Day 15 – June 2, 2006 @ 4:27 p.m. Beijing time
It snowed in the night and continued this morning. We didn’t move our camp to Memar Tso. Everything was just too wet to pack up. Heinrich and I sat in the cook tent and visited while it snowed. This trip has been all he hoped for, and more I think, a voyage of science. For me, it’s been a voyage of discovery. I have loved seeing the chiru. It still astonished me that we see them every day–as we would see deer back home. They are magical creatures with those long curving horns. I’m disappointed we didn’t see females, but the males are actually more dramatic. I have not loved the long lonely hours. But perhaps it’s a kind of vaccination against taking my friends and family for granted. I hope so. It would be well worth it.
After deciding we couldn’t pack up we took a road excursion to the north end of Memar Tso. Heinrich counted 200-300 chiru. We also saw gazelle, some bearded vultures. We saw one chiru that I thought might be a female but I was overruled. Jinpa likes to try to get pictures of chiru with my camera and his eyes frame the shots faster than mine. I have taken several good chiru pictures, too. If I ever use his shots I will credit him.
As we were on the way back from Memar Tso, Heinrich spotted 3 wild yak skulls in the yard of the winter quarters of nomads. He and Jinpa and Mr. Lee pulled them out into an area where the light was good and we took photos. It’s so dry here that the skin dries right to the skull. It doesn’ rot and peel away the way it would in our climate.
I haven’t mentioned pikas and marmots yet. They are both in the rodent family. Pikas are the size of a bunched-up chipmunk and look like rolling little furballs as they scurry across the desert. Marmots look more like prairie dogs. The Aru Basin–at least the part we’ve been in is pitted with holes that are homes for these little rodents.
I should mention the wind. At night it almost lifts our tents off the ground–every night. The plains are so huge there is nothing to stop it or slow it down.
I remember clearly how heavy the snowfall was on the morning of June 2, looking out the doors of the cook tent and visiting with Heinrich. Then the sun came out and we had a wonderful trip over the plains. Perhaps the best part was that whether we moved or not didn’t really matter. What we did that day didn’t really matter. We had no list, no necessaries. We had come so far we could just “be” there. A rare experience.