Sking: A Bad Time in a Nice Place

The teacher put me up in his place in Sking. He was then gone all day, I’m left to explore the place on my own. Sky is grey and light isn’t so good.

Village is really quiet, there’s a man doing laundry, then a woman. When they’re done I mosey over and wash my own clothes in the same spot.

Everyone that comes by says “Jullay!” but there’s not really any english.

I snoop around and take the place in. Take some snaps as the clouds come down the main (kargiakh) valley.


What isn’t great is that I’ve got another case of the traveler’s diarrhea, so shitting urgently now 3-4 times/day. Since it isn’t getting in the way of anything I’ll wait and see if it passes. But I’m also noticing that I feel pretty tired and groggy, not muscular but a whole body fatigue, like I’m getting a cold or something.


Was lounging off on the lower side of the village, leaning against a wall. A local walks by my bike… He grabs the bars and works the brake levers. This is fine. Everyone does that. Then he steps back and looks at the bike. He reaches over and hefts it, weighing it. This is fine too. Folks are curious.

And then I see him reach down quickly, I hear a zip. He’s got something in his hand. And then another zip and he puts something in his pocket.

Hmm… thats not good.

I stand and say “Jullay!” to him. I’m not going to accuse him of being a thief. Locals have rights to anything they want. My only chance is to help him to know me and that I’m at his mercy.

I walk over and invite him to ride the bike. “No thank you…” he nervously demurs. “Are you sure? Go ahead and give it a try!” I’m very sincere, I’d like him to try it. Forget whatever he took. Although when I look down I can see that the tool bag, the top-tube/seat-tube mounted Revelate Gas Tank is suspiciously loose and not bulging tight like its supposed to be… that bag is a bitch to repack. The leatherman… He must have taken the leatherman… It was on top.

“No… is ok…” I invite him to sit with me and he does, and I start to tell him about my trip, about the route over Shingo La. He knows that I know he took something but he plays along and we laugh and talk for 10 minutes. We walk up into the village and he shows me his house, we shake hands and I learn his name, we take each other’s picture. But then he needs to go, some stuff to do.

Once he’s gone I verify the leatherman is gone. Its my only knife, is my pliers, my only screwdrivers, scissors… the vice grips I was to use to hold the needle if I needed to repair a tire. I kinda would prefer to have it back.

I walk around the village but my local is nowhere to be seen. Weird.

I lounge back down and wait, watch the clouds going up the valley. The water ripples in the canal, the wind gusting on the barley. Nice place despite the chilly overcast.

Suddenly my guy appears. He wanders over calmly, says “hello”. I explain that my leatherman is missing, did he see it lying around anywhere?

Nope, he didn’t, but he offers to help look. Thats nice.

We go back through the village to my bike and I can see that the Gas Tank bag is now bulging tight. I look around the nearby wall. I look on top of the stairs. Then I go to the bike and open the gas tank and the leatherman is there! Whew! I’m such an idiot! I must not have looked there. I shake his hand with (true) relief and invite him again to try riding the bike but he says he’s not interested.

We sit and chat for a bit longer. He tells me of his children and the various careers he’s had.

I’m very happy that his good nature shone through and he returned the tool. This is really not a good place to steal. Small village. Bunch of consequences if this had been escalated.

Glorious Dinner

At dinner my host generously offers to make me (and his extended family) something special, its Tantuk, a hearty barley stew with dried yak meat.

Host goes on about how tender their dried yak meat is and hands out pieces for people to chew on while the food is cooking.

Its got some fat, some protein, but a large part of it is tendon or cartilage which is extremely chew resistant. I don’t want to spit it out but… and I’m sort of noticing that my stomach is getting upset pretty quickly.

We have a long nice dinner with an extended family and the host translates many stories. We all have 2-3 cups of chang. Unfortunately dinner isn’t served until 10:30pm at which point I’m zonked. After dinner I excuse myself for yet another shit and head to bed.

At 1am I wake again feeling nauseous and also needing to shit again. I make my way out to the toilet. Am sorely tempted to vomit but don’t force myself.

At 3:30am I must shit again, am shaking with cold. Weak. Stomach burning and hurting.

At 6am my host wakes me for breakfast but I’m zonked. Really feel awful. I explain that I’m ill, ask if I can simply have some boiled water. Also ask if I can stay another night because I am too sick to travel. My host brings me a large bowl of plain white rice, which is perfect, and I slowly munch on that all day.

I sip water, shit again, then sleep solid until 1pm. Out to shit again but as I’m walking back to the house I find myself doubled over and vomiting up tiny undigested pieces of yak meat. I’m on my knees folded over with face pressed into the ground. My body didn’t like that stuff. Retching with a river of tears running down my face. Pretty horrible but stomach feels much better.

I make my way back to my room. There are no adults home, just the screaming kids and the crying baby. I sip more hot water and go back to sleep.

Do You Know What Nemesis Means?

And suddenly a small boy forces open my door, walks over and wants to play with me. I wearily explain I’m ill, need to sleep, but he demands my cell phone to play with. I haven’t had the phone out since I’ve been in Sking, I keep it turned off and put well away, so I tell him no. He starts to go through my stuff which I stop. I help him play with the camera a bit, then sip more boiled water and ask him to leave. He does. Whew.

5 minutes later he’s back, just fucking with me. Pulling off my covers. Making faces at me. Really he’s bored and wants to play. I’m feeling awful though, in no mood to play. Finally I pick him up and carry him out. He’s yelling and screaming and trying to kick me. I’m starting to realize this kid has genuine issues. I later learn he is the nephew of my host and apparently is crazy.

And after booting him I find… the door to my room has no lock… I hold the door shut with my feet so he can’t enter, but am getting chilled. We’re at a standoff for 5 minutes or so until he finally gives up. I head back under the covers to sleep and he bursts back in for another round, imitating me as I beg him to leave me alone.

Finally I push him back out and barricade the door with some folded mattresses. He bangs and pushes but no progress.

Around 6pm I start to improve and head out to take photos and enjoy the sunset. I’m really weak still and shuffle slowly around. Is hard to muster the energy but I must take advantage of the good light to get some pictures.

At sunset many older villagers walk up to the temple and pace laps while praying. They greet each other with small talk as they pass each other. This is the evening social time. There’s one older man who is proudly carrying around his granddaughter and telling her all sorts of stuff. Is pretty wonderful.

Towards sunset my host returns with the two bicycles. He’d like me to go over them but unfortunately my sickness has returned, ears are ringing, weak and bad headache. I check out the bikes, one is pretty reasonable but the other is a disaster, with munched derailleurs, badly twisted chain and a broken rack that has fallen into the spokes. That second bike isn’t a trivial job, I’ll need to think about what can be done.

Operation Singlespeed

The rear deraileur has been torn out of the rear dropout, there’s no way to remount the rear derailleur. I figure this bike can only succeed as a singlespeed.

I pull out my knife and cut the rack free (it’s broken ends were tied on with rope.) Then use my chain tool to remove the bad section of chain.

Remove the front end rear derailleurs, the shift cables and housings, the shifters. Even with my thrift store eye this stuff is mostly garbage. I put the reusable stuff into one pile, and the garbage in the other.

Finally remount the rear wheel and find there is A gear that works with that chain length…

I’m sorry but… its really all I can do to make it a bike again. Luckily it has disc brakes so can tolerate the out of true rear wheel (missing 2 spokes.)

I warn them about trying to remove the pipe that someone installed in place of a pedal. Usually that is done because the crank threads are toast. That pipe looks plenty strong. Better to put a piece of wood on it if you want a platform to stand on.

I’m shivering and feel really sick so call it a night, back to bed. 😦

I eat the remainder of my plain rice for dinner, sip more boiled water. I’m still sick and need to be better so I can leave the next day. I fall asleep at 8pm.

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