Monday, 19 January 2009

treck to Indian border

Labouche-Namchee Bazaar Day 9

It was a very cold night again -15 inside my tent so was very happy to quickly be on my way and walking to generate some body heat. Within a short time I warmed up and found myself flying along, wow! I am a walking machine, tak, tak, tak, tak, the more I descend the stronger I feel, my body must have got well acclimatized and now I feel as though I have twice as many resources at hand. I march along at full speed, enjoying the way my body is feeling and watching the scenery drift past. I plough up the hills like I have nitrous oxide fitted to my thighs and do not want to stop for anything. I am enjoying the ride so much, the rapidly changing scenery and looking forward to explore new places. My breathing is like I am at rest and my feet are in perfect rhythm, time flows by very easily and so do the kilometers, I am somewhere else not really aware like in a dream my body is doing everything automatically whilst my mind feels completely free. I have a great sense of love welling up in my heart, of nature of beautiful things, feelings. I trace the sunlight as it filters through the Himalayan foliage around me, it all seems so enhanced, bright, sparkly, clear, crystal clear like my mind is feeling and my heart. I feel very clean. I start to see lots of detail around me, colors, and shapes, patterns that have always been there but not truly observed or noticed. Nature is truly infinite. Never static always changing, we are no different we are also organic and abide to the same rules and changes, birth, death, rebirth. Matter cannot be completely destroyed or created it just changes from one state to another. We fear change, we get too precious about things, yet change is for sure, it is so important to accept change, nothing is ever permanent.

Mountains are a place of purity of less is more, exposed, we present ourselves, vulnerable, we are naked to the raw elements that can come down upon us, we have to be humble and respectful to survive. Mountains are a window to the soul and a union between man and nature .......... our creator.

Namchee Bazaar-Kharikola 12 hours Day 10

I tried to write something in my diary today but I was completely spent, too tired after walking 12 hours late into the evening trying to get to Kharikola. Arrived 8.30, dark and set up tent. Icollapsed into a deep sleep.

Kharikola-Nanjing 9 hours Day 11

From here now onwards we leave the main Base camp trail and head south east towards the Indian border, passing close by to Mira peak.
Another big start to the day turning off from the main trail on to a tiny trail that cut steeply up through a few houses and then to lose itself amongst heavy forest, which was difficult to follow but felt good to be within a more natural setting rather than all the rows of guest houses that had been prior to this. The trail finally leveled out and reached a small village in time as my stomach was complaining about food again. I had been strict with it for most of the week surviving on rations that I had prepared, dried food, pasta, and I had lost a lot of weight. I could feel bone now when I sat down, it was uncomfortable, there was no padding on my rear any more, my arms were cut and I could see every muscle.
I noticed a place where villagers were all eating, it looked good, bloody smelled good, my stomach said what the hell are you waiting for, so decided to try to stock up with some extra calories. I dropped my bag to the floor outside many curious faces all watching me, “Namaste, Kana daal baat?” ello eat Daal Baat? someone points to sit down inside, so I go in and my eyes squint adjusting to the dark, smoky interior. I love it, the familiar smell of wood, cooking, spices and all the other condiments of Nepali lifestyle. Shafts of bright sunshine pierce through the bamboo slits in the wall, creating a 3 dimensional venetian blind effect, as it illuminates and slices through the fog from the open fire. I sit and amuse myself for a while watching dragons and demons dance and fight with each other, this laser show of light, smoke and fire.
The food arrives, a huge plateful of rice, daal curry, a few curried potatoes and saag, spinach. Aaaaah yes I cant wait, my stomach cant wait, my eyes are bulging and mouth salivating. I dive in local style with my hand and scoop up a huge handful and pack it into my mouth, its like I have been on a desert island for years the spices and different textures flood my senses, I am very happy and I smile at the others “ram ro cha, mito” very good, very tasty, they laugh, smile and the feeding continues. I finish and they fill my plate up again two more huge platefuls which I quickly get down, my stomach is swimming around in it and is completely ecstatic, for a few more hours at least.
Fuelled up now and ready to go. I can see the way ahead from here, at the far end of the village the trail starts climbing up steeply again to a pass through the ridge behind, its going to use up at least half a plateful of Daal baat to get up there I calculate.
800 meters up, 2 hours later, hot and sweaty now with the midday sun I turn to see the tiny houses of the village below where I came from and the thin streaks of kitchen smoke lazily drifting across the Himalayan range, aaahhh Daal baat, goodbye.
Now as I reach the top of the pass I can see for the first time the land to the east, a formidable horizon of mountains, rivers, deep valley. I can see the direction I need to go and its not going to be easy, about three big rivers to cross which means three big climbs and descents as we traverse south east across them.
The trail descends now to the first river, its very steep, very long and my calf muscles feel like swollen balloons about to pop, but I am loving this part of Nepal, no guest houses, jungle, lots of it, a few tiny villages, ahh I feel am home, this is where I feel it, already I am planning in my mind what not to do next time if I come to Nepal and where I want to be.
I enjoyed going to the base camp but the commercial squeeze is too much for me, it is good that they are earning a living but I think Sagamartha is holding her head in shame with this highway of chocolate wrappers to the top of the world.
It’s a crazy descent to the river I am slipping on the dusty lose surface half climbing, hanging on to trees, peering down over a deep precipice into a raging river far below. I cross a long suspension bridge and take some video of this dramatic area, the noise of the river below drowning out any other sound. I am being looked down upon by two huge walls of rock and jungle either side of me, I feel so small again.
I start to climb up the other side it feels such a waste of energy I have just come all this way down to have to start climbing up again and then to do it all over again maybe another two times, I try not to think about it too much and drop down into low range.
I pass by a few tiny houses perched high up on the side of the mountain. I stop to talk and refresh with their water, real local Nepali people, I love them, so clean in their hearts not wanting anything from you here and perfectly happy for you to stay a while to just be, talk a little.
I climb almost to the top, but I can feel the energy just starting to fade, then I notice a stone shelter built next to a stream in the middle of this forest, yes a perfect place to stay for the night I decide. I clear the ground, collect some wood for the night and arrange my things, so good to outside like this. Soon my fire crackles away and I am warm, fed and completely relaxed, just enjoying the simplicity of this forest, its different sounds and sensations, it is so peaceful, so quiet. I feel cradled in its arms and by the warmth and light of the fire. I settle down to sleep.

Nanjing-Sonam Day 12

This was the biggest day so far with a 2000m climb then to drop down again another 1500m, both my up and down muscles were completely spent. I cannot believe how un-flat this place is, there was no relief from the relief at all with standing on some sort of steep gradient, loose rock that was like trying to walk over a demolition site, my knees were sore and throbbing from the barrage of shock they were trying to absorb.
I came across a basic guest house, the first one I have seen on this trail and just before the next big pass. I see no good place to camp and feel the need of a good meal again, my body reserves are low and I feel the need to eat, lots. I had been dreaming about food the last few nights even my stomach comes to haunt me in my dream state. I was lost in some sort of junk food fantasy, enjoying this virtual treat of food fantasies, pizzas dripping with grease, chocolate, sandwiches of cream, honey, biscuit, caramel…...arrrgh I woke up sweating and still grinding my teeth, disappointed with the lack of sweet things that this waking reality presented. I laughed to myself whilst waiting for my next plate of food to arrive, aaaah yes we are going to feed well tonight as I catch a glimpse of a jar of jam, trying to hide behind a bottle of pickles he thinks he is safely locked away under lock and key. I think to myself, “that will not be safe for long” Hmmmm pancakes. I am only small weighing in at this time what felt like probably 47kilos yet I have an uncontrollable appetite fuelled by my passion for cooking and eating. I feel I can eat three times my own body weight. The feast soon started and continued until I could no longer entertain anything to do with food. I belched and crawled on my hands and knees to my room, no, leave me alone I’m full I’ve had enough, aaah but sir its only wafer thin…..!
Tomorrow I will need all this fuel, the last big obstacle a 3400m pass. I was glad to have pushed hard yesterday to leave a short climb in the morning, after here things should get a little easier as we descend down into a valley to follow a river to Tumblingta, here I was hoping to find some sort of transport to get me to the border.

Sonam-Gothe Bazaar 8 hours Day 13

Very pleased with the progress it looks like I will complete the journey 1 week less than what I predicted, without compromising on missing out on any of the atmosphere.
I really enjoyed the guest house last night it was not like the others I had seen trying to compete with each other and providing all the European comforts they could. I come here to get away from our life style, so I really enjoyed the basics here living as they do, we had no electricity, nothing, basic food no menu just eat whatever they have available and are prepared to cook that evening, its simple, its uncomplicated and leaves nothing to be disappointed about. I really feel like I am in real
Nepal here.

Sonam-Gothe Bazaar 8 hours Day 14

I am feeling great my body is well fed now and I am very light not carrying any excess, I enjoy a long walk down to the valley below, cross a suspension bridge and follow local trails through small villages, here I am lost in a timeless world of village life and crops being gathered.
I have just finished reading a book about the early attempts on Everest. I thought it topical but not something that proved to keep me feeling warm at night I must confess. There was an extract that I felt was very interesting it was written by a young Sherpa lad who had lost both parents to the commercialization of Everest, in fact all his family and relatives had died in the end trying to help rich foreigners who had no or very little experience to climb Everest, fuelled by their poverty they committed themselves into trying to assist these unworthy, money cushioned attempts to get these people to the top. Putting the lives of many Sherpas at risk and who consequentially died, his final statement was that Sagamartha is a sacred place and should only be reached by those worthy and able bodied people, without the aid of oxygen that today still litters the side of something pure. It is mans desire and greed to fulfill egotistical goals at the expense of others and of the surrounding natural beauty it should be kept pure as possible.
It was a great day full of small villages and jungle scenery, no tourists and no guest houses. I feel that I want to walk forever now, never stop just keep going.
I walk late into the evening accompanied by a fantastic sunset behind me. I feel like some movie star in an exotic setting my shadow taller than my soul, stretching far out in front of me. I cross a small bridge and just as I was passing two bamboo houses, I stopped to watch an old woman, she was busy weaving some dried straw to form circle pads which she then bound together to make a comfortable little stool. I smiled but could not communicate apart from saying `very good` in Nepali, she pointed to the house and made a sign to sleep with her hands, “ok yeah great” I say, it did not take much convincing for me to stay here, I felt very at home. I had a great evening her children and relatives came round to enjoy a new face and we all ate together and talked, laughed, joked. I really love these people.
I passed a similar place the day before, so peacefull I almost had to stop, but I felt if I did I would get stuck and never come back again. That I would forget everything of the west and live this life with them. Their children were playing in the next field of freshly cut straw, all ages playing perfectly well, no crying, bullying or being spiteful. The relatives close by all busy with daily life, collecting, drying, making things, it was like you could feel the natural clockwork of the time, the season, the hour and everyone had their thing to do, it was beautifull, you could feel the love and warmth between them all, unhindered by clutter, free to apply care and attention all aspects of living as a unit, a village, a community. I know I am not one of them and never can be, but I see so much of what they have that is good, pure and simple. Less is more.

Gothe Bazaar-Chainpur 6 hours Day15

I followed the local trails as best I could in the direction of the river that would soon intersect with the bigger ones that were running South. several times I got lost amongst the maze of small local trails and villages that started off in the right direction but then soon ended up inside someone`s pig shed or front room, it was like that and I amused myself for most of the day this way to finally descend to the valley below at a heavily enriched altitude of 700m. I felt very, very fit.
I joined with the big river that was now like walking on the west coast of
France, kilometers of almost white sand lined its dry river banks. I followed to finally arrive at Chainpur at around , a relatively small town/village but seemed like a sprawling chaotic mess again compared to the few days of jungle and simplicity. I mooched around for a while looking out for signs of transport. I came across a land rover packed full of locals, they agree to let me ride and I scramble up on to the only available seat left, up on the roof, next to two others, a sack of oranges, potatoes, chickens, rice. I make friends with the sack of potatoes and wedge myself in for what was to be a very bumpy ride. The road was very rough, if you could call it a road that had to literally go through two rivers and then a camel trophy ride to arrive at Chainpur for .
I set up base camp literally in the bus station that night, which was a patch of dirt high up overlooking the southern Nepalese landscape, so that I would not miss any ride out of here early in the morning, they would have to run me over first. I was told a bus may or may not arrive at

Chainpur-God knows where

1st gear bus ride of hell. We set off down a road¦! Well I did see a sign that said this was a Nepalese development road, but I don`t think this road had even been proposed, let alone developed in any way or even should have been driven on. I was not sure if I wanted to hand the bus driver a medal or sentence him for crimes committed against the gearbox and cruelty to buses in general. No matter how beat up or how old they were they did not deserve this sort of abuse, to cross rivers, span crevasses, to defy motor mechanics and to supersede all the maximum tolerance specifications of its original design. The tortured engine screamed and continued to scream along in 1st gear for most of the journey, sometimes managing to get a pleasant crunch out of second or was it two and a half! All this and having to try to find some part of my arse that did have a little flesh on it to cushion me from the hard seat and hammering ride. I had now lost a lot of weight. I did not have too much to spare in the first place, it was painful to sit, my hair was matted, my face covered in a thick Chris Bonnington beard, dried snot, mud, dust, the cloth of my trousers were hiding behind a film of sweat, jungle and food that somehow missed my mouth. I looked a mess.
We crossed another river, literally straight through it, yes in a bus, it screamed across still in first, trying to keep up speed so as not to get stuck and bounced so high I left my seat and nearly landed on the lap of the guy next to me. Then it climbed up the other side to come to a complete stop behind a collection of queuing vehicles. There were many people buzzing around, police, goats, and chickens which were all looking serious and pecking at the up turned truck in the middle of the road. Nothing was moving very much. I got the story a little later that a child had been killed in a road accident, so emotions were very high, plenty of pointing and waving of arms around, crying, old men chewing betel, old women chewing betel, cats, dogs and the uncles brothers sisters cousin. Hours passed, I could not understand why things were not moving, there seemed to be enough room to go around, but by the look on everyone`s faces they had all resigned to a long wait for some reason. Eventually the police decided they had enough Daal Baat and chai, cigarettes and made some sort of announcement, then out came those bits of paper again which got passed around and waved about at each other, this seems to be a re occurring trend these days. Then more standing around. What is going on? Maybe they were waiting around until the soul had time to depart properly, sometime around 2.30 I hoped. Then there was a need for lots of shouting and more finger pointing, crying, then a protest. This became a cycle of events that went around at least four times in short emotional waves before they all started to get bored with it, the chickens left first, then the goats, then finally the people. Maybe they had got everything out of their system by now and any stray souls looking for the light had decided they were better of out of there. Their absence felt, the crowds dispersed along with them. Gingerly the vehicles went on by and for the next 8 hours I fidgeted uncomfortably on my bony ass as we crawled along in 1st again.
We arrived late because of this mornings hold up and had to stop short of our destination at a convenient town. I had no Nepalese currency on me now as the prices in the national parks broke my budget and no where to change any, so now it was late, dark, and I was tired with no enthusiasm to find somewhere to camp, but the Gods decided to come down upon me again. I saw a European face for the first time in many days, they also surprised by the encounter came and introduced themselves, a lovely couple of whom the guy new this place well as he had been working here on some aid program a few years ago, now he was returning to visit friends here, he quickly offered to book me into his friends guest house, he seemed to be close friends with everyone here, they all knew him and it was a joy to see their faces light up when they became reunited with him, obviously he had a great experience here. He told me what an incredible time he had, getting to live with and to know these people. I can quite imagine, he spoke fluent Nepalese and obviously got a great deal out of the experience. I thanked him for his help and had a great night, hot shower which was much needed and good food.
I was told to meet back at the bus at
to continue the rest of the journey, so with that I had set my alarm and settled down to sleep. I slept like the dead that night, to awake before my alarm went off, feeling completely refreshed and wide awake. I looked at the watch it read I turned it off and quickly got my things together and without any thought tried to get out. I forgot to tell them I wanted to be away early, there was no sign of life, pitch black. I switched my headlamp on and traced my way out to the door that was locked, shit, I walked around making as much noise as I could hoping someone would get up, but nothing, no one. I tried the rear door to find another way out. No I don`t believe it I am locked in. I go up some stairs and find myself out onto a balcony. I look around and then I heard a voice in my mind saying “you are thinking to leg it over there aren`t you!” Hmmmm maybe, I think to myself as I peer over the side, it looks not too far, but its dark and my fading batteries cast a yellow area of light which I cannot work out how far it is. I move a few pot plants and like a cat burglar I step out on to side. My bag is heavy and I calculate that I am going to drop like a sack of spuds, thud….. I drop drown maybe 3 meters, nothing breaks. I get up from underneath my rucksack, which had a nice soft landing thanks to turning in mid air and landing on me, so I brush myself off and walk quickly to where the bus was. I start to look around but its completely deserted, this is funny I think, normally by this time things are starting to come to life. In Asia everyone gets up very early. I get to where the bus is parked, but the same thing no one. I think to myself that we should be going soon, then that feeling of doubt starts to saturate my mind, now a small alarm bell was saying alert! Alert! Warning. OK what`s gone wrong? What`s happening? I look inside the bus and I can see the driver, he is asleep. I try to wake him but no matter how hard I try he will not wake up.
Maybe I was not as awake as I thought I was when I got up this morning. I started clawing around inside my mind trying to find an answer to this little mystery, and ah haaaa as usual there was no great mystery……I check the time again it says
.. eh! ........Still..! Hang on. Suddenly I realise that time was not frozen at exactly . I woke up to look at the alarm time that I had set, thinking this was the current time, I immediately swap it over from the alarm display to the current time, I looked, no way it was only 11.35pm.. bloody hell¦.. I had slept deep from and woke two and half hours later thinking it was time to go. All the pieces suddenly fell in to place clak, clak, clak,.Aaaaaah. Well ok there was no way I was going to lose face and go back to the guest house. I looked at the alternatives and climbed up on to the roof of the bus, then looked up at the incredibly clear, beautiful sky. The milky way stretched from horizon to horizon. I was instantly hypnotized in the dead of the night, complete solitude and stared deep into the dreamtime of that cosmos for a moment, just enough time to lose myself within all these stars, all these possibilities and thought to myself “yes I want to be here” I unpacked my sleeping bag and found a comfortable place to lay down and stared dreamily into the heavens. I started to chuckle to myself, which broke out into a full belly laugh from the bottom of my soul. I saw myself, an image within this universe, a point a tiny dot upon this scene, this situation, this place, those words in my mind again”yep I did not think this was going to happen today” again that statement seemed to echo through out my life and continues to smack me in the back of my mind when I am least expecting it..this time it said…..”you stupid idiot” the stupid idiot in me then stood up from the crowd he was hiding amongst to put up his hands, and said “eah fair enough, that was a pretty good gaff wasn`t it?”.
All these things you go through whilst travelling, the pleasures, the pains, the highs and the lows, somewhere in between there is balance, when all becomes calm, there is clarity, peace and acceptance. Ours is not the only culture in the world, no better, no worse just different bits of better and worse, but the differences make me humble. I hold dear in my heart all these experiences, and especially the people I have met and the exchange of time between us for the rest of my days.


Time 21:21

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Treck to Kallar patar, everest base camp

Now I wait here in Katmandu, for my Indian visa whilst pollution builds up once again in my lungs, just two more days in Katmandu and I think I will be dead, suffocating on the infected fluids of my own lung lining, but just a bit longer then we are out of here. I cannot wait to get going the pollution here is the worst I have come across. I look down from a temple high up above the city, a sprawling mass of concrete for as far as I can see, a 360 degree sea of noise, filth and fumes.
I plan to go to Jiri which is the starting point to a trek to Everest base camp, it follows the original route that the first explorers used on their attempts on Everest.
I feel lucky to have made it this far already and feel now that this was bonus material. I actually get to walk to Sagamartha, the roof of the world. I spent much time in the Pyrenees last summer and winter which re kindled and old flame of mine from earlier times in England. I used to love getting out and walking amongst nature, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District and many places in the dramatic landscapes of Wales. Now I was going to be in one of the most dramatic, highest places on earth. I paused for reflection, what a truly interesting world it is.
I arranged my Indian visa prior to the walk so that on the return journey south from base camp I could take a 4 or 5 day detour towards the south east, through some remote places to be not far away from the Indian border, where from there I hoped to find a jeep, a bus, donkey, yak, dog or a small, strong child to carry me to the border, and cross over into India where a good friend of mine was living not far away and was waiting for my arrival.
People said it would take three weeks to walk this route, but I needed to do it in much less time as I had no room on my Nepal visa for getting lost or tired.
The last few days whilst waiting for my Visa I had kept myself off the polluted streets and taken some yoga lessons with the idea of getting a little more conditioned and supple than I was. My teacher was an Indian guy with bleached hair that had turned it a kind of ginger color, it was hard to say how old he was as he had one of those ageless complexions that could have been anywhere between 33 and 103. He explained the first day would be very simple exercises to cleanse and prepare the body for later on in the program. We went through some simple routines going over each part of the body, stretching, breathing, nothing that was meant to cause any discomfort, then we did a couple of exercises that he said would massage your internal organs, this involved pressing parts of your hands into your gut whilst letting out all your breath out slowly, crunching up into a fetal position until you were about to pass out. I think this was the one that loosened something inside. I felt good immediately afterwards but later that night some strange, terrible reaction happened. I was producing the most incredible amount of methane, far more than any daal baat that I had eaten or baked bean, strong beer and closing time kebab could ever produce, it was just not possible how much gas was being produced, and where it was coming from? maybe the contractions of the exercise had produced a very tiny rupture from within my gut and had collapsed to form a small rift in the space time continuum, volatile matter was now flooding into my intestines from the far reaches of the opposite side of the cosmos? I had not eaten anything that dangerous to explain it any other way.
It was amusing me at first, you know this juvenile sort of toilet humor that is to most men, very very funny for the duration of their immaturity and remainder of their adult life, but then it got beyond a joke. I actually became disgusted and a little worried with myself, it just would not stop in fact the frequency and volume was building up to some sort of grand finale. I could feel it start to gurgle in small familiar fluctuations, and then a barrage of detonators started systematically firing as though to induce an avalanche, then suddenly I felt it. It was like a small earthquake deep inside my gut. I froze, clenched slightly, then made a nano second decision to sprint towards the toilet, somehow managing to remove the necessary clothes just in time to land arse firmly wedged within the toilet bowl holding on for dear life,
“Euston we have ignition, all systems are go for launch”
what followed was as though the entire contents and the lining of my intestines came out under high methane, rocket fuelled pressure..
Jeeeeeeeeeeesus Christ!
I claimed out loud and sat their for a while like a rabbit that had been momentarily caught in the headlamps of a large truck……dazed, confused, shocked and very very empty, drained ....... whatever it was, felt like a bloody big truck and had just ran over my soul. I shuddered, I felt like all the life force had just been squeezed out of me and promptly crawled over to my bed to lay down. I tried to think if I had eaten anything unusual that could produce such a reaction and smell like Satan`s private collection of inhuman toxic waste matter. I watched my old hiking socks shiver and cower away in disgust, retreating to a dark corner of the room, defeated that they now longer was the most toxic thing known to man.
All night became relay race back and forward to that bloody toilet. I had already lost some weight from the weeks before and now I felt completely hollow, drained and weak.
I tried to take my mind off things and the smell, so drifted back to a few days ago when I met a guy from one of the many trekking agencies, who immediately pounced on me when I arrived, but seemed not too pushy, so I gave him my time. After going through a few things I let him arrange my trekking permits, my Indian visa, a cheap room for me, and obviously he was your best friend, so he invited and took me out to drink in his local part of the town to participate in a bit of a local Chang and Tongba bonding session.
Tongba was a local brew, which I particularly like, it is brewed from millet and other `secret` ingredients. The grain is fermented then packed into a large wooden jug and hot water poured over to cover it. It`s a mild, slightly alcoholic, with maybe a trace of hallucinogenic additives and herbs that most witchdoctors and black magicians would not admit to using, but it`s a good, long enjoyable drink which you can keep topping up with hot water producing a good brew, especially after a long days walk, the weak alcohol relaxes the muscles and the large quantity of water re hydrates your body, so its great but you don`t quite know if you are drunk or not or indeed tripping on the astral plane with delirium tremmons in your brain, until you try to do something technical that is, like putting a key in a keyhole.
We drunk the Chang then the Tongba then went to meet his family and all sang and joked the night away until I passed out and woke in the morning wishing I had not, “oh no, not again feeling”
 in strange place, dark faces, children staring at me, uh! Where am? I what happened? Aha! yes you got drunk didn`t you! Dam it! that Chang was strong this time, it had crept right up on me then….. wham! in the back of the head, “that`s it” I prophecised no more of this stuff. I was in a battle with myself of trying to be a yogi reaching dizzy heights of enlightenment, but instead I was fighting my western habits, weaknesses whilst wanting to climb the highest peak possible, yet nights like these as fun as they are and certainly colourful memories to recount, always left me disappointed with myself the next day.
I regularly went round to see him at his work place after that and to talk and to drink chai and pass the time away, he was an interesting, enthusiastic guy nothing too much trouble and loved to talk and to know everything about your world, this particular morning we changed from subject to subject and it became clear he was the man that could arrange anything, get anything, or if he couldn`t his uncles, sister, brothers, sisters cousin could. Visas, souvenirs, transport, marriage, prostitutes, 18 year old virgins….what! I spat a little tea out by the casual way he went through his list of available merchandise and services, as I looked up back up at him, but this time my imagination had transformed him into Borat, the Kazakistani character, dressed in a highly unfashionable bright blue suit, grinning wildly, looking very pleased with himself and speaking through a thick caterpillar moustache, “yeah sure, you know I get you a good a virgin from ma village, she a very good you know, and er vagin work a velly well, you have a great a sexy time with her, yeah” I chuckled to myself, as he really did look like Borat I had not noticed before but his suit, the moustache, yes it was Borat, ha! “OK then” I said I find you a good French girlfriend, cant promise you any virgins, but you know good visa for you, hoping this would diffuse his train of thought and the impending marriage arrangements that I felt were sure to follow, but instead his eyes lit up and said "ah yes, yes, we all have a good a sexy time, boom boom” oh God he got exicted now so I humored him a little more knowing I could not fulfill my side of the deal, and then suddenly Borat disappeared.
I walked around the streets of Katmandu that night amused by the sprawling mass of people and narrow tall buildings, just a mass of visual detail and movement, sometimes your eyes did not know what they wanted to rest upon as there is simply too much going on. Music, bright lights, shops, restaurants and bars of course, buzzing, then suddenly nothing. The regular eight o clock power cut turned everything off, then slowly one by one , flickering yellow lights appeared like stars coming out at night, it was beautifull, a sudden transformation that revealed an underlying structure of calm. Instantly everything changed, there was a silence, no, there was a lot of noise but all the electrical noise had stopped and you could hear people living. I could hear the voices of people now which coincided with the puppetry of shadows that danced across the streets; in the corners of shops; windows projected elongated faces tonight was a spectacle of dance, light and shadow. Electricity and all its gadgets was such pollution it distracts us from seeing the simple things in life that are often very stimulating. I thought about this and it was true we have so used now to all this invasion of noise and disturbance, invisible noise also, the amount of wireless frequencies that must be flying around and cooking the softer more sensitive areas of our body and mind. No wonder we get headaches and cannot focus and concentrate, and why we feel so clear and uncluttered when we are on the top of a mountain or in the nature on long walks, by the ocean, there is too much of everything even of the things we cannot see.
I continue along the streets away from the main tourist areas into tiny back streets, dark faces everywhere peering back at me, I imagined doing this in Manchester or one of a thousand built up inner city areas back in the civilized world, where there really would be a risk of being shot, mugged or beaten up just for the fun of it. I never feel threatened here, there does not seem to be same kind of crime in the hearts of these people, sure there is crime, but the attitude is so different they would all prefer to work than to steal, and my God do they work hard and long hours for almost nothing, if they get to feed themselves they are doing well, they all seem so together, maybe its to do with their beliefs, that they do believe in something bigger than themselves that this is only temporary and to just do the best you can. I like these people. I love Asia.
There are many street children here, lots of begging, targeting the huge influx of foreign tourists heading out into the mountains. Sometimes it does get very tiring having to keep saying no, even just not saying anything at all is draining. Today I quickly dismissed a young lad that was tugging on my arm waving bits of paper at me, “oh no, not this again” but there were no Chinese beaurocracy here behind the bits of paper. I was hot, tired and a little short tempered so I snapped at him to leave me alone and away he fled, but then I saw in my minds eye a glimpse of what was on the paper and what he was obviously trying to sell me. I felt guilty then as I recollected a badly drawn image of Buddha. This young street lad maybe 8 had been drawing pictures on bits of crumpled paper that he must have found, of Buddha and other popular things that tourists might buy, maybe by copying things he had seen being sold in the shops, so in fact he had the initiative to start his own little business enterprise, he had cut out the middle man and produced a healthy pile of these drawings, instead of begging he was genuinely trying to do something, anything he could, to earn an honest rupee, wow! I realized this and I looked around for him to buy one or two but he was gone. I was too quick to judge.

Jiri to Everest base
camp Jiri - Everest base camp  Day 1
After spending too long in the frantic maze of people, pollution and chaos of that, which is called
Katmandu. I was finally on my way to breath the cleaner air of the Hymalayas.
I had finally got my Indian visa. Not a moment too soon, any longer in that place and I think I would be dead, my lungs actually ached and I started to hack and cough along with the dawn chorus of everyone else in this place. I felt sorry for these people having to live here grasping on to some thin thread of hope that a tourist tsunami would come along and liberate them all, it won`t, the more they get, the more they want, the bigger it all gets, the bigger it expands, the harder it is to look after it all and suffocates itself in a dense cloud of fumes and phlegm. They are better off going back to the jungles where they will be richer by farming and providing what they need from the natural resources around them.

Karikola, a misty morning, Nepalese hills

It seems to be the less people have the more they want to share the little they have with you. The more people have, the more they fear losing it and less they want to share.
After a long bus ride we arrived in Jiri, to be pounced upon by hopefull hotel and guest house owners. All friendly enough but really did not understand I wanted to get walking today, as it was getting late in the afternoon, with about three to four hours of light left. With that in mind I quickly marched out of there to find the start of the trail, which started at the far end of the market. I felt instantly relieved to be following a trail now that would take me for many days of freedom and to be in the arms of mother nature again, just me and her. I was also happy to see that they had not developed Mc Donalds and pizza huts here yet, I had mentally prepared myself for this western invasion not being sure of how much development tourism had effected this area. Most people fly from Katmandu to Lukla, which is much higher up and much closer to the big mountains, so here was relatively unpopular and quiet. It would be a good week walking from where I was to get conditioned and more importantly to acclimatize.
I finished the day feeling very lazy though as I had only walked a few hours but I felt it already, my body was wanting to slow down and to stop all the time with my stomach also complaining that it was not getting fed enough, and my lungs still ached and felt like I had half the capacity than what I should. I was still weak from the big nuclear clear out, so I allowed for that and came to rest just as the light started to fade. There was a beautiful red sky that evening, with a biting chill in the air as the sun sank lower. I set up my tent up and called it a day, just 1km from Kinja.

KInja – Junbesi 9 hours - Day 2

A long hard climb this morning starting from 1650m up to 3550m nearly 2000m climb, five and a half hour slog to finally level out then following a contour to a pass at 3550m, then a long descent down into Junbesi, where the up muscles were given a rest but the dozing down muscles got rudely woken up.
The way from Jiri was from west to east which meant crossing many rivers that flowed down from the Himalayas, this also meant that we would be climbing up and then down for the duration, as we crossed these valleys, it was going to be a strenuous route. Darkness finally closing again as I turn the final corner to head north. A small village below me with a large monastery overlooking the valley was very atmospheric. I make camp at this special vantage point and set my tent up in a good position for the sun to come and wake me up in the early morning. I walk over to a source of crystal clear, fresh Himalayan water and fill my bottle up thinking of all the rows of this stuff in the supermarkets with their advertising catch phrases, hand picked by Tibetan Llamas high up in the purity of the Himalayas well I was no Llama but I was actually hand picking my own Himalayan water.
I stop to drink tea and eat biscuits in one of the little shacks along the way and it is starting to become unthinkable, what use to be a simple pleasure to be able to sit, re cooperate a little and drink a few cups of good Chai is getting too expensive, they are seriously exploiting the high traffic of tourism here, money, greed, the spirit of things get lost and perverted. The children now are becoming more and more intrusive, where instead of being able to have a laugh and joke with them they have only one thing on their minds, rupee, rupee, bon, bon. We have created an image for them of walking wallets and gifts and that`s a shame to have this barrier.

Junbesi-Jubhing 9 hours-Day 3
Today was the first sighting of the big boys. Just after climbing 2 hours I turned a corner to head northwards to be greeted with a crystal clear view of the jagged Himalayan backdrop, Everest, Mira and some other smaller peaks (6000m 7000m hardly small) but certainly dwarfed by its towering neighbors, it had a surreal appearance to it all, so clear and so big words are too restrictive to give it justice, but it was like some well painted theatre backdrop unreal but I felt as though I could just reach out and touch it all.
There was such a noticeable difference in temperature now as I were mainly above 3500m the sun by day was strong and kept you very warm but as soon as it dipped behind one of the many rocky obstacles, it quickly dropped to well below freezing.

Jubhing-Lukla 10 hours Day 4

It was a hard day today I had not slept well because of a sneezing fit all night and battling with mopping up torrents of snot everywhere, looks like I had caught a chill, so it was a heavy start to the day with another long 2000m climb up a steep trail, 5 hours of stumbling on the loose rocky surface with this and snot constantly cascading down my face I was finding it very hard, but not as hard as the many locals I saw along the way, a long line of ant like characters, ferrying supplies up and down this bloody long climb. They were carrying huge loads on their backs, could not believe what they were carrying. I will never complain again how heavy mine is. I tried to do a quick calculation of maybe 120 kilos, one had nine 1 gallon containers of oil, plus a large crate of beer, noodles and everything else that could be possibly tied strapped or hung off his wicker basket, a strap went around and up over his head so that the weight will be on his head and neck, I could not imagine lifting this let alone walking up what I had just struggled to get up with my 18 kilos with modern equipment.
I find a place to set camp and it is a relief to stop, did not quite managed to get to Lukla like I had hoped, but I think is not far from here, there is a market on in the morning and I hope to pick up some food supplies.

Lukla-Namche Bazaar 9 hours Day 5

Another long tiring day my system is still at a low with this dam cold and I am getting frustrated as I can feel it is holding me back. I want to feel good again and enjoy the walking rather than it being a battle against my ailments.
From here things suddenly changed I saw many hotels, guest houses, and even bars to meet the demands of all the tourists that fly here into Lukla.

Namchee Bazaar- Orsho 8 hours Day 6

Again a hard climb, seems to be no where that is flat in Nepal, at around 4.00pm I decide to stop early and rest up, I had nothing left anymore to give and I was starting to feel the altitude a little which seemed to add a few extra kilos to every step. I was happy with the progress though, just 2 days now and I should be at the base camp. I hoped my energy would be fully restored soon.

Orsho-Lobuche 7 hours Day 7

Another bad nights sleep for some reason I had a bad stomach again and had to keep dashing outside, which you really do not like to do when you are nice and warm inside a sleeping bag, to face the sub zero temperature outside to drop a crap, this I really did not need and I woke in the morning feeling completely drained and pale.
I took it easy for the rest of the day, and settled down into a very slow pace, which became very enjoyable and I felt a new surge of life coming back. I felt so light inside, obviously from all the gastric problems from Katmandu, my body already flushed out, eating very light food since then and also last night. I felt surprisingly good, just a little tiredness from not enough sleep but physically I felt different, light, good. I enjoyed the days walk, the trail climbed steadily up and became more dusty, desolate and definitely colder. I arrived at Lobuche 3.00pm it looked like a forgotten outpost of corrugated tin and wooden huts, so I found a quiet spot to set up my tent. It became very windy and suddenly a blast came out of no where sending a cloud of fine dust into my tent, into my noodles that I was cooking, into my sleeping bag, my eyes, nostrils. I couldn`t believe it, it was like a mini tornado inside my tent came in, promptly slapped me around the face a little then left just as quickly as it started. I sat there in disbelief, disgusted, everything covered in a heavy layer of dust. I took everything out cleaned and then returned it, listening and waiting for another surprise attack. I tried to block up all the holes I could, when suddenly again it blasted my tent. I tried to pin myself up against the vents and holes with feet, hands, head, ass, anything I could but fine dust just came flooding in again from somewhere else, this time I let it win, yes mother nature I know you are there but you don`t have to keep reminding me though. Now silent again, nothing not a breath of wind she said what she wanted to and left.
I feel much better now, acclimatized at nearly 5000m I feel twice as good as what I did in China at the same height, no dizziness, no headaches, but still hard work and no accounting for the 50 percent shortage of oxygen in the air. Yes I reach my destination tomorrow, I will leave my tent here already set up and save as much weight as I can, it will be so enjoyable for once not having so much to carry.
The many prayer flags and chortens I see all along this way all serve to appease the spirits and the mountains so as to grant the sherpas safe passage. The flags are printed with holy Buddhist invocations
Ohm mani padmi hum
There is not a single aspect of the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha's teachings which is not contained in this six syllable mantra so translation is impossible into western language and thinking.
But for visualization purposes it is described as `The jewel in the lotus`

Purifies Samsaric Realm
Om bliss / pride gods
Ma jealousy /
lust for entertainment jealous gods
Ni passion / desire human
Pe stupidity / prejudice animal
Me poverty /
possessiveness hungry ghost
Hung aggression / hatred hell

Often there is a winged horse printed on the flags which are sacred creatures to the Sherpas and are believed to carry the prayers heavenly with great speed. The Sherpa term for prayer flags is `lung taa` which means winged horse.

Labouche-Kallar Pattar Day 8

-8 inside my tent this morning my watch reads 6.30 I quickly get up to put on my layers before I get too cold, a blast of icy air takes my breath away as I unzip myself out into the world once more, but it was a different sort of cold that I had experienced any where else, a very dry cold, there was no moisture in the air at all and your lips cracked very easily, you can understand now the leathery complexion to all these Tibetans and Nepalese.
It was a joy to walk today with a light bag and all my bodily functions behaving themselves at last, it felt as though the closer I was getting to my goal the better I was feeling and I was, there was a definite spring in my step today although we were still high over 5000m and still climbing, I had been catching up with and overtaking lots of other people who we all looking a bit worse for wear, doubled over at times, or flat on their backs on the floor rasping at the thin air, one was even carrying a big red medical pack from one of the local altitude sickness centers, this was the trouble of so many people who had flown into Lukla from 1000m straight up to 4000m then tried to walk up to the base camp at 5400m, without any acclimatization. Things were sure to get uncomfortable. I bounced along past them happily, thinking `you get out of life what you are prepared put into life`
The trail eventually reached the edge of a huge glacier and the trail snaked through large imposing boulders for about an hour to finally reach Gorak Shep, the last outpost before base camp, another jumble of shacks and a couple of restaraunt.! I walked straight past over the helicopter pad and then started to climb Kalar Pattar at 9.00am, which is a little peak which boasts a great view of Everest.
It was a steep climb and I could feel the atmosphere was getting thinner and thinner by the step, cold, crisp air bit at the inside of my throat as I gasped for air. I could not keep up a continuous rhythm no matter how slow I tried to walk, after about every twelve paces it left me gasping again, with this process it took nearly 2 hours to finally reach the top. I resisted to turn around to look until I was right at the top as I wanted full impact of the elevation and vantage point to which the best view of Everest could be seen.
I stopped, rasped at the air again until I felt relaxed enough, then slowly turned around. The sky was completely blue not one cloud. I gazed speechless at the huge expanse of rugged terrain around me, it was hard to judge just how big this place was but I knew and I felt very, very small indeed. Then I saw her, a dark black pyramid piercing the upper stratosphere, Sagamartha, there you are, you are indeed very, very beautiful. I looked at her with respect and awe and she looked back at me to say “you silly little man, you so tiny” I thanked her anyway and just to be here at the roof of the world and to have been given the strength and safe passage so far to be here, it was a truly beautifull moment that I hold deep in my soul forever. I stood there a while longer trying to comprehend all the history of this place, this mountain, all the attempts to climb her nearly another 4000m higher and people have done it without the aid of oxygen, -70 below, old heavy equipment it was beyond my comprehension.

That was it journey had reached its peak, literally. I got to the highest place I could. I paid my respects to Sagamartha and headed back to my little base camp. I reflected upon my journey so far. All those weeks ago starting from Thailand, the warmth of their smiles and the heat of the fresh chilies seemed far, far away in the past where I had started from sitting on that train waiting for it all to start. The land of smiles then on into Laos, full of innocence and simple life to cross over into China, strange signs I cant read and even stranger orange chickens, then Shangri La, Chormas smiles, humble Christmas pie with stables and donkeys under a starry, starry night. Off on the forbidden road, crazy Frank Zappa death ride to freezing oblivion, shit! there I was thought I was going to die many times, -20 frosty testicles, I got no ticket to ride but I`m going to go anyway, got busted by Mr. Plod a paper chase of hell out of Tibet, get out don`t pass go and go directly to Nepal, paid my dues, lost my face but paid my respects in Lhasa, where I tied my flags and tied my vows to leave freedom an ideology blowing in the wind. Nepali Thali, curry and spice made me empty deep inside. I got nothing left now so I went to climb the biggest mountain I could find, Sagamartha, Everest she was so kind and I felt a piece of love stay inside.

All these memories all these places, faces, sights, sounds, sensations I have a huge palette now to play with for the rest of my days, a truly amazing world. Yet we are all travellers at the end of the day all navigating and trying to make the right decisions, choices and change of direction, sailing upon the surface of a rich tapestry upon the blue prints of life.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Friendship bridge

Chinese formalities dressed in pink pigtails...I miss China she was lovely

I wait patiently whilst formalities take place inside her head, she looks at my passport for an uncomfortable amount of time without blinking or showing any signs of emotion. Flicking back and forward through the pages, looking for her favorite part. The bit that was missing, so that she could execute her next line of command.
“Take him away to be tortured, next”
she seemed to be getting flustered a little now between all the amounting entry and exit dates, border stamps that had taken a strong residency within my passport until she finally looked up at me frowning, she said in English
“remove your hat……. stand on one leg…… whistle the Chinese national anthem backwards”
I smiled, these formalities were getting the better of my imagination, so I removed my hat instead.
She squinted accusingly at me and then started frantically waving a piece of paper at me, eeeeek….... I jumped back, a little threatened by her sudden outburst of stationary.
This particular piece of paper that she was waving had big, red, dangerous looking Chinese characters written all over it in important places and a big official looking stamp at the bottom. I was thinking maybe she had won the local ping pong competition and was very excited about her certificate she had won. My mind was getting more bored with all this official stuff, so it played with the scene a little more and stored parts of it in the travel compartment for future amusement, then it came back and started to pay attention again, aaaaah, a thought occurred to me, obviously she wanted me to produce one of these from somewhere. I must admit it did look lovely and official and all that and I am sure if I had one of those I could travel where the hell I felt like for the rest of my time on earth, but I had not sold my soul and did not have one. I replied, “mee ho, sorry”..No!
I had no idea what this thing was and as far as I was concerned I had everything I needed: my forged travel permit; my extended Chinese visa. I was only trying to get out of their country not remain there! Then there followed a kind of Chinese/foreigner stale mate whereby neither of us was budging from our position, she was locked in some kind of mind control from her superiors and I was just fumbling about hopelessly trying to give her what I couldn`t, she continued to wave this piece of paper at me getting more and more excited about it all, I was worried that I was seriously in danger of getting a very bad paper cut if she got any closer.
I fumbled about deeper into my belongings and got together as much documentation as I could find, old bus tickets, crisp packets, sticky brown stuff from deep within the corner of my pocket and waved everything back at her in retaliation….. ha ha…... take that…….. and this.
I waved bus tickets at her, note pads, receipts, maps, peanuts and another lump of sticky, furry stuff that I wish I had not found. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled at her trying to soften her military lipstick and said “Mee ho” I was hoping she would give up now and admit defeat, as my collection of paper work was far more interest than hers, but no. instead she looked at me hard in the eyes and said “wait” whilst she marched of military style with a phone in her hand then returned, looked at me for some time again obviously trying to decide what to do. Well by this time I was starting to get to like her, a little excitable maybe, but I think it was the length of time that we had spent together, or was it was just my mind getting bored with the situation, which allowed the fantasy department of my mind to unlock the…..not so well locked door to the beautiful Asian woman archive.
I sniggered a little as I now saw her in pigtails surrounded by huge pink fluffy bunny rabbits, maybe this was her true form and she was not quite so hard after all, just a little cute, harmless, beautiful, Chinese woman who was still staring coldly into my soul, who just last week her husband had ran off with a more cute bunny rabbit and of whom I resembled very, very closely to…...aha..! that`s why she was looking at me so closely with eyes that seemed to want to rip off my dangly bits, at my passport photo, telling me to remove my hat, my disguise, yes that`s it….! she thinks I am her run away, philandering bunny rabbit husband, ¦ancient Chinese implements of torture, burnt deep in her soul wanting justice and revenge for crimes I did not commit. Yes it was that, I could see it, I was sure of it.
The rabbit was now making cute little bunny hops around the room, going eeek eeek eeeek, but her mouth was speaking something else that I could not hear. I tried not to snigger so coughed instead, the rabbit then suddenly disappeared and the one in the uniform was handing me back my passport, she pointed towards the exit defeated.. and that was it,
China was over! I felt a little sad to be leaving now it had been a such colorful experience, but over there on the other side of the friendship bridge lay Nepal.
I walked past two guards who were busy pushing an Indian man back to the Nepalese border, he was waving bits of paper back at them, but they were more interested in pushing him about.
I love this instant change across borders, literally as you walk a few meters from one country to another it all changes yet thinking about it all a deeper I still find it weird that things are divided up this way.
I recognized the familiar smells of incense, betel nut stains, Nepali dialect, sights and sounds that were comforting, and food…..aah yes……daal baat that makes you fart like nuclear waste discharge and also aloo, saag, roti, hot spicy acha..yes I was looking forward to some good Nepali food.
I went through the visa processing quick and easy then jumped in a car to take me to

Friday, 2 January 2009

A wing and a prayer to Nepal

With tibetian prayers fresh in my heart I left to enter the world of buses and bus tickets once again and to head to the border of Nepal in anticipation to explore the heart of the Himalayas, the roof of the world....Sagamartha, yes I am coming.

I would like a bus ticket pleeeeease!

Inside the familiar cold grey walls of the bus ticket office I walked confidently up to the ticket booth, I go Nepal, Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease......mee ho!no! Came back the reply, what! No, no, no, no, look I have visa, its good, its good look at it and this look it at, yeah, a travel permit, yeah..... Go on then tell me I can`t go......mee hoNo! Came back the reply again. She thrust my passport and bits of paper back at me, through the slit in the window, eh! What is going on? I examine my permit that she was pointing to and waving around, “what do you mean its no good?” she points to the date at the top that now read 2008/30/12 ......I don`t believe it they only gave me one day to get out of Tibet and now it was out of date, they really did mean don`t pass go, don`t stop in Lhasa and go directly to Nepal, words like that came echoing through my mind, shit! I look at the permit again in disbelief, carefully examining it in detail, I see blotchy red ink where they stamped the date, I look at the numbers and make a few quick anagrams, aha, yes maybe with a little re working, if I change the 8 and scratch off the lower half it will become a 9, remove the 0 from the 30, then remove the 2 from the 12 it will become2009/ 3/1.....which means I still have two days left ha haaaaaa, the bad quality printing was easy to re work and with a little smudging, creasing, road grime and coughing on it for good luck, it looked perfect.
I returned to the station but they all seemed to recognized me, and I got no where. I stood around trying to catch someone’s attention and eventually a guy comes up who seemed curious with all the hassle I was having. I try to explain to him in Chinese that I just invented that I want to go to Nepal, I point to the ticket booth and try to offer him money to buy ticket for me, he shakes his head then pulls my arm to follow him, he leads me outside shows me a bus and points to go inside, then holds his hand out for payment, hmmmm I have no idea who is but my options are running thin again. I decide to pay him the agreed hand sign equivalent to a few hundred Yuan, which seems about right and what I expected to pay for the distance to travel, maybe 500 km to the border.
It all seemed a bit too easy and unorthodox, so nervously I wait on board to see what happens next. I had presumed they knew where I wanted to go but I always feel that they don`t really understand you and where you are going is not important as long as they bundle you on to some sort of ride out of there and take some money from you. I decided to try to get a second opinion and got out my now very crumpled, torn map to point to the border of Nepal so that I could show it to a nearby passenger, he took it from me, examined it front and back, upside down, back to front then handed it to someone else, who did the same, this passed at little time for them whilst waiting for the bus to depart, then handed it back to me and smiled, I asked in Chinese if this bus went here, pointing at the map again, again they smiled so I smiled back, shrugged and waited for the bus to depart, another magical mystery tour. I started to think about the fare of a 100 Yuan which seemed a little cheap for a 500 km ride! My instincts were saying it`s not over yet boy, you not out of here yet, 2 days left on my permit and I was getting very bored with bus stations and trying to get tickets. I really did not want any more problems now or have deal with it all over again, time was running out, no! it had ran out, we were on forged time and there were no more numbers left to re arrange.
6 hours later in the darkness of night, the bus drove into a large town, slowed down, indicated and pulled into a bay. Everybody got up and gathered their belongings. Well this looks like the end of the ride, I tried to ask where the hell we were, and pointed to my map again. Where ever we were I was sure it was not
Nepal. They shook their heads and I had no choice but to face the freezing night and start to piece things together. I was somewhere between Lhasa and the border of Nepal, it was about 9.30pm, my mood felt as grey and cold as this place looked, no, recap it was bloody freezing cold.
I tried to pick an interesting direction that looked like it might have another bus station but it all looked grey and uninspiring. I started walking and asked a few locals for the bus station, which there seemed to be one close by, and shortly around a corner I entered a grey concrete room that looked like the dole office in Brownhills and looked like the person behind the counter was as equally depressed and unhelpfull. I walked up to the familiar booth. I did not try to appear cheerful, because I was not. I was so fed up with these buses deceiving me and giving me false hope. I could see her eyes again almost to say, just don`t bother asking, you are a foreigner, I should not even be talking to you, kind of look in her eyes, as she promptly returned my permit with a definite mee ho…..NO! attatched to her mood.
What do they expect me to do stay, in
Tibet and roam the desserted outposts of depressed bus terminals to the end of my days? Just let me get out of here.
Defeated and too deflated to be bothered with buses any more I looked around for somewhere to stay for the night, found and booked into a room. The woman at the desk spoke a little English, very badly but enough to understand and to explain to me that no way was I going to get a ticket even with my travel permit. Foreigners are just not allowed to travel on their own through here regardless of what permit they have and there are severe consequences for anyone trying to help a foreigner to do so, this explains the fear and denial I had been encountering. Why this fear this paranoi?
I lay in my room that night thinking about the distance, the time left and really not wanting to be captured and processed again, I was starting to feel like a cheap can of pate, with a gradually depleating sell by date that everyone was turning away from in disgust, well being captured once was enough and an interesting experience in the end, but now I just want out of here and on to new things, of mountains, nature, freedom to be walking unhindered, with my little guest house on my shoulders, yes I wanted to be free.
I go down to the woman on the desk again and try to ask something a little more complicated, like what can I do to get out of here, she seemed to understand but could not reply. I decide to hang around and deliberately loitered about the lobby looking depressed and lonely until something happened, maybe she was uncomfortable with this or actually felt she wanted to help somehow, so she picked up the telephone dialled and passed me the phone. I answered and a man asked me in English what my trouble was. I explained that I was really fed up and about to start hitch hiking very soon to try to get to the border of
Nepal before my permits run out in 24 hours. He asked me twice if I was sure I had all the correct papers, permits and visa, yes, yes, sure no problem. OK he said be ready at 5.OO am and a car will come for you, I have friends on their way now from Lhasa and are going to the border town. Great, I thanked him and the woman at the desk then went back to my room for a few hours sleep, relieved to be in transit again soon.
I was awake again before my alarm went off as always, then packed my bag and went down to wait for the ride. It was already an hour late and I was starting to get nervous again and preparing myself mentally to start hitchhiking, then suddenly a big 4by4 turned up. I excitedly gather my things and open the rear door it was crammed full of Tibetans, it looked like a refugee run to the border. I squeeze in and look around, everyone looked terrible like they have been driving for 48 hours over mountain passes, getting stuck, replacing flat tires and freezing half to death, just another normal day in
Tibet I guess.
We ride maybe 2 hours out into the freezing dark morning, just as the sun was starting to appear above the horizon Pssssssssssst, bok bok bok bok bok bok..we get a flat, I laugh and the whole process starts over again in my mind, maybe after we repair the tyre then there will be a fatal Yak collision, then a high mountain pass of impassable ice, maybe attacked by rabid snow leopards, check points and every conceivable obstacle the Gods decide to invent I was preparing again for the impossible to happen. We all get out and stand around the tyre gets changed, its hovering around -20 my hands and feet quickly get numb, I am thinking of Nepal and the mountains wondering what it will be like up there, I feel twice as cold and instead try to imagine tropical beaches, banana trees, sea water as hot as a bath.
20 minutes later we are on our way again. It was a hard, rough, dry, dusty road I could see to my left, to the south an incredible horizon of white capped mountains, the
Himalayas, someone pointed out the distant black pyramid shape which was Everest, her head way up there in the clouds, the roof of the world and it really felt like it. My God this place was so vast, so huge, huge wide plateau, we climbed up to our maximum elevation of 5000 meters, two large wooden poles at the side of the road, draped in prayer flags that were thrashing around in the strong wind, marked the highest point of this highway. We all got out and I sighed with emotion at this dramatic landscape which peered at me with speculating eyes saying “you are so tiny little human” yes I know!
I walked quickly just a few meters to get some good photographs and found myself soon out of breath gasping, wow there’s no air here, my head started to spin a little so I finished recording the scene and went back inside.
Apart from one other little incident nothing else major happened, no bandits, meteorites, volcanoes, bolts of lightning, nothing really just except a near death slide on sheet ice whilst descending down a steep part of the road, with a huge cliffhanger on one side where the car continued to silently slide as I pressed my non existent footbrake hard into the foot well of the car, to no avail, neither his frantic thrashing about on the real controls did any good it either it just slid silently and gracefully towards a huge precipice that was getting closer and closer shhhhhhhhhit…….ptshhhhhhhhhhh…....thud……. just before we were about to see if there was indeed a God, we hit a concrete block which prevented anyone else`s curiosity from exploring any further into this concept.
Bloody lucky again I wonder about this fatalistic philosophy sometimes. Fate, when it`s your time to go you will go and all the other times somehow you get away with it…! Maybe. I was certainly starting to think that it was not yet my time. That I had much more to do, much more to see yet before I found the exit.
A little pushing, shoving and straightening of body parts later and the journey continued, very, very slowly this time, oh, and he decided to engage four wheel drive this!
We arrive at the border town, too late in the evening to go through but happy now that I am here. I find a cheap room and settle down for the evening, yes tomorrow I will be in
Nepal, different faces, sights, sounds and sensations.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


The morning was clear and cold as was everyday. I could not believe my luck with this I had not seen a cloud in the sky for at least two months and kind of got complacent about it expecting the same blue canopy overhead. It was so beautifully clear, a crystal clear morning as I walked into the police station I beamed and cheerfully waved at them all and beamed even more when my travel permit was handed to me.
This time within this bus station I felt confident and walked smugly up to the counter, 'tashdilleh'.....greetings may all the Gods bless you with many children and grant you blessing from Buddha to end the eternal suffering of birth death and re birth so that you go directly to a higher level of existence, oh and by the way...... chee chu Lhasa, gong gong chee cher Lhasa.......can I have a ticket to Lhasa.........Pleeeeeeeeeease
I let her do the usual blank look thing and waited to just before she was about to run away and hide in the corner, then, I produced my magic scroll with the sacred inscription, plenty of Chinese characters here to impress her, straight from the press, I waved it around a little and offered it up to the counter for her to examine, she gingerly took it from me and began to examine it suspiciously, then went off to converse with her colleagues, looked at it under a better light, flicked through some pages of a book, returned to her ticket machine looked around to see if anyone was watching her. Her hand was hovering over the issuing ticket button and stayed there for an uncomfortable amount of time.....”arrrrrgh press the bloody button will you” I blurted out in my mind, conditioned and brainwashed from birth never to issue tickets to foreigners, she fought inside herself battling with the blue print of her existence and purpose in life, suddenly a moment of free thinking detached itself and broke free, her finger came down on the button and issued the ticket. Phew, I took it from her quickly in case she changed her mind and without any delay went to locate my bus.
My bus was already here and being loaded up. I followed with my eyes a curious trail of red that led to the rear of the bus and then into the open luggage compartment, there were three or four large sacks from which the red was dripping from, there I could see a large red stain around its nose, aaaaah pigs, I threw my rucksack on top and boarded my ride. I love Asia.
I was thinking about something, or was about to, or I was...... I don’t know, then as always something broke my train of thought and I glanced down at the time on my watch it read 1:21 and 21 seconds, 1st January, what are these moments in time, these patterns, coincidences? . There were strange vibrations in the air stirring in the depths of my soul as I tried to summarize the past events in my life leading me to this present moment. Somehow I was trying to conclude, summarize, give form to something that wanted to remain formless, this journey, my inner questions, the decisions and outcomes of all these events. I could almost see it, but something eluded me. I felt cheated, disappointed, an anti climax I suppose. Here I was after days of travelling through crazy, freezing terrain, all those strange faces and places, finally I had reached my goal, here in Lhasa.
Now resting in another hotel room on New Years Eve, my thoughts come back to the present, “its not here” I thought, no prize, no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no revelation, no enlightenment, just an unimpressive full stop!
I looked around the room and again the luxury of it all disappointed me, it was all too easy, too comfortable, soulless, sterile and here I was in the belly button of the Hymalayas.
I drifted back to a few memories ago and it became Christmas again. I was in Chorma's house after walking all that way to bring fresh vegetables, the simplicity, the communion between people, that was what I was missing, the richness of the simplicity, the subtle detail of the little bits in life gives it all substance, meaning, truly less is more.
I longed to be out of here amongst the small villages and the bamboo houses, banana tree blankets under a moon lit night and to be able to see through the cracks in the wall, hear the subtleness of the night lullaby me to sleep. Suddenly I hear a Tibetan song on the TV my eyes fill up a little as I realize it's the song I heard in Chorma's house, strange coincidences again. I learnt that the title of the song was called 'Chorma' and that was where her name came from. It was just beautiful.
Here at the roof of the world and center of Buddhist less is more faith, I am surrounded by luxurious hotels and TV adverts of more is more, there was nothing simple or humble here, it all felt wrong, out of place. I guess that’s what the disappointment was.
I watched a speech on the TV representing the Chinese people, their ideals, their status, global issues, humanity I was not concerned whether it represented them truthfully politically or socially, but it was a good speech and many values of honor, respect, care, and community, things which seem a million miles away these days of fantastic plastic western priorities of pride and ego.
I drift back to some very early memories of myself growing up I suddenly remember the innocence of it all. I remember a feeling of innocence. I had nothing negative in my heart at all and slowly I trace it forward in time through the years until I found signs of its erosion.
I was always creative from very early on, enjoyed life and everything to do with it, enjoyed my health, sport, fitness, working with my hands and continued to enjoy all the arts through to my present time, to be creative and to express the world around you felt important to me. I could not ignore, it was too huge, too interesting, too beautiful. I found, I discovered that I could do many things, it was like an infinite supply of ideas and enthusiasm what ever I put my hand to whatever material I felt in my hands I could understand its structure enjoy it and know how to work with it, I could create things, cooking, drawing, painting, photography, even mechanics there was a symmetry and beauty to it all, of everything working in harmony together, I became a good mechanic, artist, builder, plasterer, cook, photographer. Life had a rich and varied palette of colors, textures, tastes, shapes and lines to be arranged, manipulated and explored.
Conversations I would get equally passionate about to for the beauty to explore deep into many subjects, there were so much to explore in this world, to think about and to enjoy in this world. But often I started to realize I was becoming a source of amusement for my friends and colleagues, I did not realize how alone I was on this journey of discovery. I was sad that other people did not see the things the way I did, they could not see it, did not want to, or found it tiring, but they were missing out on so much, did they not have any passion for anything in life except the way they look and who they could convince to sleep with them, was that life? could not apply themselves to anything more? I never questioned it all until later when my innocence opened up to avenues of distrust, jealousy and conspiracy. Friends that I had once admired and put high upon pedestals suddenly tumbled and fell, faces became grey, suspicious and my world fell apart. Everything fragmented into an impossible puzzle where there is no point to it all, no super glue that will hold them back together. Everything changes I realized, life is change every second, nothing is ever static in nature.
I had to go out there and find the person I once was. I have to find my faith again, my passion, because people, our culture, our politics, the bits of paper with demands for this and that chip away and wear away at your spirit, eventually leaving you with gaps and holes where doubt and fear seep into.
I guess I am an artist, that’s my problem. I am romantic and believe in beautiful things. I see the infinite in all things, the imagination has no boundaries, no borders, passports or control there is no need, its a beautiful world in here, no suspicion, no jealousy no greed, so much detail, so much colour, form and substance to it all, such interesting detail why cannot others not see?

William Blake...''he who see only a grain of sand in his hand sees himself only, he who see the infinite in all things sees God''

''To live in spirit not in the flesh'' If the spirit is willing the flesh will follow

I sit with my feet in a good bowl of warm water and relish this feeling, it had been a long time and I trace it and follow the sensation with my mind as it moves slowly from the extremities of my toes, to saturate the blood inside my veins. I feel the relief deep inside, something so simple as warmth, inner warmth, of simple pleasure, just to be warm. I close my eyes and just enjoy it. Then I notice a familiar smell, of road, dust, sweat, and grime, it was the steam rising up from the water which had disslodged small particles of the history of my trousers, then into my nostrils, then my brain catoragised each element and put it in the relevant pigeon hole, painting a pretty grim picture of trouser abuse in my mind. I open my eyes to take at look at myself, yes the transformation was complete I believe I had become Tibetan, my exposed skin was dirty with bits of black that I had no idea where it came from but I saw the same sort of stains on everyone else, my clothes were dusty, greasy, stained and my hair started to form small dreadlocks, yes this was a hard country, especially now in the winter nothing grew, no green, no fire wood to burn, they had to collect the dung from cattle and dry in the sun and use sparingly, they wrapped themselves up in heavy cloth and fur to keep warm, food was basic, one Tibetan explained to me that it was upsetting for them as Buddhists because it was impossible for them to be vegetarian as they would prefer to honor their faith. They only had yak meat to survive over the long winter, so had to compromise. Yes life was hard here.
Lhasa now lay two days ago in my memory banks and it did take on a transformation in the daylight. The next day as I walked all around and watched the many pilgrims that walked, prayed, prayed, prayed and devoted themselves to their beliefs and ideals. They were as poor as hell, but had traveled miles and miles to be here. I thought about all the others that must have dream to be here one day and I was now just casually walking around for my own amusement, I felt a little guilty at this. I did appreciate being here though and promptly marched up to where the prayer flags were being sold and I joined the line of people that were walking towards a big lump of rock where all the flags, prayers, wishes were tied to blow free in the wind and be carried around the world forever. It was something beautiful whether you invest in this way of thinking or not, is not important but the symbolism is, it shows how these people can transform beyond their poverty and hardships, this physical realm is just a temporary inconvenience, they have a heart, they believe in things greater than their own egos, desires. Some people ask me many times when I spend hours preparing food that will be eaten in minutes, how can you do it? Why bother? I bother because I care about it, it is beautiful to do something, anything well and that beauty will pass on to others no matter how temporary it is. Maybe even inspire them.
My mother wrote to me once, actually we have a long history of writing to each other with a real pen and paper, another rare thing these days that many people are losing touch with, using statements like “ I would love to but I am too busy” but its this attitude that will end up us putting our parents into retirement homes.

She told me” everything that the heart gives away is never lost, it is kept in the heart of others forever”
I smell the incense, I hear the Tibetan chanting below...ohm mani padme hum....Jewel in the Lotus of the Heart
Smoke, incense, prayers, consciousness sailed away on the winds of hope, faith and freedom. There are many impossible places to reach in this world but here nothing could stop something as simple as this from going wherever it needed to. I hoped into every home into every heart so they too could feel such simplicity, love and have time to listen, to care.
With this I suddenly felt complete. I had said my own silent prayer, in my own way in fitting to all religions all over the world, we all want the same thing at the end of the day, love, light and peace.