Journey to the West
We’ve been bumping up and down for days on dusty roads (or lack thereof) heading for Mt. Kailash. Each day seems like an epic journey in its own right, winding our way up over mountains, across desolate lunar landscapes, down through canyons to grasslands filled with herds of yaks and sheep. We drive straight through rivers and streams hoping the water won’t flood into the car. We inch along steep mountain roads and spin our wheels trying to get the car over landslides that have covered the road. This is the Tibet I dreamt of when I was a teenager!
For days, we have been driving along the Himalayas past the big names such as Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Cho Oyu and Xishabangma. But equally stunning are the mountains whose names Losang, our guide, does not know. Huge snow covered peaks erupt from the grasslands or sprout out of desert dunes. Huge sapphire lakes sit in middle of the desert. The sky is so bizarrely blue – it looks almost fake!
There are few people here in western Tibet, only small junction settlements and occasional nomads. At one point as we were bumping down one dirt road, a Western woman came running up to us out of nowhere. We stopped and rolled down the window and she said, “Hi, we are biking across Tibet and we have run out of water. That lake down there is salt water, so we can’t use that. Do you have any water?” Almost out of water ourselves, we all poured what we had in one empty bottle and handed it over to her. More importantly, Losang explained to her that certain small inlets off to the left contained drinkable water.
Perhaps, the most magnificent thing we discovered along the road was a huge plain with a surreal landscape of wind-swept dunes and aquamarine lakes all backed by the Himalayas. I have never seen anything like it before – absolutely incredible!
In Chinese folklore the high plateaus of the mystical Far West have always been strongly associated with heaven. Now, I know why.