I have lost a few days in this return from the Chang Tang. But perhaps it’s to be expected that the present will keep interfering. Yesterday I had to go on a picnic with friends to a patch of native Iowa prairie, that is still virgin prairie because it was designated as a cemetery in the middle of the nineteenth century.
But I do want to finish this journey out of the Chang Tang and back to Iowa. It feels as if I need to complete the circle of the journey in order to truly be back in the present.
Day 21 – June 7, Wednesday @ 7:05 p.m. Beijing time (elev. 5400 meters)
We drove 585 km today from Gertze to a small town called Raza. Three hundred and sixty three miles. I doesn’t sound like too much but the roads are all dirt roads and fairly rough in most places. I am really tired. Part of that may be that I put on a patch for carsickness and they make a person drowsy.
I find as we come back across Tibet there are certain swatches that I just don’t remember, like camping by the river. [I must have been drowsy on the way out, too.]
Tomorrow we get to Shigatse. Jinpa says that’s the second-largest city in Tibet. I can buy souvenirs, maybe do some email, maybe wash some clothes. We’ll be in Shigatse until Saturday morning when we go to Lhasa. I think Jinpa and Mr. Lee will be glad to deposit us at the airport hotel and head home to their families. It will have been three weeks.
Coming east today we saw quite a number of gazelles, and kiang, one wolf, a couple of chiru, and two dogs having a doggy conference in the middle of the wilderness. It was like they had made an arrangement–“ok, let’s meet 100 miles east of Gertze, just off the main road at 10:45.”
Heinrich kept track of all the animals we saw and where on the map we saw them. He’ll have a really complete record when he gets home.
Jinpa told us of the time at age 18 he and his cousin biked on old Chinese bikes from Lhasa to Mt. Kailash. They did the pilgrimage and he went to India to learn English. They slept on the ground.
I also wanted to mention that when we were at lunch today a man was standing outside the window, obviously wanting some food. I sat there and wondered what to do. Heinrich made arrangements with Jinpa for the waitress to give the man our leftovers. A kind gesture.
This motel room [I am in, writing] has 4 beds, a table, 2 bowls, and a bucket. The bucket can only be for one thing since the loo is a sidehill behind the other building.
I find that as we make the drive to leave Tibet that I’m astonished that I actually came here. I hope with the words and the pictures I’ve recorded enough that I’ll remember the trip [and come to understand the experience more fully].
Jinpa told us tonight he makes 2000 yuan a month–good for Lhasa he said. And he’s been guiding for 10 years. I think he must be about Justin’s age. Our kids would like him.
Yesterday I went to a small remnant of what Iowa used to look like. We have one-tenth of one percent of native prairie left in this state. In Tibet I was seeing native land as it had evolved, hardly touched by man or machine. We have so few places like that, that the trip was not only a giant step away geographically, but also a step back in time. I wonder what changes the high-speed rail and the discovery of minerals have wrought on this place.