Thankor is small. From there we drive west out of town. Our bus is almost full. The road is rough and very bumpy. We cross streams, pass dwellings of river rock surrounded by walls made of sod. We are on the plains. Distant mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks surround us. Yaks are everywhere. They are eating grass and walking around. Earlier in the day, I approached a group of yaks to take their photos. Despite their large size and horns, they are timid and run like sheep.
After about half an hour, our bus bumbed off the road twoard a dwelling. Our hostess greets us. She is in traditional Tibetan garb. Her black hair is braided. Her cheeks are rosy. Her straight, white teeth sparkle. She has a skirt on with her jacket rolled up and tied around her waist. She has several necklaces, amulets and large earrings.
The guides, monk and teacher/singer all exchange hugs with our hostess. This is the winter house. There are two rooms. A sod wall surrounds the house to break the wind and create a boundary for the animals. Young dogs run up and knip at our feet. Yaks surround us in the distance, mucnching away. Because her two-room house is small, we leave our backpacks on the bus. The drivers will sleep on the bus, so they are secure. We take sleeping bags and water inside.
Because the English teacher needs to return to Thankor village, he will sing while our hostess prepares dinner. His English is good; he plays the Tibetan guitar and the Western six string. His songs are sad. Without being political, he mourns the changes in Tibet while admiring the beauty of the country and its people.
Our hostess shovels dry Yahk dung into the stove. Ite seems like a good fuel, not too smoky, a moderate, coal-like temperature. However, she must replenish frequently, maybe every 15 minutes.
She has already prepared momos, both Yak and vegetable. She boils them in a deep pan. Then she stir-frys vegetables in an enormous wok. She adds oil and spices and salt. She adds water and while it is heating to a boil, she prepares the noodles. She flattens the dough and then takes long strings of it and stretches them using her fingers to cut them in more slender strings. Then she rapidly plucks off pieces of noodle about 1 inch x 1 inch and puts them in the pot. The menu is identical to our lunch at the restaurant. Momos, noodles, yak, vegetables — typical evryday food.
Her dishes are better than the restaurants. Her noodle stew is more flavorful and not quite as salty. Having just eaten lucnh at two, we are not particularly hungry. The food is filling. We have yak butter tea and sampa. Sampa is yak butter, barley flour and sugar combined.
After dinner, Grandma returns home. she has been herding yaks. When she sees the large plate of momos, she decides her guests are being shy. Initially, she puts the plate in front of each person until he or she takes one. When we say we are full, she becomes more insistent and while laughing throws them across the room. We are all laughing, catching momos and eating them. Nothing like cold, fatty yak dumplings for desert.
We spread our mats and put out our sleeping bags. She provides us with enormous quilt blankets. With the thirteen mats on the floors of the two small rooms, there is little room for a path to the outside. I brush my teeth under the Tibetan stars while watching Yak silhouttes on the horizon and listen to the sound of the animals. During the night, I get up to use the “toilet.” I am met by a male yak calf that is practicing head butting manuvers. I shoo him off and he leaves me alone.
We have a good nights sleep; it’s warmer than the hotel. In the morning we have tea, bread and warmed-up noodle stew. Then we take photos and we are off in the bus. Grandma climbs up on the roof and waves to us until we are out of sight.
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