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Day 72: Yushu

Qinghai Province, Tibet 
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Sonam the yak farmer prepares a calf for shearing. Yaks provide food, fuel, rope, tent coverings and just about everything apart from the natty suit Sonam's wearing.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe Yushu Hotel, its entrance garishly painted with the usual conflation of ill-tempered dragons, snowy mountains, lions, tigers and minor devils, was noisy with pre-festival singing and shouting last night.

My room has the usual idiosyncrasies. In this case, a basin pointing downwards at an angle of 30 degrees, which I don't use, not because of its peculiar tilt, but because no water comes out of either of the taps. This is unimaginable luxury compared to the other rooms on my floor, which share a communal bathroom and a pungently malodorous lavatory, from which I can hear the sound of throats being graphically cleared. Nevertheless, this is the best hotel in Yushu, or Jyekundo as it's known in Tibetan. This morning the narrow driveway is an ill-tempered place as dignitaries from as far away as the provincial capital Xining wait to be collected by their shiny four-wheel drives and taken the mile or so out of town to the festival ground. I meet an American in the lobby. He's in water-management and is very excited.

'This is the water-tank of the world, Michael.'

For a moment I feel another plumbing story coming on, but then I see his gaze is directed out to the mountains.

'The Salween, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Yellow, Yangtze. They all start round here.'

He shakes his head reverentially.

'Water-tank of the world.'
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 72: Yushu
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Yushu
  • Book page no: 170

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