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September 10, 2006

Sanctuary in a Monastery & First Impressions of Tibet

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LOCATION: Bomi, Tibet
Longitude: N: 29.86°
Latitude: E: 095.76°
Miles from Singapore: 3628

After a dry first few days entering Tibet we seem to be back into a wet cycle, with storm clouds building in the afternoon breaking to rain in the early evening and through the night. Invariably this has made for wet camping, which is tiresome. Yesterday a storm broke shortly after summiting a 5,000m pass. Through a medley of snow, hail and rain I descended as quickly as the poor road surface would allow, made significantly worse of course by flood water pouring across the road, dragging good size rocks and gravel with it. I'm now glad of all the winter gear that I''ve been dragging with me all these months through the tropics as by the time I reached camp I was bitterly cold

Landslides are a worry in this wet weather. Hopefully we'll be back into a dry cycle again before the really bad section of road coming up in a few days' time.

The Tibetan people are a mystery to me. The older generations are invariably a delight to exchange even a wave or pleasantry with, especially the older women; always a radiant smile and a gesture given almost as a blessing. The middle generations always make an effort to establish contact, if only with a raised hand. The children are something else. The stone throwing continues, as well as running alongside the bike and trying to grab whatever they can. If I come upon a large group of them my strategy is to stop, and make them either drop their stones and empty their pockets. I then show them the large rock that I am carrying, and gradually ease off down the road with frequent glances behind me. On other occasions I've had delightful encounters with some children who just want to say hello and make contact with me. So I don't know what the pattern is. Perhaps just village by village?

All are intensely curious about my equipment, so whenever I stop and people gather I'm constantly asking both young and old not to fiddle with things on my bike rig. And almost every man of 30+ years I've encountered for more than a moment will reach inside the top of their shirt and pull out a pendant with a photo of the Dalai Lama (strictly prohibited by the Chinese authorities). The consistency with which this has happened will leave a deep impression on me as to just how devoted the people are even after all these years of his absence.

Food continues to be a problem. All the restaurants are located in the major towns, which I can't enter during the day, so supplies come from small roadside kiosks in the villages, sometimes 100kms apart. The only edible goods they carry are noodles and barely digestible Chinese biscuits. So after a week of this diet I am definitely feeling weaker, not helped of course by the arduous terrain. Yesterday I came the closest I've been in what seems like a very long time to a decent (and hot) meal. I passed through a village that had a very basic restaurant. Hooray! A hot meal at last I thought. I dashed in and ordered two portions of egg, tomatoes and rice - one to eat on the spot, the other to eat later. Confident that my dietary challenges were at least temporarily solved, I briefly stepped outside to retrieve some money from my bike. I just happened to glance sideways and notice the building next door looked rather clean and well kept compared to the rest of the surrounding buildings. Then the sign 'Police Station' in Chinese and English leapt into focus and in an instant I was back into the kitchen, thrusting some money into the hands of the proprietor and pedaling away as fast as I could!

As I began the long, arduous 4,400m climb to the next pass in the heat of the afternoon I knew there was something terribly wrong with this picture: I was about to bike up a large mountain, I had no food in my stomach and there were two, already paid for, hot meals waiting for me half a kilometre behind me. Tibet is definitely turning out to be a challenge.


Good Campsite

Road Hazards


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Sending the Vlog

Posted on September 10, 2006 11:56 PM