Describing our tour through Tibet is almost an impossible task. How to explain the beautiful landscape, the friendly people, the hurds of yaks that dominate the slopes of the rough mountains. Tibet is beyond description. You can only experience it by heart.
Although we had already seen some Tibetan like mountains in the Northern part of China, in Inner Mongolia, the group was preparing for an amazing experience. And now, when I look back on it, Tibet has not disappointed us. After Chengdu we climbed up the steep mountains. Our cars really had to make an effort, for we all carry a lot of luggage, especially the cars of the teams that have more than two participants during this Round Table Tour. The Eastern part of Tibet is still very green. Sometimes we felt like driving in the jungle instead of the dry climate we had seen on the pictures in brochures and books. Nevertheless we enjoyed this part of the tour as much as the second part. Some highlights we like to share with you:
On the 9th of June we visited Derge. In the old part of the city is a monastery where we visited the printing house where all the Holy books of the Buddhist religion are printed. Hundreds of wooden sticks carved with parts of the Tenjur and the Kanjur. Monks print the text on long slides of paper. All wooden sticks are cleaned and stored, each in there own place. All pages are put in a wooden book and wrapped in beautiful linen. We where all delighted to be able to see this Holy place and most of us bought a slip of paper or the print of Buddha on a prayer flag. In the monastery we listened to the monks singing and praying in the honour of lord Buddha. The long horns and the cymbals created a special atmosphere, and we where all touched by these people and their way of life. We Westerners live our hectic lives and are ruled by the appointments in our agenda. These people seem to have the internal rest most of us would like to have. Two worlds met and touched each other, for a moment.
Another experience is our visit to the nomadic people. Everywhere along the road and in the mountains you can see the black tents of the herdsmen. Our guides, mister Wang and mister Norbu, invited us to meet these people and see how they live. With nothing more than a cooking pot, same blankets and personal belongings these people live their daily life. In winter time they go to the valleys ( witch are still about 4000 meters above sea level), in summertime they take their tents, horses and yaks and climb the mountains. Although we’ve seen it, it still is very difficult to understand how people can live like that. How is daily life for them? We’ve only met for a brief moment, just enough to get a glimpse of it. But we will not forget!
Of course Lhasa was something we all looked forward to. The Potala palace, the Barkhor, the old streets and the thousands of pilgrims that wander around the streets… On the 15th of June the group arrived in Lhasa. We stayed in the Lhasa Hotel, a former Holiday Inn hotel. A world of luxury after all these weeks in China. Time to rest, do our laundry and visit the city. The Potala is even bigger than we expected. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures inside, otherwise I could have shown you the throne of the Dalai Lama, the thousands statues of Buddha and the Bodhisattva’s, the grave tombs, the meeting halls and numerous rooms. After this visit we went to the summer Palace of the Dalai Lama who is now living in India. An oasis of green and rest in this big city. Other highlights in Lhasa: the Drepung and Sera monasteries, and the Jokhjang, the Holy temple. Hundreds of Pilgrims are praying there, lying on the ground, walking around the temple, turning the prayer wheels and touching the statues inside the temple. Everyday people start their journey, from everywhere in China with only one goal: walking to Lhasa and visit this temple. Would we ever make such an effort for our faith (if we even have one) ? I doubt it. Lhasa has certainly made an impression on each and everyone of us.
After Lhasa the road went up again, we drove towards the Mount Everest and have had some wonderful views of the surroundings. We crossed high passes ( about 5500 meters), had terrible road conditions but enjoyed being there and having the opportunity to experience this in our own car. Totally self supporting, with tents, water and food with us we could survive everywhere. Although the Chinese government did not allow us to camp, we where all put up in hotels/guesthouses, some of us slept several times in the roof tents on top of the cars. Sometimes because of lack of rooms, sometimes because we wanted to. At the Chinese base camp of the Mount Everest almost everybody wanted to experience this night in their tents. Everest was quite an experience, being so close to the highest mountain in the world, seeing it without any clouds and being able to sit at the campfire at night, enjoying the view of the summit in moonlight is something all of us will surely never forget! Yes it was cold, but in the morning as the sun rises again the temperature rises again. The next morning Everest summit was wrapped in clouds.
On the 22nd of June we drove to Tashilumpo, the monastery of the Panchen Lama’s. The whole complex is rather big, with narrow streets, houses, temples, gathering halls and schools for the monks. Walking around in this quiet place I felt as I had stepped back in time. Monks walking around, the sun on the golden roof tops, the peace and silence, sometimes interrupted by singing monks or prayers from the temples. And then…I hear a cell phone ring. One of the monks grasps in his pocket and starts a conversation with… who? His family that has brought him here? The abbot that asks him to come for a meeting? I am a bit confused. Civilization has even reached this part of Tibet. I wonder how it will be within ten years or so. We have seen a lot of children wearing tight jeans and t-shirts, even in the small villages. I am glad to be able to get a glimpse of Tibet as it was in the old days, before everything will we as Western as it is in the Mayor Chinese cities.
The trip from Lhasa to Nepal was also one to remember, the dry climate, the rocky mountains, the amazing views of Everest and his neighbouring summits, high mountain passes, it was a last goodbye to Tibet. Have some of us suffered from the high altitude, we all recovered again and can look back on a life time experience!