Mission to Tibet, Part 4
By Jeff Baggaley <email@example.com>
December 18, 2002
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
Sam & Ali
The following morning was scrumptious. Because Tibet is so high up, there is little pollution in the atmosphere, so there is an inner radiance to the blue that you don't get at lower altitudes. Plus the rainy season being long over, each and every day was, well, it was simply glorious.
(As a side note: I didn't see a single chemtrail during my entire stay in Tibet and in China- although I can't be altogether certain about China. The pollution in China- at least between Chengdu and Beijing -about 1300 kms- and certainly in the cities themselves, is so dense and thick that the sky for the most part was always just about totally occluded. There are however numerous towers, especially in the cities, of the same or similar varieties, as are found in North America, Europe, Australia, etc. I would say a worldwide phenomenon.)
Walking around town that day, gathering supplies, was an adventure itself. Taxis, of which there are a huge number for such a small town, have the right of way. Because Ali is completely cut off from everywhere, these taxis are constantly pinging around town as though maddened hornets in a covered jar. The unwary tourist takes his or her life in hand at each and every turn! Sometimes a fellow learns the hard way- nearly being clipped on a couple of occasions, I soon discovered a sense- call it the seventh sense: TAXI ALERT.
In any event, later that afternoon, supplies in hand, a young man approaches:
"Hello," (It was SOOO good to hear English.) "You are going to Kailash. I will go with you."
ahhhh, errrr, ahhh...
"I am from Beijing. My home town is ..." (names a place I later find out is in Mongolia.) "I used to have a rock band. Then my girl friend left me this summer. I have been travelling since. I have a friend who would like to meet you. He will feed us. My name is..... (Let's just call him Sam.). It is good to meet you."
I did a little check with my sixth sense, that little voice that appears to know what's what. It all appeared to be on the up and up, so away I went with Sam, hopped in a TAXI and went pinging to his friend's place; to (let's call him "Ali") Ali's place, where I met Ali and his spouse.
Ali is about fifty years old, and for all the world looks like a revered sage from a world long gone. He is also a painter of enormous talent. He takes his inspiration from the murals the Chinese left fairly intact in a place called the Guge Kingdom, south west of Ali- in the very western end of Tibet. Before there even was a Tibet - way before - there was a Guge kingdom. The principality itself straddeled the main trading route between China and India and points further west- and was apparently very opulent, both in material, as well as spiritual wealth, serving as a primary wellspring of later Tibetan beliefs. Never having been there, I can't say more than was conveyed to me by Ali through Sam's translations and by the couple of picture books Ali showed me of the area.
Ali is involved in a project to record and restore what's left of the Guge Kingdom. The Chinese, having conquered Tibet and having attempted to destroy each and every religious center in the country- shelling many of them to rubble- have now taken a differet tack: restore it all and open it up to tourism. That approach will effectively accomplish the same thing, I believe. The Chinese are also beginning to flood the country with settlers- what else do you do with 1.3 billion people? And that too, what with standard Chinese commercialism, will wear and erode at the core that makes the Tibetan people- despite all that has happened to them these last 50 years- such a strong and enduring people.
Ali, through Sam, explains that he had been to Kailsh 18 times- going around the kora each time. That this year is a very auspicious year. It is the Year of the Horse. Going around Kailash THIS year was very special. That I might even expect to "escape the cycle of rebirths" if I went around the kora this year.
Now he said this with a gleam in his eye, and I was beginning to suspect that he was joshing me a little. Then he said something and Sam said he didn't know quite how to translate. Then Ali said something again insistently. Sam said, "Ali says that Kailash is like... is like ... a BIG PENIS. VERY POWERFUL!" And Ali is laughing to piss himself.
Before you knew it, the three of us were in stitches, rolling on the ground in merry, boisterous mirth. Then Ali's wife says something. Sam translates: "She says: what would YOU know about VERY POWERFUL BIG PENISES!", indicating her husband (laughter abounds).
That afternoon, sipping tea and eating meat dumplings and talking, talking, talking- then playing some pretty mean games (take no prisoners variety) of Chinese checkers- was pure balm to a somewhat frayed soul- and I am grateful beyond words to Ali and his wife for their generosity and kindness.
Wanting to express this gratitude to them in some way, I gave Ali my Herkimer Diamond pendant and explained to him that the black stuff inside the crystal was carbonized life from a half billion years ago. We then said our goodbyes and Sam and I left to make preparations for the following morning's departure to Kailsh. Sam and I would be travelling together for what was to amount to six days.
I can honestly say that without Sam's translation during that period and without his intervening at critical times- there is no way on God's good earth that I would have made it there and back in the time I had- or whether I would have even made it there at all- or back for that matter had I managed to make it there. Sam got me to Kailash and Sam got me back.
As Sam and I were finishing up our last minute shopping- seemingly out of nowhere pops up Ali. He looks at me with those sage- eyes, and holds out his enclosed hand. Then opens it to reveal a reddish stone that has been beautifully carved into a butterfly. It is strung with red silk and is clearly to be worn as a pendant. Ali explains and sam translates: "The stone comes from Kailash. It is an amulet. Good luck to you on your journey."
Then quick as he appeared, he walks away.
The Road to Kailash
The following morning we go to the Post Truck Depot at 6am sharp. About 15 of us pile into the very narrow crawl space at the top of the truck, between the piled up baggage and the canvas- and by God it's a good thing it IS canvas, what with the constant bumping and banging and bashing as we travel over those notorious roads. Then about 45 minutes into the journey- still dead of night- we are hussled out of the truck and told to wait at the side of the road.
Another truck would soon be there with a little more crawl space.
All the Post trucks, above the cab, have signs and symbols engraved therein. Luck for travelling the roads. I should have known something was up when I saw the second truck come into view and glanced the inverted swastikas graven up above the cab. But it all happened so quickly, and soon hussled up top ( about 2 or 3 extra inches of crawl space) I was dozing before I knew it- only to be awoken every now and then by the billows of dust that came in through the open back- fearing that I'd never be able to take another breath. Then it would clear and I'd soon be back to dozing.
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