in this case the Prince.
So they walked, they hunted (Peter), they cooked (Ella), and, apparently, they had a lot of fun. Arriving to Dzunchia Peter says something, curious to say the least:
The place (Dzunchia) has nothing impressive. It is impossible, even in the most romantic mood, to find anything enticing in it
“Even in the most romantic mood”? well, this says everything, don’t you think so?
And to end this chapter, another quote, this time from Ella Maillart:
It is said that Mongols do not wash because they are afraid to become fishes after their death. Moreover, water from wells seems full of spells; coming from inside the Earth, were are the female spirits, it will only become healthy when exposed to the Air and the Sun, who belong to the male world of superior regions. But this unheard-of dirtiness is not annoying in winter, when cold weakens the smell of rancid butter their fur is imbibed
Photos, but for the map, are from the Author
Ella and Peter arrived to Sining. They had lost en route the Smigounovs, sent back by Chinese authorities to Tsien-Tsin. An incomplete passport allowed them to leave Lanzhou, thus passing the hot potato of the two heterodox travelers to next stop, in this case Xining,
Lanzhou authorities did not dare to stop a “Correspondent of the Imperial and Foreign Department of The Times” with her boy (usually Ella was considered as Peter’s assistant), and they gave to them a passport for the Koukou Noor, written in Chinese only and not in Tibetan.
So, they arrived to Sining, to be stopped again, waiting for a valid passport and without authorization to leave the city. This is the first city that Ella as well as Peter find “not Chinese”. Sining is a cross-road for “Mongols from Tsaidam and Tibetans from Labrang and even from Lhassa” (PF), Both, Ella and Peter talk about the exoticism of Sining.
They strolled in the city, talked to the Authorities, bought their last equipments: a tent, designed by Ella with an “aerodynamic” look, sleeping bags made from cured skins of mutton (you may imagine what it should be to sleep inside), a recipient (a wok?) that was utilized by Ella to make laundry first, and to cook later.
Finally, they got an authorization to visit the Big Lamasery of Kumbun, as Peter calls it, Koumboum for Ella.
They were overwhelmed by the lamasery, and the life there. Both talk about the gallery with stuffed animals, their fur bathed in yak’s butter. Odor should have been overwhelming. But they enjoyed staying there. Probably they felt that their trip had already started.
They only needed: a caravan, some camels, a guide and they were all setup!
(photos from the Author, Chengddu and Shaolin Temple.)