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Day 71: Near Yushu, Qinghai Province

Qinghai Province, Tibet 
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Yak husbandry continued. Milking a dri, as the female yak is called. After ten minutes I have just enough to make a cappuccino.
Michael Palin - HimalayaSonam doesn't speak much English and I don't speak Tibetan but we sit there quite happily without saying much, listening to the spitting gurgle of the cheese and the yaks feeding outside. Not that yaks make much noise either, beyond the occasional low, respiratory grunt, like old men dozing in a library.

I offer to help Sonam's various relatives herd the yaks and I walk beside an old lady who moves them along with sharp, chirruping cries and the occasional clod of earth thrown
in the direction of any that step out of line. A grid of woven yak-hair ropes is laid out by the tent, to which the animals are tethered for milking. With Sonam's encouragement I have a go, leaning in, head up against the rear quarters, catching the toasty smell of the thick fur, hands groping about wondering where the udders are and what I should do with them when I find them.

By the time Sonam returns to check on my progress I have coaxed out about enough milk for a cup of cappuccino. He's far too nice a man to tell me off, but his laugh says it all. I must be much firmer with the udders, he says. I shall remember that next time I milk a yak. Sorry, a dri. (See yak sexing notes, Day Sixty-Two.)

When the time comes to move on into Yushu for the Summer Horse Festival, the reason for our coming here, Sonam offers me a ride on the back of his motorbike. No helmets or anything like that, just hang on and go. Bounce across the meadow, accelerate up a steep embankment and onto the road, then down the hills, offering silent tributes to Chinese road-building skills as we race past shrines, beneath garlands of prayer flags, through a shallow river and into town.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 71: Near Yushu, Qinghai Province
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Near Yushu
  • Book page no: 169

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