Friday, 26 December 2008

The forbidden road

I sit here still numb from the events over the last 24 hours, covered in dust, mud, grime and snot, freezing to the core of my being, dazed, amazed, shocked, but alive....!
I recall the day before and re wind in my minds eye the events, the marathon road trip that lay unaware just a few seconds ahead of my unknowing as I set off down an uncertain road with the only certainty that the heading I wanted to follow on my compass showed NNW, and hoped a ride would come along soon.
The morning had felt good, positive, there was love in my heart. I felt as clear as the blue sky above, unhindered by doubt, the distance did not matter something would happen I will get through here, with that I gazed upon the horizon of holy mountains, untouched by human feet they looked back at me with pride, majesty and purity no compromise. They looked so beautiful so close the crisp air was so clear I felt as though I could reach out and touch them I stopped to admire them to give them my time as there was no time of any importance to compare with these moments. I could have stayed in this place in this frame of mind, it was timeless no need for anything, no desire no fight a feeling of great deep love, respect, honor and of letting go, of faith........I let it all go I turned away to follow a road I did not care where, when or how I just knew this was the way I was to go and everything was going to be fine.
Very few cars passed I thought it was strangely quiet, just the occasional truck with its cloud of dust chasing after it, taxi cabs, two domestic cars who just waved something back at my hopeful gestures at getting a ride, they sounded their horns and sped on by...! but what was I expecting the prospect of someone just stopping so early on in the morning and taking me all the way to Lhasa and somehow getting through all the check points, something that I refused to try to think about......questions, a sudden snow shower of doubt swept over me and I felt cold and alone as I looked back at the long, dusty, desolate road behind me, still no cars in sight, I sighed and shook the cobwebs of doubt from my mind, put some sunshine back into my stride and started to just enjoy the morning again the here and now of it all. I slowed my pace down and told myself just a matter of time everything happens when it is ready to, so many infinite possibilities, so must we be open to receive them, so able, so free, how beautiful this feeling I had everything I needed, tent, food cooker, what else do you need?
Suddenly a big black 4by4 materialized from out of the future, maybe this was the devil come to trade my soul for a bus ride to my hearts desires? I had not been listening to the road behind me and it caught me by surprise I turned quick and stuck out my hand, it reacted and stopped immediately, my spirits raised with the first successful ride and so early on in the morning, a friendly face appeared, ''Nee chee Markham'' I asked...I go Markham, this was the first place marked on my map and where I hoped I could try to buy a bus ticket from within Tibet. He seemed not to understand where I wanted to go so then I pointed up the road and said Lhasa, he shook his head but pointed up the road and gestured for me to get in, great I was grateful for the ride regardless how far it was going as long as it was in the right direction not that was much choice in these parts apart from up or down, everywhere else was pretty much un-navigable the terrain was rugged, elevated and the road full of craters and rock falls, luckily the big 4by4 took it all in its stride, and sped along eating up the kilometers. A few times he tried to engage conversations but this involved a barrage of aggressive sounding characters that sounded he was very concerned, and frustrated about something, all I could do was smile and say a few random words that I had picked up which seemed to break the ice but not really reveal anything for either of us.
I clocked the trip meter and at the last count got to 75km, shortly after that he stopped and seemed to be saying that he needed to eat, ''how cha'' very good I say I am also hungry then he waved me goodbye and went inside a building to eat, ok that was the end of that then I guess he was not satisfied with the conversation.
I set off walking again down a dusty, dry road, more hot now as the sun beats down in this valley the road ahead twisting, climbing, descending a crazy labyrinth of road, rock, river all struggling with each other to decide who should prevail like a game of scissors, paper, stone......this time the road was winning as it carved itself through rock and span the gaps of rivers to disappear in a shimmering haze of heat and dust.
70 km closer to Lhasa! and it is still morning. I walked for maybe another 2 hours passing by some small villages, curious faces following my progress amused by my presence, I wave, smile and say ''tash de lai'' a Tibetan greeting that means something like, 'I hope you are blessed in every way and good fortune go with you for the rest of your day', or that’s what I would like to think it meant as they seem very pleased when you address them this way.
Still walking but no cars, where are they all? I was starting to feel a little isolated and daunted by the terrain and the 1500 km ahead...!
I hear engines in the distance behind me, I turn to look and see a big cloud of dust and maybe 5 cars, as they get closer I practically step out in front of them and try to wave them down not wanting to miss any opportunity and really wanting to get some ground covered....... 1, 2, 3 cars all speed past engulfing me in their road dust, I see the last but I think he is already about to drive past, I put my hand out in a vain attempt to catch a ride, I think he is going past but suddenly he brakes hard, sliding to a halt next to me, it took me by surprise but I excitedly run up this time I ask for the next place on my map and not mention Lhasa. ''Markham'' I say hopefully, he nodded, great I get into a good 4by4 with Frank Zappa from Tibet and my mood now elevated to be transported to my primary goal, a little at a time and slowly but surely we will get there not be too greedy.
I settle down to enjoy the ride and think back to a few hours ago early this morning walking into uncertainty and thinking about the travel Gods who often come to help those who dare to face uncertainty for the love of travel, the adventure, the variety, the highs and lows that give us moments of clarity where the waters become calm and crystal clear, the sights, sounds and sensations that stimulate the soul and somehow answer ancient questions that elude us from daily routines of life, or maybe previous incarnations, slowly silently they get answered as we travel, communicate and union with the elements of this planet both human and that which is not. The pieces of the puzzle click into place one by one as we advance to somewhere, feeling more whole, more complete leaving ripples in the fabric of time behind us.
The Gods answer as they always do, but only when we are humble and ask for the right things nothing more or less than what we need is all I ask. There is normally always a catch something I did not think about that I was not specific enough, I wanted a ride, I wanted to get to Lhasa, I did not say how I did not care......!
The last thing I remember thinking after asking the Gods for assistance was ''I wonder where I will be tonight''
I reflected on this thought some time later as I pushed his head away from the gear lever where he had passed out, so that I could engage a gear and get this vehicle out of here before it either falls apart or it and we freeze to death on the spot in this freezing forsaken place....he moaned as I forced him back into his seat and the smell of cheap lager filled my nostrils, he had been drinking steadily for a few hours partly to amuse himself, partly to break up the monotony of the journey and maybe mostly just to scare me to death I think, whilst driving me to......I don’t know, maybe to the end of my days, maybe to Lhasa, maybe to his Grandmas house, maybe to never never land, who cares lets get out of here its bloody freezing...!
Finally the cheap low alcohol Asian lager must have frozen, distilled itself then doubled in volume as we doubled in altitude and at approximately 5600 meters his brain waved goodnight to the world and gracefully collapsed at the wheel.
I laughed out aloud to myself as a statement returned to my mind, be carefull what you wish for and yes I had no idea in my wildest imagination that I would be doing this, ''yes we know'' I heard one of the more mischievous travel Gods answer, I turned quickly out the corner of my mind to try to get a look at him, but he was too quick for me this time Well when you are in a situation where you wished you were somewhere else, then normally this means you are having an adventure, this I reassured myself.
It was 2am I was driving a beat up old saloon car of various makes and models because the driver had passed out too drunk to continue, I looked around the interior which was that of a pimp daddy afro cosmic sixties flashback ride into oblivion, bouncing over a road that I was sure was built as some sort of mechanical endurance test, rather than a convenient highway through Tibet....! Where the hell were we? and my altimeter kept climbing, 5000 meters and still bouncing, sliding, struggling to maintain momentum and traction up through a winding dirt road, patches of sheet ice and holes in the road as though it had been blanket bombed. I struggled with the controls wrenching the wheel from side to side to avoid the really deep ruts and holes in fear of getting stuck....(again) many times we lost the road or got into a patch of ice or deep ruts and lost traction, everyone having to stop to get out and push and pull to get free.
It all started off quite normal I thought, as I started recalling the early hours of today, wow was it still today had I not been asleep and woke up in the same movie again? Well anyway it started out quite normal, apart from the guy who picked me up, who looked like some Tibetan Frank Zappa look-alike, which gave me much internal amusement. I tried to communicate as best I could he seemed quite anxious at first bombarding me with a barrage of aggressive sounding questions that all I could do was smile and say hey just take me as far as you can hoping he could read in between the lines somewhere, eventually he relaxed and we settled down into the journey ahead
I tried to calculate where we were and when we will get to Markham but gave up being so specific, lets just go with the flow the direction is good.
We seemed to be driving for hours, very rough ground many kilometers of road that was still being worked on and excavated through the foreboding geology, so much dust, very dry fine which found its way through any filtering system the car possessed. I could smell it, layers of it built up inside my nostrils and finally settled in my lungs causing sporadic fits of coughing.
We stopped to eat at a large town, but not Markham. I half expected to be on the road again at any one of these places waiting for one of them to give me a sign that we have arrived, but no signs and was starting to really lose track of where we were and how far we had travelled. The other cars pull up now and I soon get introduced to his colleagues, it looks like they all work together, they have sign writing on the cars all in Tibetan and seem very close to each other and friendly, loyal and committed. Funny how you look for signs your instincts become heightened some sort of survival mode, look for something to recognize, food, shelter, directions, friends or foe? its interesting and good I think to be in situations like this, otherwise dormant unexercised compartments of our minds to be stimulated again, our lives are normally so cushioned, comfortable our instincts become lazy and off guard.
All eyes dance around the room I see everyone in turn and smile waiting for someone to say something but no need, everyone was comfortable and more interested to be feeding. one of them produces a plastic bag and puts it on the table, handfuls of semi-cured Yak meat was passed around, I was hungry and ready for adventure so I sunk my teeth into one that got passed my way, it had a musty, fatty taste that was almost but not quite enjoyable. I let my senses and imagination go over it thoroughly. I conjured up images of origin, removal, preparation and storage, the latter which I did not want to think about for too long, but I think maybe it had been wrapped in an old pair of walking socks removed from the dead body of their last hitch hiker and then stored in the back of the pick up to be tenderized and matured in the dusty heat of the midday Tibetan sun. Yes I was sure of it.
All in all I felt very humble to be with them, they would not let me pay for lunch and continued their hospitality through out the journey with food and drink, nice guys a sense of togetherness, no one better than the other feeling.
On the road again and many hours passed I lost track of trying to calculate where, who, why and when just watching the crazy geology unfold itself under the wheels of this car. I noticed Frank looking agitated, tired maybe he had been driving a long while and who knows how much before I was picked up. Some time later after a long silence he gestured at the wheel, I tried to steady it thinking he wanted to look for something in the car, no he pointed to me and then the wheel again, ahhh you want me to drive, he was tired, yeah OK why not no harm. We stopped and swapped places then I gently pulled away and he smiled after some time patted me and gave me the thumbs up obviously pleased with my driving and felt he could relax, it was good feeling of trust. It was also a strange feeling to be driving myself through China towards Tibet, that echo in my mind again, yes I did not think I would be doing this today, with that thought I amused myself with the situation and took a mental photograph, one of many that comes flooding back as I write and recollect it all now still as rich and as vivid as if was still happening, the memory of these moments and the power of our imagination is a beautiful thing and should be allowed full freedom with no limits. Turn off those TVs and chat shows there is much more going on outside without having to re invent any of it from within a brick prison, broadcasted, biased, clever media, propaganda, that we sit our children in front of God knows what is being broadcasted deep into their sub consciousness....! Video games that teach to kill and to enjoy it whilst suppressing the ability to communicate without pushing a button, conversation becomes to boring too difficult, meal times get forgotten until the next save point, families become individuals in their own alternative reality, lack of communication, lack of communion, we argue, we shout, we lose respect for each other we have no class, no culture, no honor, the chat shows, the dramas, the isms and schisms, designer labels, better, bigger, more, must have better than you....! We are a lost culture an empire that crushed, killed and raped to get what it wants, we exploit their lands and homes creating slaves to feed our greed we have much to be ashamed about. These simple people, the ones in the jungles, the ones on the streets with no clothes on their back they are the ones that gave me what they had, as a human to another human does it take such suffering to become humble?
I felt humble, and here I was taking my turn to drive my cargo of strange encounters, I watch the day become into night and then the road going on into the night, no idea where I am, are we in China still? We have been driving for so long maybe 9 hours now, still no sign of Markam, it looked so close on my large scale map just the next town from Dequin, this is going to be one hell of a long road. More hours passed, we stopped at a few places once in a large town where I thought they were looking for something, maybe they forgot where they lived...! I could not communicate at all and my brain was fading fast with the night and the distance and this bloody long, dusty road. I later realized in retrospect that one of these places must have been Markham but at the time I was so tired and disorientated it could have been on the moon for all I know and certainly would have accounted for all the dust and bloody long way....yes had driven to the moon, I was sure that was it, this was a secret Tibetan space station that somehow we had manage to get lost and drove up a very large mountain pass to appear on the dark side of the moon, yeah this was not Tibetan anymore this was lunar, they were all speaking some strange lunar language and maybe the beer had special bubbles in it to account for the thin atmosphere......yeah OK it was late and my mind was a little disorientated.
More long, dusty, bouncy roads, climbing up 4000 meters and then twisting down again, cannot see anything, dark outside and having to squint through the windshield of yellow/brown mud caked glass into the dimly lit road ahead, my temples had been gradually thumping for the last hour or two so I was relieved when we came to a stop outside what looked like a roadside cafe. I had no interest to eat I just wanted to lie down for a while and close my eyes, give my mind a rest, but there were too many questions flying around in there now that had developed a healthy rhythm and resonated deep inside my temporal lobe, dam this headache, the long distance and high altitude was starting to get to me and I felt all the color fading out of me, I felt cold and translucent white I was becoming invisible, fading into oblivion.
The time was now 10.30pm we had been driving for 11 hours. How far had we come? Were we in Tibet yet? where were all the check points?, it seemed as though we had been bouncing down a dirt track for thousands of kilometers and certainly my head felt that way. I motion to Frank that I am feeling very tired and need to rest, he points to one of the other cars and shows me I can move the seat and lay back, aaaaahh fantastic I get to travel business class, relax put my feet up, maybe watch a movie, look at the cute air hostess's.......I get in and introduce myself to the driver who was a youthful Tibetan guy, grinning from ear to ear looking very pleased with himself, no not pleased, just pissed….aw shit Ptshhhhhhh, he opened up another bottle of Dali beer threw the empty in the rear with the rest and then bombarded me with broken dialect of basically telling me what my name was about thirty seven times and laughing in between, dribbling, messing with every control in the car and somehow managing to drive without looking at the road, mind you it did not make much difference you could not see out of the windscreen anyway. Ptshhhhhhhh and another, by the time he got to the third his mood was really excitable, singing, bouncing up and down in his seat fumbling with a DVD player that was now playing some sort of soft porn, pimp daddy we got a ride tonight, going on. He pointed at the wheel, looks like I got to drive again, well I feel safer with this and it gives my mind something to focus on and try to forget that its actually trying to escape out of my skull.
We swap places and I paddle the gear lever around like a big pudding spoon to try to find a usable gear,, that was a lucky first guess and we wheel spun out of there up and up still climbing more of these bloody long, dusty, icy dirt roads. My friend is in his own world now still singing track number 2 whilst we are on track 5, it was the worst scenario possible for a headache and felt that it was soon about to develop into a super nova, my mind cannot cope with much more, it will die and collapse in on itself to form a dark pool of throbbing turbulence stabbing at my soul for all infinity, I would have laughed a little more if it did not hurt so much.
I look around the interior of the car it is pimped up like a full gangster Tibetan rap fanny magnet, fur, dangly things, plastic bags of clothes, biscuits, crisps......DVD player blasting out Asian, acid hip hop rap, I think this guy lived in here, it was like your first room that you rented as a student.....Yes I did not think this was going to happen again, but this time I was getting bored about it all, my mind was about to form a new solar system after first collapsing in on itself, please when will this road end? Where is my bed? Will I ever sleep again?
I stop several times as more bottles of Dali beer are exchanged with one of the other drivers, then several more times for them to empty themselves of it.....weak beer, but once inside an Asian the transformation is rapid, the biology of their genetics somehow turns it into a hallucinogenic, class A, triple distilled lager, brain, giggling, dribbling, substance capable of transforming the ugliest girl into the most beautiful porn star ever imagined, and they will keep telling you that they love you until they throw up and pass out....!
One of them did pass out, luckily he did not throw up......we had stopped again and then tried to go but the car ahead just stayed there until someone eventually got out to see what was wrong, he simply passed out, the weak alcohol mixed with high altitude and weak Asian genetics got the better of him, one down three to go. I push his head away from the gear lever so I could engage it.....clunk....and wheel spun off into the freezing night once more, it felt like my mind was in a constant loop and a constant thump from my inside temples, there seemed to be no way out like the record was stuck until we ran out of conscious drivers....!
I checked the altimeter, 4700m and still this road to hell was climbing, my head was spinning, the veins inside my temples were pumping with each Tibetian drum beat within them, still climbing, bouncing, sliding, wheel spinning. 5000 meters 2.00am, inside the car had become noticeably arctic, the heater was blowing freezing air around but nothing else......hell had frozen over in here. I could see patches of sheet ice all over the road glinting in the dim headlamps beneath a clear sky I could see a few bright stars far away in deep freezing space, it felt just as isolated and freezing up here.
My friend is still out cold so at least I get some peace to myself. I gaze through the windscreen and try to keep up and follow the tail lights ahead, but the conditions are getting worse the deep ruts in the ice become hard to avoid and I give it some more gas to keep the momentum up, the car is thumping, crashing, engine screaming trying to make it through, we are in some sort of off road endurance challenge. My eyes want to close, pain in my temples, altitude, throbbing nausea. I lose concentration and suddenly the tail lights are on top of me I brake hard to not hit the back of him and slide into a deep rut, shit I am stuck. I cannot get out. I get out and open the door a blast of arctic air takes my breath away, it must be -20 at least. We push and shove and swear and curse this thing out of there, then all set off again, but it was to be a regular routine from now on the road was well above 5000 meters and became impossible not to get stuck, the cars had been taking such a hammering I could not imagine why anyone would want to come this way, something was sure to happen here this is just totally crazy, either 1. We get stuck here and freeze to death, or 2.enough parts are going to fall off these cars until they all destroy themselves and we all freeze to death, or 3. We all fall asleep and drive over the side to our doom.....

Number three decided to happen first..... I watch in disbelief as the tail lights in front make some strange maneuvers then veers to one side then the other, suddenly they speed off and take a dive to the left, keeps going left.....I cant believe it.... it goes over the side, in slow motion at first, then as gravity takes over it accelerates over the edge and disappears out of sight, is there a big drop? I don`t know it just goes over and disappears, I dread to think, my mind freezes.

My heart was beating fast with the shock and I felt a surge of adrenalin which made my eyes open wide like saucers as I starred into the void trying to see any signs of life. I get out, its bloody freezing outside I shiver and my teeth start to chatter immediately as I stumble over rock and ice to see over the side. I expected to see a black void and no sign of the car, but as I gingerly peer over the side, incredibly I see the tail lights just a few meters down the car teetering on an acute angle with its front imbedded into a large rock which broke its certain fairground ride to there a God? Anywhere else along this way it would have been sure death, but here was a rocky ledge just below the road, a very lucky escape. Maybe these Buddhists were right in their thinking and it was not there time to go this time.
The driver was fine although a little shaken up by the slap he got from his colleague, whose car it belonged to, and was now frantically waving his arms around and obviously saying how the bloody hell are we going to get my van out of here?
5400 meters up -20, silly o clock in the bloody freezing Tibetan morning, phone the AA I don’t care anymore I want my bed, where is that? Shit my head pounding again this is just unbelievable torture, I need to descend, I need to sleep, I need to get warm.
One thing about Asians once they get an idea into their head you cannot budge them, and believe me they were determined to somehow get this van back on the road, rebuilt, re-sprayed and driving again. I did not even consider it I gave it a quick look over and thought, no its fucked.
There was no way anyone would even try to attempt it, well all I could do was to observe, help in anyway I could and hope that one of them was some sort of Buddhist, enlightened being capable of lifting impossible things just with his mind.
What seemed like hours of head scratching, moving rocks, kicking things to no avail passed and no feats of spiritual phenonema occurred, finally just as nearly everything had gone numb, and I mean everything. A decision was reached, no......I watched as they continued to move stone and debate between themselves, then I gathered what they were trying to do, they decided to clear the way below and then make a slip way up to the road above, so out came shovels and a pick, these people were unbelievably motivated…my mind somersaulted in disbelief, but I helped the best I could as there was nothing else left for me to do except freeze. I started to lift rocks, to clear the way but after walking and lifting for just a few seconds I was so out of breath, yes of course we were very high, my temples pounded again as I waited to re gain breath, when is this night going to end?
Maybe two hours passed, we finished and it actually started to look like it could work, we had made a clear run to a flat area below from where the car was stuck, then just a steep run up to the road above, that I was not sure a 4by4 would handle let alone a front wheel drive van. A big cheer let out as we released the car from its rocky grip and we all pushed behind as it then tried to go up the slip way we had cleared, but no way, even for these Asians they had to finally lose face and give up, but I was impressed by their determination and it nearly worked.!
One vehicle down, two drivers down, two more left to go, and by the way they had been abused trying to get us over this mountain pass, I don`t think they were too far off.
I returned back to the saloon I was driving but noticed it sitting a bit low at the front end...shit its got a flat... my mood that had just been elevated at the thought of driving out of here suddenly committed suicide and leapt over the crevasse into the void leaving an empty, -20 desolate feeling in my mind apart from the sensation of a jack hammer that was now trying to break through my skull......
Putain du merd c`est que c`e encore du merd and other French obscenities, I cannot believe this endless night. My mind still suicidal but now committed to despair for the rest of its mortal existence, calmly it accepted defeat and its fate never to be at peace or at rest again....suddenly a few synapses fired up from within a small infrequently used compartment of my mind where logic was once created, I recognized its voice from when I used to take notice of it, it said...'' you know what you got to do so just get on with it '' great advice, merci beaucoup.....I threw the master switch back to off again.
I helped to change the tyre and thank God they had a spare. Suddenly I went through one of a hundred things that I expected to happen next, but the wheel nuts did come undone, did not snap in the freezing conditions, the spare was inflated and was the correct size, no one else passed out, we did not get attacked by rabid snow leopards or suffer multiple frost bite amputations of sensitive areas.
We were actually about to set off again driving out of here, aaahhh what a shame I was just starting to get comfortable and familiar with all this suffering, oh well all good things have to come to an end, lets go......I excitedly ram it into first and floor this tin, Tibetan Ragga muffin out of there.
Finally we are in convoy again and moving, hammering these vehicles over this ridiculous terrain I was a little relieved not to be able to see how high we were or the inevitable precipice that must be waiting for one of us to make another mistake, but also kind of curious to have been denied a clear view and to see our surroundings, instead it had felt like I had been playing a video game for the past 24 hours starring at a monitor and thrashing the steering wheel from side to side.
We start to descend now and after some time I feel the pressure release its vice like grip on my temples, the nausea in the pit of my stomach dissipates and I feel kind of blank, numb, my mind has flat lined and now all systems have been shut down then re started in safe mode, I function on just the basics, my hands turn the wheel according to some other automated response, my mind and body feels separate to one another and I sit and stare into the darkness from within my own shell as the barrage of motion and turbulence continue. Suddenly I am seeing things, red lights in front, lots of them, I brake and slide and come out of my driving trance to see many tail lights of cars, trucks and a coach, not moving, queuing up at now maybe 4.30 am, what now? It looked like we could be entering civilization and I see a few trees, telegraph poles, fences, maybe it was a check post? shit I had forgot all about that whilst my mind was preoccupied with surviving, a backlog of reality suddenly caught up and smacked me in the back of my head.....baaam, I was driving as an illegal alien with an unconscious passenger of unknown criminal record, stinking of alcohol and all of us covered in dust, mud and snot....well at least I looked like a Tibetan now, but it would still be pretty hard to explain all this in this late hour to unforgiving Chinese police. The best I hoped for now was a nice cold prison cell for the rest of the night, morning or whatever time it should not have been, I relished the thought of a prison cell, a hard cold bed to lie down on, no more driving. Aaaaah bliss.
We stop and wait but nothing moves maybe twenty minutes, everyone completely spent now hoping that something would just happen and start moving again, so as not to have to get out into the cold again, I had no warm blood left in me at all and nothing inside me to heat any of it up again, I really did not want to move. I see a truck start to maneuver, it reverses but I cant quite see what is the trouble is, then it bounces like crazy and slides so presume it must be ice, it tries a run up and a big cloud of diesel bellows out as it powers through, bounces like crazy again and starts to slide, keeps sliding, nearly sideways and then grinds to a halt, shit if this huge thing got stuck I cant see us having a chance. It makes a second attempt, takes a slightly different route, bounces like crazy again, almost stops then somehow finds grip and makes it through, we get out to see the road, yes its bad, a huge sheet of ice completely over the road with mud underneath, deep ruts where wheels had broken through creating big holes where they grind to a halt.
We wait and wait and finally they all make it through, one by one, but we are all drained now completely non functional, cold, tired and defeated no energy cannot face having to push and pull vehicles if they get stuck in the ice, we decide to rest a while and try to sleep a little until the daylight breaks through in a few hours.
I find as many things as I can to cover myself with from within the car, paper, boxes, hat, gloves and try to sleep, it is bloody freezing and soon my unconscious friend is making deep unpleasant noises from the back of his throat like someone is slitting it, I laugh a little then feel concerned he could actually be dying? With the alcohol and freezing conditions his system could drop down too low, maybe his throat is collapsing? I kick him and he responds and stops the gurgling, with that diagnosis I relax and try to sleep, maybe two hours in and out of consciousness getting more and more cold trying to wrap myself up in two inches of cloth I am clutching on to I decide to get up and everyone else seems to be doing the same, the first signs of light are showing now and is a little relief to see that this endless night is coming to an end, but to where...?
I get out stiff and aching to look at the road with the others, it looks even worse in the light, deep mud underneath and the whole road on a slight angle so if you lose traction you slide off towards an impossible ditch to recover from. The first car tries an attempt it looks like they decided the best tactics is to get a good run up and hit it as fast as you can, he nails it to the floor and hits the ice in second engine screaming, I laugh as it hits the ice and takes a dive through the surface, clouds of steam, the front of the car buries its nose down and I expect to see it come to an abrupt stop in a cloud of mud, ice and steam.....yes there was lots of mud, ice, steam then somehow its momentum kept going its front springs fully compacted, probably both now protruding through the bonnet, suddenly released its tension and the front end sprang skywards, it screamed , slid, spat, swore, coughed a big lump of road up in true Tibetian style, shook itself off and then casually emerged out the other side, there was a brief silence then all cheered and ran up to the driver like he had just won the Paris Dakar rally. With this technique the rest of the cars all made it through, it was like the final barrier and now we had broken through into the new frontier, the new world, the forbidden land, we were inside Tibet. Fucking hell…!
Now I sit caked in dust, mud and snot, still trying to recover some body heat and recollect the events over the last 24 hours. How? what? why? when? I was on a bus and on my way to Lhasa. It was incredible after the ordeal of the mountain death pass drive to oblivion, these guys dropped me off in some strange town found a bus station and after speaking with the bus driver I was allowed on and paid 2500 Yuan, I still couldn`t believe it. I wonder how far away I was, I tried to calculate how long we had been driving and maybe covered 350 km so maybe another good day on this bus and we will be there, hmmmmmm a wave of doubt swept over me, after everything that had just happened suddenly it all felt too easy, maybe its a trap? Do they really know where I want to go? Maybe its going back to China? I catch the attention of some children playing close by and ask them ''gong gong chee cher, chee Lhasa'' strange language but they did understand me 'buss go Lhasa?' they nod so I try to relax, well OK I look around at my surroundings again to confirm with my mind, yes this does look like a bus and it is confirmed that it is actually going to Lhasa, what can go wrong? maybe there will be check points here, my mind would not relax it was preparing itself for the next set back, but I reassure it and for now lets just enjoy the ride see where we get to next!

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