There are certain pros and cons about traveling alone in Tibet. Pro: you might hop on the back of a truck en route to a monastery, meet a bunch of Amdo pilgrims and get taken under their wing. Con: you might also wake up every morning to a pounding migraine, realizing your lips are tinged with blue from want of oxygen, and occasionally feeling frustrated and alone in a totally foreign place.
Some things make it worth all the trouble though. The people you will encounter while on the road, and the feeling of total freedom and empowerment. If I had to summarize this into a phrase, it’s a mindset of being open to possibilities.
Chinese travelers I have encountered often remark “niu” when they find out I’m here on my own. Niu literally means “cow” and translates as “cool” or “awesome”… (It’s a funny language sometimes) What I think is really “niu” are the people I’ve encountered along these last few days of travel. Like a retired Dutch couple who hiked across northern India together. Or a 19 year old girl from Beijing who hitched a ride to Lhasa. Or a PhD candidate and a former information officer for the Chinese government. Whoa.
Tomorrow I set off for a four day trip that will take me to the base camp of Mt. Everest. It’s 5000 M above sea level and nearly 2000 m higher than Lhasa… Which I confess, I’m a little concerned about since I am still showing slight symptoms of altitude adjustment. If all goes well, three days from now I’ll peek my head out of a yak hide tent and see the sunrise on the Himalayas.
I really, really hope I’m able to make it. :)
I’m traveling with a rabble of Chinese back packers, from all over the country. As the only native English speaker.. my mandarin is getting quite the work out. But in the short time we’ve gotten to know each other, it’s really remarkable to see how we’ve all bonded and take care of each other. How it all happened was a bit of kismet. I wandered into a hostel to use the bathroom and saw a notice to share a ride.. And the rest is history.
So here is a quick sign off from Lhasa, in hopes that my next entry won’t be one where I’m delirious and needing an IV. :)