September 12, 2019
Distance covered: 150 kms
We had breakfast in the hotel the following morning, instead of our usual routine of finding a a breakfast place in town. I realise that I have never said anything about my breakfast habits during trips like this. I don’t eat congee like the others, but can usually find something like steamed buns or pancakes, and eggs prepared in various ways. And . . . I always have a stash of instant coffee sachets with me. A steamed bun (mantou), or even better, a baozi, a steamed bun with a minced meat filling, and a cup of coffee is enough to get me on my feet.
The first stop was a scenic spot on the slope of a mountain: Zhagana. We discussed whether we would go up, because it had started to drizzle and the stairs up the hill would be slippery. However, we were there and wanted to take the opportunity to shoot a few photos and then head on quickly. As the photos I am posting show, it was worth the effort and the sight of mountains partly hidden by clouds was actually stunning.
Driving on, we reached a spot, Lazikou, were a famous battle between the Red Army and the Japanese had taken place, again during the Long March. There was a monument where we had to stop to take pictures.
A few kilometres further, there was a large and modern museum commemorating that battle and that stretch of the Long March. The most impressive were the lifelike scenes of the life of the local people at that time.
Then happened what road trippers fear most: an accident; though a relatively small one. I have mentioned before that our car was known as Car Nr. 2 during this trip. While the roads we had chosen were usually of good quality, that morning we had to drive through a stretch of road that was under construction. We were all driving four wheel drives, so we were not afraid of a piece of rough territory. However, there was also some heavy machinery on the road. Those were driven forward and backward without paying attention to other traffic. Paying so much attention to the situation on the road left less time to take care of the other cars. At some moment, we decided to stop and wait for Car Nr. 3 to catch up. It didn’t and finally the walky talky came alive and told us that Car Nr. 3 had had an accident. It was parked behind a construction vehicle, when the latter started moving backward and hit the front of Car Nr. 3. The damage wasn’t big and the car could drive on, but repairing it would cost a bit of money. We decided to drive on to our next hotel first, which we were scheduled to reach after noon, and then decide what to do.
We soon arrived at the Saiyong Tibetan Village Resort at Têwo (Diebu), another Tibetan town in South Gansu. This was a more expensive resort-like hotel, but our organiser had been able to book it for a low price, because it was off season. As a real resort, it was a compound consisting of several buildings, each divided in a number of rooms and suites. We stayed in a room, of course. The rooms were fine, but again, no building was equipped with a lift.
The three drivers of our group decided to drive the damaged car to the local traffic police station to try to get a testimony required for the insurance. Most of the others wanted to stay in their rooms to rest. My wife and I, as you could guess, preferred to check out the compound. It was actually quite impressive, as is shown by the photos we took.
You can see that the architect had included a number of Tibetan features. However, the resort also had modern features like a Beer Garden.
However, the most impressive feature was the Ecological Garden, a large building in the centre of the resort that comprised a garden and the resort’s dining room. Several tables were placed in between the trees and shrubs, making it an attractive place to sit. My wife and I did what we didn’t want to do the evening before: we ordered a bottle of local wine. My sister in law had joined us as well, so three persons should be able handle the bottle. It was my first wine from Gansu, and it was actually quite palatable.
Meeting the manager
While we were sampling the wine and chatting, an elderly gentleman passed, asking us if we were OK. He introduced himself as the father of the founder owner of the resort. He was a retired government official and now helped his son taking care of the day to day management. His wife joined us too.
During the conversation, we learned that he had not been just an official, but the one in charge of the local infrastructure for a number of years. He had traveled extensively and had been to The Netherlands. What we learned while chatting with the manager proved once more that so much of what is printed in the Western media about Tibetans being oppressed in China so far beyond reality.
Change of plans
After finishing the conversation and the wine, the others joined us in the garden. It was getting dinner time and dinner would be served in the garden building. The drivers returned without the document they intended to get. While describing the location of the accident, the local police noticed that it had taken place in Sichuan province, while Diebu was just over the border in Gansu. Driving back was not really an option. Our driver then came up with an idea to ask a friend in the police station of his home town to help. The home town was in the north of Shandong province. We decided to follow that plan and changed the final two days of our schedule. Car Nr. 3 could drive on to Beijing, where it could be repaired properly.
Meanwhile, the drizzle that had been on and off that day had grown into a huge shower. That was no weather for an evening walk.