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July 26th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China (Qinghai),highlights

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Today’s distance / ???????: 4.6 miles / 7.5km
Average speed / ????: 6.4mph / 10.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 43 minutes
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5462mi plus 377mi (?) / 8790km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 185m
Descent / ??: 315m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N37° 58′ 07.70″, E100° 56′ 03.30″

The day began with death.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

The father of the household said last night that they would be slaughtering a sheep tomorrow morning, and that I should stay to eat some of it with them. I was surprised to wake in the morning with muffled grunts coming from outside the tent. Rousing myself, I see a still sheep on its back on the grass. Motionless. With rope tied tightly around its nose and mouth.

“In New Zealand, we would cut its throat,” I said, gesturing to the sheep’s throat.

“That is not the Buddhist way,” the father replied.

He then proceeded to cut a small hole just below the sheep’s rib cage. Putting his hand into the sheep via the hole, up to his fore-arm, he seemed to be searching for something. A few moments later he removed his hand. I’m still not sure what he was doing. Checking that the sheep was dead?

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

After this ‘surgery’ the butchering began. Began by skinning the animal.

Skinning a sheep near O-po, Qinghai Province, China

Then gut the animal and carefully extract the blood for future use.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Take the carcass away to be sold, and keep all the innards for the family’s consumption.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Including the head. The head was an interesting one. You see, the mission was to break the jaw away from the cranium. This proved harder than normal, and even with two people yanking on the dismembered head, it took some serious pulling to get the jaw to part with the head.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

The two girls, both around 15 years old, were not perturbed at all with all the blood and guts. They made me recall the girlstudents from the outdoor education camp that I worked at in Switzerland. The commotion that this activity would have caused amongst that lot would have been incredible.

Even cleaning out the colossal stomach was no issue.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Now, the intestines were an interesting part of the process. I knew that intestines are often used as ‘containers’ for sausages. I never considered however the fact that they come out of the animal full of poo. That is, before you use them, you’ve got to clean all the poo out.

It’s a rather labour intensive undertaking. Squeeze out most of the poo, and then flush the intestine out with water. Blow into the intestine to get the water through…

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Nothing on the animal was wasted. The entire innards was minced and stuffed into sausages. The lungs, the liver, kidneys, the blood, the fat… Flavouring was salt, spring onion, and curry powder.

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

The sausages were all cooked together in a big pot on the stove. The stove burned dry yak poo, which is in a much larger abundance than wood in this area.

The sausages were palatable. The blood and fat sausage was far too rare for my liking, although the more well done sections were passable. The lung and meat sausage was the best of the tough menu, and unfortunately the white sausage consisting of flour and white fat just did not do it for me.

All this protein and fat was enough to energise me for the short skate to O-po. After a quick group photo, thanks, and a farewell I was off.

Tibetan family near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

The push up to the summit of the pass was a short but steep one. I was still feeling under the weather, my sinuses stuffed up. My first pass over 3,500m on the board, I was happy. Pushed the entire way, no walking (plenty of stops, mind you!). Stoked.

I skateboarded up Erbou Pass (3,685m), Qinghai Province, China

The descent into O-po town was quick. Despite it only being 12 noon, I decided that I would take the rest of the day off. It was at least 70km to the next town, and I didn’t have it in me to push on today.

For the first time here in O-po, I noticed Tib*etan writing on signs.

Tibetan and Chinese lettering on sign in Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

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    Permanent Link     Comments (6)

Comment by rob — August 4, 2008 @ 1:30 am | post a comment

Disturbing images, but a good thing to see. Reconnects you with what you take for granted. People have lost that connection with food, and now meat just comes on a styrofoam tray covered in cling film from a super market and zero thought going into where and how it came to be there…………. Good post.

Comment by Rob Thomson — August 4, 2008 @ 2:43 am | post a comment

Rob, I totally agree. I was meaning to make that point in the post, actually. Just like how I never thought of the fact that intestines usually come full of poo, us soft westerners have totally forgotten the process of our food.

Comment by Eric — August 4, 2008 @ 4:51 am | post a comment

dam rob, u sure had an interesting day! the photo trying to crack the jaw off is well sick bro, haha cool read

Comment by Dave Monks — August 4, 2008 @ 4:18 pm | post a comment

This is the best post so far. Rock on.

Thanks for asking all the questions re: prices etc. How many animals did they have? and did they farm them all themselves/close family in the region.

Comment by Rob Thomson — August 4, 2008 @ 8:23 pm | post a comment

Dave, I am kicking myself for not asking them how many animals they had. They seemed quite well off, seeing they had a small mini van outside their tent. I asked the father how long he had farmed in the area, and he replied, making gestures that suggested that he had been there since he was a small child. "My father and his father also farmed this land," he said. They are there for only about three months of the year (during the summer), after which they move 70km down the valley to Qiling (the town I visited a few days later) to keep the livestock there over winter. They said they have a house in Qiling.

Comment by Aunty Les — August 5, 2008 @ 2:20 pm | post a comment

Are you sure that's Tib*etan writing? It looks more like a slightly modified version of Hindi or Bangla. I wasn't aware that Thai writing hung down from the line. Aunty Lyn and Uncle Pete will know.

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