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China: By Journalists Eyes XI: On The Yaks Farm

Published: 28.7.2012
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.

We leave the city and our bus headed on perfect new highway to the west into the mountains. We find ourselves in a charming unspoilt nature Tibetan plateau. Meandering path bordered on both sides to three thousand meters high two mountain peaks, among them a large valley on the slopes of mountain meadows, where we see here and there a few sheep, but the people gone. Even on the highway we own almost all the time - when you meet someone, so family on a bike with a load greater than the machine itself or horse-drawn dray. We pass the car really rare.

We are in fact almost the poorest and least populated province of China. Qinghai, with its more than 700 thousand square kilometres, most extensive in the country live here, but only 5 and a half million people - that is otherwise normal population of the average Chinese provincial town. Most of the cultural and business life takes place in the metropolis, the rest of the country is very, very backward, many people here live below the poverty line, illiteracy is quite common. And until he Chinese government did not rely, that worked just fine agriculture. As we will know soon that everything should be changed.

After about an hour drive we leave breathtaking scenery and mountain peaks behind the highway and turn on the road much less comfortable. Finally, we pass the villages, we meet people. We observe storey houses with flat roof, fair-faced, unkempt, at first sight miserable and all are almost the same. Here and there we see the poor child in grubby clothes, men in gray uniforms and the kind of woman in long skirt. They stop when they see our bus and curiously watch faces that they see behind a little window.

Uneven road turns into a dirt road, far and wide is nothing but stony pastures, and then in front of us in the distance appears a cluster of several buildings - it's a local farm and we're going to listen to farmer. As an agenda item, it looked magnificent in place but we have a lot of surprises. The homestead consists of only three low shabby building, and a kind of backyard fence, where yak skulls and old rusty ploughs. The local staff means genial and old farmer with a practiced smile and expression, his quiet woman with an impenetrable expression, daughter, helper and assistant.

They welcome us by the white neck scarves - a traditional symbol of friendship. The farmer brought to us a small room decorated with dozens of photos of "Me and the minister of agriculture" and we sit to the old divan. The host has a place of honour – wing chair. His wife carries something to eat and drink. The only thing, from that farmers can live in this part of the province with an average altitude of 3000 meters above sea, are sheep and yaks. Behind the house, although we saw only two yaks, mountain pastures few droves, but farmer tells us how it's governed at large, helping to organize peasant to produce more effective and explains what everything is such as useful.

Without the yaks to the local people still can´t imagine life. They are extremely hardy, tough and hardy creatures that can survive in up to five thousand meters above sea level. They are used to carrying costs, such as draft animals, bred for milk, meat, wool and have the quality of their dung is dried for the winter, when people heat with it and they can also use it as insulation. So almost all in one.

I listen carefully rehearsed and expurgated speech of the old Chinese, which should apparently convinced us of how beneficial is the local effort of "collectivization" and my sight while stopped at his huge hard working hands and faces thousand times weathered by frost. I scan carefully his wife - the embodiment of a hard life in harsh conditions. I wonder why this family left someone to manipulate to do "tourist attraction". Well, it probably was not voluntarily...

We are still near yaks, colleagues ask, the farmer gives professional smiles into the camera and our glasses were filled with milk. Of course the yak one and freshly got. To eat there are bowls full of donuts - they look really tempting, but proud farmer note that they are fried in yak fat, took out my taste. In rooms you can smell a lot of unknown aromas and not at all pleasant to me. It is clear to me that nothing and I will not touch the hunger and thirst. Otherwise, I probably ended up with his head in the local toilet bowl, or in something that is used for these purposes. But lo and behold! The farmer raises his glass of milk and invites us to toast. I could feel the sweat on my forehead, it can´t do it and in the same time I must not offend the host. So I trick that I am drinking, holding the glass with both hands so as not to know that it diminished and quietly move to the weight of the flowers, it hides everything, fortunately.

Audience thankfully coming to an end, still get to the two viewing photo albums, over which we do now and oh oh (farmers family, yaks and guests), and finally we get to fresh air. Saying goodbye is warm, family pose us many times, wave, while we on the horizon and we're going to meet the Yellow River.

Text/photo: Andrea Fantová



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