Sunday, June 11, 2000 • Shigatse to Lhatse

I was exhausted after Satsang last night, but when I laid down, figures were racing around in my head. I couldn’t breathe. I sat up to breathe easier and then felt light-headed. Then I felt cold. I kept trying to force the air out to get a better breath. Parvati slept so well. I was scared. Could I really do this?

Being at morning Satsang was good—also reading that these mild nuisance symptoms should disappear in two to four days. Hang on. 

Rice soup and Tibetan bread for breakfast. On the road at 9:00am. Felt better already. Rested in the car. Soft, colored mountains all around. Curious children flock around the cars when we stop. We arrived in Lhatse, a sad town seeming to consist of one main road, lined with non-descript two-story buildings housing non-descript shops. Very dirty children crane their necks to watch us through the windows of the restaurant where we have lunch. 

We are to be joined here by our truck of provisions—food, tents, gasoline—and sherpas, a cook and translator. There was no sign of them, however—it could be truck problems or mountain road problems. The plan was to camp 30km past town tonight. We’ve taken simple rooms in a guest house to wait—and took the opportunity to do an asana class.

We must stay on schedule for our Friday start of the Kailas Parikrama to coincide auspiciously with the full moon.

On our return from dinner, we found the truck had arrived! Lobsang, the translator, looked like a movie star in his black jeans, big red Adidas jacket, orange towel around his neck…and a big smile.

Tuesday, June 13 • Lhatse onward

Up at 5:30am. Sherpas brought pans of warm water just outside our tents for washing. The moon was gone. At Satsang, everyone bundled up. Porridge and toast for breakfast. Another long day of driving begins. The color scheme changed a bit—pinky peach and soft green. We are determined as a group to drink more and stop whenever necessary. Electrolytes were passed all around! 

The roads were better today, except for some first-class ditches. The valley was wider, went down and climbed again. We stopped frequently. Lunch break at 1:30pm just past Saga. Chapati, hot veggies, cheese…delicious. We presented yatra t-shirts to the sherpas, cook and driver of the truck. (We wonder which is the Chinese spy?) Rocky hillside—greens, purple, rust… so beautiful. Flocks of sheep scamper by. Dark yaks dot periodic hillsides. Several small groups lead a few dogs and heavily-laden donkeys. The children are more shy when we stop. We tried to keep windows open for air, but the dust won out every time.

We made camp on another grassy field by a stream—through groups of yaks. I thoroughly enjoyed washing clothes by the stream. Also washed my hair with the solar shower—no different than dumping pots of water on my head, but it was fun to try. I don’t think we’ll be having full showers—there are no trees to hang the solar unit from! We had a light dinner of tea and cream of tomato soup, with canned pears for dessert. Arati. Bed before 10!

Wednesday, June 14

Another nice wash before 6:00am Satsang. Rice porridge with meusli on top for breakfast! Tiri/Tsering, our driver, keeps the car meticulously clean—inside and out. We trust him implicitly. Jai to Tiri. He is always checking the tires and underneath the car. We have become the lead car. Whether it’s an earned position or not, at least we get less dust. 

We are seeing less of the Tibetan compounds with yak dung decorations lining the tops of the walls. Little magenta orchid/petunia flowers grow right out of the sandy soil.

Roads were bad—deep ruts, very sandy—sometimes not even a road. We got through carefully— passing two stuck trucks. Then our provisions truck blew a tire and one of our cars got stuck But Tiri got him right out with a tow line. Green prickly grasses changed to golden grasses in wider valleys—being so high, the mountains seem shorter. We passed a few odd, very smooth golden sand dunes, which look surreal against the snowy mountains behind.

The snowy Nepali mountain range to the south stayed with us all afternoon. For lunch at the Yak Hotel in Paryang, the sherpas served baked beans and curry paratha. They offered us Tang to drink.

Long drive. Many tough spots. Had to stop at a couple of check points today. Young Chinese officials filled out paperwork and let us pass each time.

Took a walk around, waiting for the truck this morning. Perfect silence. So many different animal tracks leading to the small water supply. Felt alone and connected.

Much singing, chanting and storytelling in the car.

We forded quite a river to get to a good place to camp.

Using the neti pot never felt so good.

Walked up a small hill with Parvati and Kailas. Pile of beautifully-carved mani stones and view of S-curving river. Canned cherries for dessert with fresh local sheep yogurt.

Thursday, June 15

Up at the usual 5:30am. Rice porridge and fried sheep cheese after Satsang. Played with the local children while the sherpas finished packing the tents, burying the garbage and loading the truck. Another tiring, ambitious day driving. Finally stopped around 2:00pm for lunch in a thick grassy field, cut by streams. Sheep lined up in the distance, either being fed or milked. A protective yak with her baby shared the field.

A passing car brought the message that our truck was broken down. But just as we were going to raid the snack bag, our truck with its big cloud of dust came into view! Gray clouds had blown over and many of us were sitting in the cars. Sherpas served us thick chapatis, cheese and chickpeas in the cars. They came by the windows offering seconds. Nothing phases them!

No too long after, the holy Lake Manasarovar came into view, a blue slice in the distance. It is the highest freshwater lake in the world. We continued on and “Om Tryambakam”-ed for the truck to make it through the ditches. Mount Kailas came into view! We stopped by a mound of prayer flags, faced the mountain and chanted many Om Tryambakams. Lots of pristine snow on the visible south face. Neighboring mountains look distinctly like the Potala Palace in Lhasa!

Thunder rumbled as gray clouds dropped rain on surrounding mountains.

Drove to the lake for an auspicious dip. Men and women separated and walked far into the lake. Not as cold as we had feared! 

Proceeded to Kailas. Seemed like we were trying to make up time, but there were so many ditches, steep bits and rushing streams. We couldn’t take our eyes off the mountain as we drove past Darchen and around toward the west side. We joined a field of pilgrims camping. It was cold. 

The supply truck arrived sooner than we dared expect. It had been slowed by the terrain. Carrying fuel for the entire journey, it’s ancient tank had sprung a leak too…

Light rain began to fall. Mount Kailas was swallowed in clouds. Before the sherpas presented the noodle soup dinner, a thin rainbow shone overhead and the round moon peeked over the mountaintop! I was feeling a bit light-headed in the food tent.

I could have taken a photo every fifteen minutes as the clouds changed around Mount Kailas’s distinctive shape. (It’s peeking up slightly to the left of center in the photo.)

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