The rooster begins to crow as we leave our hostel. In the road out of the village, we catch up to a cart with the four feet of a pig sticking up splayed to all four corners. It’s still steaming, the fatty flaps of its opened belly jiggling as the cart bumps across the paving stones. A bowl of cubed liver rests in the carcass, balanced on the backbone where all the organs used to be.
At the bus station, a taxi van is nearly ready to depart.
This story is the continuation of a series that begins here.
“Jianchuan?” Ert asks. The driver grunts assent. We peer inside. Five of the seven seats are taken. “Wu ge ren,” Ert clarifies: five people. With obvious patience, the driver nods again. We put our packs in the back and slide in to overoccupy the seats. The old Bai woman next to me takes my arm and smiles as I slide in next to her. We fit.
Some way down the windy road, the driver reaches over the old man in the front seat and puts his seat belt on him- the first seatbelt-wearing I’ve seen in China. The old man puts the shoulder strap behind his head. The driver reaches back over and puts the shoulder strap in place again, then returns to texting and driving. The old man lights his third cigarette of the taxi ride and gives another cigarette to the driver.
In Jianchuan, we catch a bus. We head further north, higher altitude. Out the front window, we can see snow caps: the edge of the Himalayas. We’re close to northern Myanmar.
Our bus stops in Lijian, and we change onto one bound for Shangri-la. The street signs in Lijian are in Chinese kanji but also in Naxi, the only hieroglyphic language still in use in the world. The mountains are increasingly sharp, some forming perfect sixty degree peaks.
The bus passes the first bend of the Yangtze River, then crosses over the slow, brown water. The bus pauses for us to disembark, a side of the road in the small town of Quiaotou. For us, this is the beginning of a several-day hike: the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail.
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