What a beautiful people

The first days we spend in Lhasa to acclimatize to the high altitude. We can notice that we are an altitude of 3600 meter when we walk up a stair. At the top we are out of breath for a while and we have to take it easy.

My mother has a little headache but it disappears soon. Lhasa is great. The small alleys around the Jokhjang Temple are full of Tibetans. Tibetans from all over Tibet are walking around the temple clockwise with their praying wheels. From early in the morning till late in the evening you hear the ‘Um ma ne padne um’. The people are beautiful with their big smiles, their colorful bracelets and their clothes.

We visit the Nobulingka, the summerpalace of the Dalai Lama, situated in a big garden with beuatiful statues. The Tibetans are taking a day of here and put up some tents and are cooking for the whole family. In the Sera Monastery we witness the debating monks. At a big square inside the walls of the monastery they gather and try to convince each other off a lot of things. It’s nice to watch the monks talking, clapping in their hands and laughing.

Tibet is the country of the yaks and so we notice. We see yak meat everywhere on the small markets. The big pieces of dark red meat are hanging in the air waiting for someone to buy it. In the evenings we enjoy the delicious Yaksteak and even Yak Stroganof! On the markets there are also lots of people selling the yak butter. The yak tea we taste for the first time in a small nunnery in the middle of the centre. The nuns and the Tibetans are looking very curiously when we try our first sip. I try not to move the corners of my mouth, because I don’t like it that much. One of the nuns brings us another thermos bottle. She serves us another cup and I fear for more yak tea, but when I take a sip it’s sweet tea without any yak butter.

One morning Steven and I try to get some tickets for the Potala Palace. Everyday there are 500 people allowed to visit the palace. The tickets for today are sold, but we can acquire tickets for the next day. We have to write down our passport numbers and come back in a few ours. A number is written on Stevens hand. We think to be smart and we come back early to get our tickets. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

Steven has to take a seat according to the number of his hand. After a while Steven arrives at the terrace where I’m waiting together with my parents. He did it and we have the tickets! The next day we are expected at 14.30 hr at the gates of the Potala Palace. It feels strange to enter the palace because everywhere there is Chinese police. It’s an impressive visit. The rooms of the Dalai Lama are all the same as they were before and we expect to encounter him every minute. But unfortunately the man is not welcome in his own house anymore. It’s nice to see the Tibetans walking around the palace. They are carrying a lot of money billets and offer them at special places while they are praying all the time.

It’s time to leave Lhasa and to start our tour of ten days. We will make a tour through Tibet with the four of us accompanied by a guide and a driver. But before we leave we have to arrange something to eat for during our camping adventure. We buy some coles, so we can make our own fire to cook on. The guide doesn’t have much confidence in us, but we do. After a nice day of riding we arrive in Samye where we spend a night inside the walls of the Monastery.

The next day we are dropped by our chauffeur after a bumpy trip in a valley where we will climb up. This is a holy mountain and everywhere we see the praying flags moving by the wind. After climbing up for 300 meters we arrive at a nunnery. We are lucky because it’s praying time. Saying prays is accompanied by making loud music which sounds nice in the newly painted building. We climb further up the mountain and we meet many pilgrims living in small tents at the steep paths. Than we arrive at the meditation caves. The Buddhists are living here in really small caves or huts meditating almost all day. A beautiful place for us to put our praying flags here and put some positivity in the air.

In Samye the altitude was still 3700 meter, but today we are going higher. We see a large group of cyclists on the way up to the pass. Of course Steven and I don’t like this , because we wanted to do it ourselves from Kathmandu to Lhasa. But unfortunately that party didn’t go on this time. Now we are in the jeep and the view is great. We climb up to almost 5000 meter and on the other side of the mountain we see the turquoise Yamrok Lake. The very clear water lightens even more because of the white Himalayas behind it. Before we go to our campsite we make a stop in a small village where the people are very busy with their harvest. The dust of the wheat blows through the air and the whole village is singing while they are helping with the harvest.

We are camping with two small tents in an enormous space. A little bit further there is a small village of farmers and on the top of a hill there is a monastery. We put the pens into the ground strongly, because there’s a lot of wind. When the children of the village spot the tents they come running to us. They stay with us while we start to make a fire. Besides the coles we bought in Lhasa we found some wood and something else which will help us: some dried Yak dung! Steven and my father make a nice little fire and we eat some delicious noodles.

During our meal the caddles of sheep and cows return from the fields. After a while one of the woman from the village shows comes to us and shows us how to make a fast Tibetan fire. We enjoy a cup of coffee! We go to sleep early, because it’s very cold and windy. When we wake up the next morning there is ice on the water. An old woman notices us and brings us some hot water to make coffee. We visit the monastery and walk to the lake. When we return at our camping spot we aren’t alone for a long time. The hospitality in the village is incredible and again there are people who bring us hot water and a small fan to light up the fire. Together we sit close to the fire and it’s really great.

At day five of the tour the plan is to drive to Gyantze. Normally this doesn’t take long, but the road is under construction so we have to take another one. A long day of driving is the concequense.

We drive for a while at the Friendship Highway and we are talking about how well it goes with the altitude. Sometimes we have a little headache, but for the rest it’s ok….
When we turn of the ‘highway’ we take a dirt road. It’s kind of bumpy and there is a lot of dust. The last part up to Gyantze I don’t feel very well and I fell asleep. By arrival in the hotel I take a bath, but when I step out of it I feel weak and I fall on the bed. I feel very strange and I don’t have any feelings on my left side of the body. Steven does’t trust it and calls my parents. I can’t find the right words to talk and before I know it I’m in the hospital.

But in this hospital the doctor can’t do much for me and my parents and Steven decide to go to Shygatze, about 90 km away. From the ride by car I don’t remember much, but in the hospital they make a scan of my head. The minutes we have to wait are strange but when the guide translates that everything is fine in my head we are all very relieved. The doctor tells that I have High Altitude Disease and soon they give me oxygen and medication. We don’t have to go lower, because we did that already today by jeep. The doctors think it’s strange I got the symptoms this late. After a while we can leave the hospital and we stay the next day in Shygatze to rest.

The day after we go to Lhasa . I still feel very tired, have a headache and have difficulties with breathing. Because it doesn’t go away we decide to go back to Chengdu where the altitude is low. I really don’t like this, because I wanted to enjoy Lhasa fir a longer time with my parents and Steven. But I see that this isn’t right. So we fly back to China.
In Chengdu I’m getting better fast and we have a great time in this town together with my parents.

I wouldn’t want to miss Tibet for any gold and I certainly want to go back. We cycled already for four days again and we enjoying it again!!



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