The Road to Ali
The day after the sky burial, I got a ticket to Ali, Tibet, 1500
kms to the West of Lhasa- the far West. ALL of it along those notorious
Tibetan roads. Three days and three nights in a sleeper bus. YIKES! We boarded
around 6PM that night, loaded with supplies for the journey. We would be
stopping four times in all- not for fuel (there were no gas stations between
Lhasa and Ali), but to eat and go to the bathroom. The driver might-or might
not-stop en route, I was quietly informed, if you put in a request to stop
along the side of the road; so better to take advantage of the scheduled
stops- that is unless you wanted to count on the unschedualed breakdowns,
of which you can be sure (I was further informed), there would be a goodly
The driver was a sight to behold: slight, very dark, and never
without a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Hair sticking straight up and
out, and I would swear, I saw smoke coming from that hair in the wee hours
of the morning.
The guy in the bunk above mine had flown straight in from
Chengdu- no time to acclimatize- an obvious military type, and if you were
to go by looks, his specialty would be torture.
Ali is predominently Chinese and has large military facilities.
There are many areas in the western sectors of Tibet that are hotly contested
between India and China, and a number of other countries in the vicinity.
I don't know if that's because of some mythical cave loaded with ancient
technology (was it
ZSL who suggested that?) or because of geopolitical considerations.
Whoever controls Tibet and its western passes has a good run into the Asian
interior (my guess is the latter for what it's worth). The entire western
sector of Tibet is clearly of primary concern to the Chinese.
There are a number of checkpoints along the route, which, mercifully, were
not being assiduously checked. To travel anywhere in Tibet (outside of Lhasa),
you need a permit. To get a permit, you need to go on a tour. It's Winter
season in Tibet and there really aren't enough people to get a tour together.
Ergo (at least officially), Winter travel in Tibet for the foreigner is
for all practical purposes limited to Lhasa.
I was discreetly told to just go ahead anyway. Don't worry
about it. Just get a permit in Ali, once you get there. I was also informed
from other people that, more than likely, I would not get there; being turned
back at any number of check points, not having the requisite permit.
Not having a thing to lose- I went.
And indeed, they were very lax at the checkpoints (thank God!);
not even bothering to look at my passport too closely to see if I even had
a Visa. It was a little tense at times, but the doors kept opening- and
who was I to call them on their all-too-lax-enforcement policy?
Mr. Torture in the bunk above me was comatose, suffering
severely from altitude sickness. I was feeling the altitude myself, as we
kept climbing from the 3,600 meters of Lhasa to over a thousand more in
Ali- not to mention a couple of passes that topped out at close to 6,000
meters. Also going through serious caffeine withdrawal, I didn't stir all
that much for the three days and three nights, as the bus lumbered-oh so
slowly-onward and upward, perpetually swaying as though crossing the sea
to the Isles of the Blessed - our chain smoking Charron at the helm. Even
though there were two drivers for the trip- supposedly to relieve each other
now and then- I never really saw any other driver but that man, ever at
the wheel for three days straight.
And so we crossed the Tibetan Plateau, high above the tree
line- all mounatin, and rock, and ravine, and precipice. Very beautiful.
Were you to color the sky a reddish hue, the topography would be indistinguishable
from photos of Mars.
I was starting to feel something new on the journey, something
that hadn't kicked in yet, but something that I had been expecting- psychic
At first, they were indistinguishable from the altitude sickness,
and the caffeine withdrawal in these first couple of days on the bus, but
after a while, they became more obvious- heart chakra attacks; recurring
and increasing in intensity. Having left my SP
at home for fear that it would be confiscated, all I could do was pray.
That, along with Angela's ministrations in Halifax, and what I later discovered
were her requests to forum members to join in, were indeed enough to mollify
what-at times- were fairly severe attacks. THANK YOU everyone for you prayers
And then ...ALI!
A city out of nowhere. Taxis everywhere. Hussle and bustle.
I had it all planned out: find a hotel; grab a cab; go to
the police station- and throw myself on their mercy, asking for a permit.
I was told that that was the way to do it. It usually worked. Sometimes
not, depending on whim and whether you could afford the...mmmm....'surcharge'.
And that's precisely what I did.
At the police station, I was waiting on the foyer steps for the offices
to reopen at 4PM after siesta time. What I took to be a Tibetan family then
entered the building. We exchange greetings: "Tashi Dele! Tashi Dele!"
The woman sits beside me. I try to communicate how I'm from Canada, wanting
to go to Kailash- pointing to my phrase book, gesturing ,signing, whatever
it takes to talk. A very complicated procedure at times, and very laborious
even to try to communicate simple things. And so we 'talk' for perhaps 15
minutes or so. And then- in impeccable English: "Why don't you come
into my office Mr Baggaley and we shall see what we can do about you permit."
The officer in charge of permits and visas in Ali! I think my jaw hit the
floor pretty hard because she was still laughing 10 minutes later. The 'surcharge'
was about $40.US- no winter rebates, sorry! She was very congenial- showing
me photos of her doing the kora herself at Kailash (more about kora later)
with her real family- the 'son' and 'husband' of before being her work partners.
She also suggested a way to get to Kailash (as it turned out, the only
way to get to Kailash, 330 kms to the southeast), about a day's travel.
The only viable way to travel in that sector of Tibet is by
Post truck- canvas covered trucks that ply the 'roads'- I use that word
VERY loosely- delivering supplies here and there, not to mention people.
At the Post truck station, I make arrangements to leave the morning after
next at 6 AM. I then try to gauge the amount of time left on my 30 day Visa
in China, the minimal amount of time needed to do the portals around Beijing,
and thus the amount of time I have to get to Kailash and get back.
I then go to the bus depot (read hole in the wall) and buy
a return ticket to Lhasa 6 days hence. That should - read SHOULD- give me
enough time to get to Kailash, do the three day kora. I had to do the kora
to place one of the HHgs (the first one), walk to Selung Monastery the fourth
day (place the second HHg), and get back to Ali. Very tight schedualing,
but at least it was a plan.
(Just to backtrack a little: a kora is a circuit around a sacred site that
pilgrims follow. Buddhist follow the kora clockwise, Bon (the original Tibetan
religion) go anticlockwise. The kora at Kailash is a 52 kms (32 mile) circuit
that goes all the way around the mountain through scenery that defies description.
It is recommended that foreigners do the kora at Kailash in three days (Tibetans
typically do it in one day).
Angela and I had dowsed in Halifax that two HHgs were needed at Kailash:
the first on the kora itself to stop the energy drain and the second at
Selung monastery to close the dimentional portal allowing the predators
access to the energy.
Plans in place, I went to bed early with no further incident-
that is apart from jumping about four feet out of bed when I heard scatchings
at my door. It was a mouse, a distinctly Chinese mouse by the looks of it.
But then again, the Chinese military compound was barely a
hundred feet down the road from the hotel.
All information posted on this web site is
the opinion of the author and is provided for educational purposes only.
It is not to be construed as medical advice. Only a licensed medical doctor
can legally offer medical advice in the United States. Consult the healer
of your choice for medical care and advice.