Bingzhongluo: Stuck in the Mud
Stuck in the Mud!
Nu Jiang Liuku Autonomous Prefecture
June 13, 2014
Stuck in the mud! Is that ever a good thing?
Despite the gloomy weather and the potentially muddy country roads, my guide Ilian and I decide to visit a Tibet style temple and to explore the mountain villages above Bingzhongluo here in the upper and remote reaches of Yunnan Province. We hire a local man with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
The Tibet temple sits on the hillside above a cloud-covered valley and below a cloud-covered mountain peak. A canopy of multicolored prayer flags leads us to the wood carved entrance. The interior is no less colorful with icons and pictures festooned with wide and bright silk ribbons.
Driving now past a quiet village, we head down the muddy road. To our left are the sheer mountain walls. To the right, terraced fields of rice of the most intense green. In the distance, mist rises and obscures mountain peaks and unnamed valleys.
Our driver drops us off so we can take some photos of this heavenly scene. In a few minutes he discovers that the car will not develop enough traction to get back up the hill.
Ilian and I have two choices. We can travel with the driver down the hill where we will join the main road. (Will we get stuck again?) Or, in the mountain drizzle, we can climb back up the hill (it's a long way up) and return to the village where the driver will pick us up. It’s my decision to make. What would you do?
Steep is the muddy road. Thin, oh so thin is the moist mountain air. So? I decide on the climb!
Mountains and valleys paint the background. Water gushes down the roadside gullies. Countless terraces and canals embrace the hills and bend and curve to the contours of the earth; and then they seem to fall off the edge of the world. Solitary farmers tend the tranquil fields.
Have the farmers been here forever? Have the fields been here forever? Will they be here forever? I feel in awe. In the presence of silence and beauty. At peace. In the realm of eternity.
Eternal and inspiring are the mountains and the valleys and the terraces. Eternal, inspiring and human are the farmers and their families. For at the top of the hill and at the entrance to the village, what could be more eternal and inspiring and human than the four local women who invite Ilian and me to their home? A chance for them, perhaps their very first opportunity, to welcome and entertain Westerners.
A fire is lit in the middle of the dirt floor. The smoke rises through an opening in the roof. Tea is prepared – salty yak butter tea. Hard boiled eggs. Fresh plums. Apples. Warm roasted potatoes. A feast!
The women insist I sample a shot of the local home “brew.” I sip a bit. I g-gag. I c-cough. Everyone laughs. Then I smile. The clear liquid warms my innards!
My hosts are curious. Ilian translates. I explain that I am from the United States. Yet I intuit that they have little idea what that means or exactly where I come from. But that has no bearing on their behavior towards me. I am welcome now and I will always be welcome.
Where am I? I enjoy lunch in another world, on the other side of the globe. But what is human is human. So I am at home.
Today is unique. Today is universal.
Stuck in the mud? Ever a good thing!