Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our Journey from Jiegu Town to Surmang

 Sorry the blog has been unreliable, lately.  You must understand that some nights the blog cannot be done.  Either it is too late, or the internet is not working.  Today, I am in Surmang at the clinic.  Two days ago we traveled from Jiegu Town to Surmang.  We spent more time trying to leave Jiegu Town than we spent driving. 

We woke up in our moldy Jiegu hotel two mornings ago.  At first, we had to do some shopping for our clinic.  At the market, we bought food, hats, and vegetables.  Also in the market, eager sales men sold skinned Yak heads.  This was hard for me to accept, and to write about.  The market was very chaotic.  Loud generators were running, and people and honking cars were dodging each other.  The muddy streets were filled with people from different ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Tibetan, and three Caucasians.   

After we finished shopping at the market place, we had to go get gas.  This may sound easy to you...but Jiegu Town after the earthquake a year ago, is unique.  The streets are a mixture of rubble, half way built buildings, tents, chaos, shops in tents, and lines...long lines. The first two gas stations we visited were closed.  The third gas station had a line of 18 cars, and only one pump.  This gave us two hours to have a peaceful lunch in a tent next to the line of cars.  Amazingly, the cook of the restaurant happened to recognize my mom from her visit in Surmang, her home village, 16 years ago.  This was a high light of the trip for Mom.  The woman told us that her husband died in the earthquake. 

Chaos at the Gas Line
When we had finished lunch, we were now the second car in the gas line.  Then the gas pump stopped working.  So we drove back to a gas station we had checked earlier.  It was going to open in two hours and we were the first in line.  While we watched and waited, and as other cars filed in line behind us, city workers started to do construction on a pipe directly in front of our entrance.  When they raised the pipe, our entrance was blocked.  City workers then created a second entrance to the gas station at the opposite end of the line.  We were now last in line.   Finally, at 5PM, we got our gas and left on our four hour drive to Surmang. 
Construction on the Pipe Blocking our Entrance

The drive to Surmang was astonishingly beautiful.  There were high mountains and Buddhist prayer flags.  Along the bumpy dirt road, we saw nomad tents and kids my age herding yaks.  We arrived late in the evening, to be greeted by all the friendly people in the clinic.  Yesterday I recovered from altitude, and laid low. Today, I am doing school work, but I managed to have some time to play soccer with the local monk kids.  We also flew kites.  I am excited to explore the rest of Surmang, and become settled down for the first time on this trip!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!                 

P.S.  If you like my blog, please pass the word.  By the end of the year, my goal is to have at least one person I do not know following my blog!


  1. OMG! What a gas story! Most of my gas stories involve beans or other 'fruits'! Ha! Rohan, your pictures are fabulous!

    Where are you staying in Surmang? In a tent? Cinderblock housing? Portable trailer? Picture request?

    What is the elevation there? Also, is there someone there who might know the lat/long coordinates so we can find you on the map? No hurry on this one - might be difficult...

    Can you imagine life there in winter? Phew!

  2. I'm excited that you finally got to Surmang. I found the Surmang Foundation via Google and now have an understanding of the work the foundation is doing there. What an experience you will have. How long will you be there?
    I have the same questions as Andrew above, so please answer when you can. You might ask Andrew about his experience with a hotdog in his gas tank.
    I look forward to hearing all about your life in Surmang. How lucky all of you are!
    Love, Grandma Doris

  3. Rohan, Many thanks for letting me taste from afar the sights and adventures you are experiencing. How frustrating to be so near and yet so far en route to the Great Wall, and yet you have now visited one of the great wonders of the world. Glad you can now settle in for a while and stay a bit in Surmang. Love from the clammy damp mountains of Pennsylvania. Grandpa Morgan

  4. Great post as always. What an adventure! I'm sure it will be nice to be in one place for a while.