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Published at 20th of July 2018 09:20:20 PM


Chapter 2

2


Bones (Vol 1)

The next morning, she got on the 7:10 bus and arrived in Xiahe a bit past 11 .

The moment the passengers exited the bus, several drivers crowded around to find some business . “Going to Ganai? Four people in a car, 350 per person!”

They had their arms open wide, like a mother hen guarding her chicks, afraid the travelers would run off .

Ji Tangang frowned . She pushed away an arm and shoved her way out of the circle . The person was angry at her but also worried about losing other customers, so they let Ji Tangtang walk off .

She carried her bag and headed over to the exit . There, she saw a cart filled with food . There were vacuum-sealed boiled eggs, cookies, and things like that, but the packaging seemed old and dirty . There was also a steamer filled with corn . After looking awhile, Ji Tangtang bought a steamed corn .

When she exited the bus station, Ji Tangtang saw a girl sitting on the steps to the right . She had short hair and a round face, and she wore a blue-green jacket . There was a backpack at her legs, and she was also nibbling on corn .

Ji Tangtang smiled, walked over naturally, and took a seat . She pulled off the bag on her corn, about to take a bite, when the girl asked her, “Here to travel?”

“Mm . ” Ji Tangtang took a bite . Her voice was muffled by the food inside . “You too?”

“I’m about done . Getting ready to head home . ” As the more experienced traveler, she gave Ji Tangtang some tips . “Don’t be fooled by those drivers . They’re real bad . 350 yuan and they squish four people into a car?! There are cars that come in the afternoon and charge a little more than 40 a person . ”

“Thanks . ” Ji Tangtang was very grateful for the information .

The girl smiled . Then she looked over Ji Tangtang and gave a frown . “Did you bring enough clothes? You’re not going to go dressed like this, are you?”

It was May . Ji Tangtang was dressed in a rose-colored long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and Nike running shoes .

“All set!” Ji Tangtang pat her backpack . “Hiking shoes, jacket, fleece, waterproof pants . I’ve got it all . Is it very cold over in Ganai?”

“It’s 3,000 meters above sea level . It snowed a few days ago . Not a lot, but it was freezing . Every day, we huddled around the fire for warmth . ”

At that, a regretful expression crossed her face . “If only you’d come a few days earlier, you could have caught the crowd from the May Day holiday . Now that it’s past May 1st, there won’t be many travelers to Ganai . It’ll be hard to team up with others . ”

 


“I read that August is the peak season for travelers to Ganai . So there aren’t many people now?”

“Yeah, not a lot . There are only a few people staying in each of the hotels . ” She paused a moment and then added, “I’m talking about travelers . There are some Han Chinese folks who started a business here, but most of the people are Hui or Tibetan . ”

“You’re kidding me!” Ji Tangtang couldn’t help smiling .

The girl got back to the point . “This is a pretty remote place, and it’s at a high elevation . A lot of travelers suffer from altitude sickness and other uncomfortable things . But don’t worry . Ah! My bus!”

Before Ji Tangtang could react, the girl grabbed her backpack and dashed into the bus station . The bus from Xiahe back to Lanzhou was slowly on its way out . It seemed like the big horn on the bus was just for decoration . They didn’t even notify the travelers that it was leaving .

Halfway to the bus, the girl turned around and waved to Ji Tangtang . She quickly returned a nod and mouthed to her, “Thank you!”

The girl probably understood her . She boarded the bus in a happy mood .

Ji Tangtang watched the bus depart and didn’t look away until the smoke trails disappeared into the distance . When traveling, you often ran into enthusiastic, though passing, friends . Even though you didn’t know each other’s names, after having a conversation together, you were left feeling warm inside .

After consuming her corn, Ji Tangtang wiped her mouth with a napkin . Then she walked over to the ticket counter to buy a ticket to Ganai .

A bit past 2 in the afternoon, the dirt-covered minibus arrived to shuttle everyone to Ganai . Most of the passengers were Tibetan, dressed in sheepskin gowns over one shoulder, tied at the waist, the fleece cuffs faded, neither black nor grey .

Ji Tangtang sat at a window seat . In front of her was a small man, a lama, chewing on a chicken leg, his dark hand covered in grease . Ji Tangtang watched him awhile and thought to herself, “Can a lama chew on a chicken leg like that?”

Ji Tangtang didn’t know too much about Tibetan culture and religion . She thought that that lamas were like monks and nuns, that they were indifferent to worldly temptations and didn’t eat meat .

The bus moved slowly and stopped often . Most of the time, they were yielding to crowds of yak or cattle or sheep, which also moved very slowly, as if they were making a trip to the coffee shop . They were so leisurely that it irritated you . And sometimes, the animals would just stop in the middle of the road and look into the bus full of people .

The driver couldn’t do anything but honk his horn . Ji Tangtang had heard about this before . In Tibet, the cattle and sheep were above all else . Not only were there special paths for the animals, if a car crosses paths with them, the car always yielded . Sometimes killing the animal was more serious than killing a person . Naturally the driver was more careful, and he’d rather hit another car than hit one of the animals .

For the second half of the bus ride, they were finally on a paved road . But another problem presented itself . The bus driver’s head bobbed back and forth, as if he hadn’t slept in several days . The bus kept swerving right and left .


It wasn’t only Ji Tangtang who was worried . Several other Chinese passengers seemed anxious too . “Sir, don’t doze off . Take it easy, huh…”

Speak of the devil… After making a turn, the driver lost control and the bus went straight onto the side of the road .

 

The passengers cried out in alarm . But fortunately, the earth was only half a meter below the pavement . The bus was leaning, but it was upright . Still, it would be difficult to start it up again .

Everyone was livid as they got off the bus . The bus driver stood at the door with his arms on his waist as he shouted back, “The bus didn’t even flip! What are you scared of?”

It seemed that rollovers were quite commonplace, and this incident was the abnormal one .

Ji Tangtang was speechless . Standing on the ground below the road, she looked around her, at the lack of signs of humanity . She couldn’t help but ask the driver, “How else can we get to Ganai?”

“It’s not very far,” the driver replied, annoyed by everyone’s fuss over nothing . “You can ride a yak or a horse, or you can even walk . It won’t take more than an hour or two . If you’re lucky, you might find a tractor that will take you to town . ”

And that’s how things were taken care of .

The passengers yelled a bit before getting tired and going their own ways . Some carried their bags and walked . Others met a herd of yak and went along with them . Others yet talked to passing horseback riders .

The ludicrous thing was that the driver irresponsibly left with the horseback riders too . Ji Tangtang was dumbstruck .

Ji Tangtang had a 60 liter backpack with her . She could walk a short distance with the whole thing on her back, but her waist would give out if she had to carry it a long distance . She would just have to wait patiently for a tractor to pass by . The seconds and minutes passed . The only ones left by the leaning bus were her and a rather intellectual looking young man with glasses .

Ji Tangtang started the conversation .

“Are you traveling?”

“Mm . ”

“Where are you from?”


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“Xi’an . ”

“That’s a nice place . ”

The man smiled . His thin face was a bit flushed .

The two of them must have been lucky, because after a short while, a tractor tooted on over . The Tibetan driver could speak Mandarin, and he agreed to take them to town for 5 yuan each .

 

Ji Tangtang ended up resting on the tractor for the next half hour . When they arrived, it was already past 5pm, though it was still as bright as early afternoon . The large clouds in the distance cast shadows on the green grass . Even further out, on the mountain peaks, a herd of yak were feeding on the grass . From far away, they just looked like little black specks .

When they arrived at the town, Ji Tangtang hopped off back of the tractor . The man with glasses followed suit,

Ganai was a tiny town . There was just one main road, and from the entrance, you could see the entire town .

The man with glasses inquired of Ji Tangtang, “Where are you staying?”

“The youth hostel,” she replied with a smile . “It’s cheap . ”

After traveling together a bit, Ji Tangtang found out the young man’s basic information . He was a fourth-year student at Xi’an Electronic Science and Technology University . Because he wanted to have some fun before graduating, he decided to travel Gannan by himself .

But, as she looked at the dust all over his shoes and clothing, Ji Tangtang could only sigh to herself, “Those are definitely not suitable clothes to be on the road . ” His so-called Gannan travels would likely be limited to passing, superficial glimpses of the scenery .

As they continued walking, they came upon a building to their right . Painted on the door was a blue triangle with a small tree and house inside of it . This was the logo for the International Youth Hostel Federation .

Ji Tangtang stepped inside and looked around . “Is this the youth hostel?”

A few tables were placed in the simple reception hall . One of the tables was filled with small backpacks . Next to that was a kettle and also bread wrapped in plastic .

Ji Tangtang walked up to the table . In the pile of backpacks, there was also a pair of black walkie-talkies .


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It was probably for groups heading out to explore . But… where were the people?

Suddenly, she heard footsteps shuffling from above, mixed with male voices arguing . “If we’re going to search, we have to hurry . There’ll no chance when night comes…”

Their discussion immediately stopped when they spotted Ji Tangtang and the young man with glasses .

At the front of the group was a short but fierce-looking man . Tan and bald, he wore a sleeveless shirt that revealed his muscular arms . Ji Tangtang couldn’t help but admire his strength . Behind him was a young man in a blue jacket . He was quite handsome . And behind him was a sloppy-looking man with disheveled hair . His head drooped and he didn’t seem very alert…

A short and fat middle-aged man was at the very back . With a smile on his face, he asked, “You want a room?”

“Yes,” Ji Tangtang replied with a smile of her own .

Their smiles seemed to end the deadlock situation . The group, minus the middle-aged man, walked over to the table and grabbed their bags, water, and walkie-talkies . The guy in the blue jacket took up the rear, and as he exited the hostel, he glanced back at Ji Tangtang .

“I have rooms for four, six, or ten . Top and bottom bunks . Men and women share rooms . ”

“How much for a bed in the ten-person?”

“Twenty five . ”

“I have a card from the youth hostel . Can I get a discount?” Ji Tangtang reached into her waist pack to find the card .

The middle-aged man shook his head . “We’re not the youth hostel . ”

“But the logo on the door…”

“A chain used to rent the place for ¥2,000 a year, but they stopped . You can see where we are . Not a lot of people travel to these parts, so they weren’t making enough money . ”

The place was surrounded by mountains after all . Since the owner was so candid, Ji Tangtang didn’t both dragging things out . After she pulled out her ID card and booked herself a bed, she realized that the boy in the glasses was standing stiffly to the side, as if he had no intention to stay there .

Ji Tangtang looked at him, and he stammered, “E-everyone lives… together? The men and women?”

Before Ji Tangtang could respond, the owner shouted, “Everyone lives together! There are no single rooms! Stay or don’t—your choice!”



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